Plus-size Shops: Thin Models, Strange Names

This is something we get so used to seeing that after a while it hardly registers. Sociological Images did a great post with images from Woman Within showing how size 12-14 clothes on size 8-10 models looks … really loose and shapeless.  This is why I’m glad to see Lane Bryant using some larger models — a size 16 or 18 is probably going to fit the clothing better than a size 10 or 12.  Things like breast darts make a big difference for us busty gals, but not for smaller ones.

The name “Woman Within”, btw, reminded me of Elayne Boosler’s observations on the names of plus-size stores. Men, if they’re fat, go to the men’s “Big and Tall” store.  Women?  Go to “The Forgotten Woman”.  Or “Another Dimension”.    Or something else that makes it hard to know that it’s a plus-size store.  (I drove past Avenue and Catherine’s for years before I knew they were plus size stores.)

I will say, though, that “Big and Tall” does make it clear what the store sells.  I was in New York on business in 96 and urgently needed some t-shirts.  (I’d only brought sweaters because it was December, then discovered thermostats set to 85 everywhere.)   So I went to Rochester Big & Tall and got some men’s v-necks.  It was a heck of a lot easier than trying to find a women’s store that went above size 24 on short notice!

18 thoughts on “Plus-size Shops: Thin Models, Strange Names

  1. Now, I’m not defending them, but I’ve bought some really, really cute, inexpensive things at Woman Within (who, by the way, sell the same stuff under the catalogs Roamans and OneStopPlus dot com).

    What amazes me though, is how much BETTER the clothes look on me. It’s always a crapshoot whether or not it will fit, but when it does, I have to wonder why they decided to drape their clothing on average sized women, when they look fabulous on a 18/20.

    • Yes. I’ve gotten a few things from OneStopPlus, and the clothing generally looks so much better when I put it on then it did in the pictures.

      There is nothing attractive about dressing women in clothing several sizes too big for them. I have no idea why they do it.

  2. I think the reason we get these strange names is because retailers don’t want to offend us by calling their stores Big and Tall or Fat & Fashionable. So we get Woman Within, Encore (the plus-size line at Nordstrom’s), Salon Z (Saks’ plus line)…anything that doesn’t call attention to us being fat.

    As for using thin models to advertise plus-size clothing, it’s a matter of money. Woman Within claims their sales dropped when they used larger models…but if you see ads for Ellos and Tallisime, the models appear to be in the 14-16 range. They don’t even know what to do half of the time.

    • The Tallisime stuff is the only remotely tempting merchandise in their catalog, as far as I’m concerned – but I never noticed that they used bigger models for it! *hurries to check it out*

      Might be worth making a purchase… er, to make a statement. :D

  3. I was driving past a Big & Tall shop the other day and I was thinking how much easier men have in finding larger sized clothing. If you are a fat and tall woman (or on the border of tall like I), it’s a bear to find clothes. I went to Avenue this weekend and trying to find 30/32 shirts was depressing. They only ship 1 or 2 of each and they are always gone. I’m finding that I like to try on clothes to see how they fit before I buy them.

    I too think I would shop exclusively at a a shop called “Fat & Fashionable” so long as I could find my size! :-)

    I actually worked at Woman Within (or something like that) when I was in college. All I remember was the first Friday I worked there one of the queens from the gay bar in Toledo came in and bought the black fringe dress I was dying to buy. It looked really good on her too! *sigh* Oh and some guy called up and asked if we had a problem with a guy trying on a bra in the dressing room. When the lady I was working with said “Nope” He asked if we had bras in some particular size and she said yes. I wasn’t there when he came in. I’m sorry I missed that! :-)

  4. Every time I get a Woman Within magazine I stare at it in awe of how ugly the clothes look on those models. They don’t look good. They look frumpy. And, honestly, I find it really insulting that they refuse to use fat models for fat clothes. Grrr.

    On the store names thing… Yeah. I would LOVE to see a store whose name screamed “fatties can get cute, well-fitting clothes here!” However, I do like the name “Torrid” because it means hot and passionate. ;3 Meow.

    • You know, I kind of get advertising 14-20 clothing on size 12s. Kinda. But Woman Within and Roaman’s and Silhouettes all consistently put tiny, tiny women inside clothing that goes up to 6x. Bwah?

  5. Cameron Mannheim once looked into the use of thin models to sell clothes for larger women and said in an interview that the clothing companies she contacted tried to use larger models, but sales went down when they did. The reason thin models are used to sell large sizes is that fat people don’t want to see other fat people modeling the clothes. It’s “our” fault that they do this because we buy less or are less attracted to the clothing unless skinnier women are wearing them. So, we can’t blame the companies for doing what garners the best sales.

  6. And not only do those sites use plus-size models, they use models who wear a 3X and would be considered morbidly obese. That’s something you rarely see.

  7. I’m not so sure I believe the whole “fat women don’t want to buy things modeled on fat women!” argument. I think I’m going to have to see some hard numbers before I believe that.

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  10. I shop at Big and Tall London’s Menswear in London, Ontario all of the time – and I’m a woman! Their athletic wear is extremely comfortable, as are their sweats. I agree, it’s very hard to find plus-size women’s wear out there.

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