When You Get Used To People Not Having Your Size…

…you don’t expect them to have your size.  It’s like, I don’t know, logic. As Red No 3 put it (emphasis added):

See, what’s going on here [at Saks] is a bit of product testing. This is only being launched in one location. They see how it goes, and then decide how to expand. Its like Old Navy a few years ago when they expanded plus-sizes in their stores. Anyone remember how that turned out?

There is a fundamental flaw in the test marketing of plus-size clothes by retailers who’ve never offered them.  […]  Without promotion, why would a size 24 woman have been in Old Navy to discover their plus-sizes?
[…]
So, while its awesome that Saks will offer clothing in larger sizes, I worry that the intended clientele will never be stepping foot into Saks to discover this. And really, why should they?

Why should they, indeed?  I didn’t know Eileen Fisher offered plus sizes until I was helping a size 12-14 friend buy a suit.  Eileen Fisher had a shirt in the window that we thought would look good with her suit, so in we went.  It was a surprise to me to find they went to 3x, and even more so to find  that their 3x dresses might actually fit me.

Recently a friend was chatting with Marian Call at a show about clothes, and Marian noted she was just in New York City, which is terrific for clothes shopping.  Friend turns to me and asks, “Why didn’t you tell me New York was great for shopping?”   It didn’t occur to me to shop for clothes in New York. I went to NY for a business conference in December ’96.  I made one foray into Bloomingdale’s looking for tshirts* and found nothing in 26/28 or 30/32, so I ended up getting a 3-pack of v-necks at Rochester Big & Tall.  That was my one experience trying to find clothes in New York.  During my subsequent vacations there I didn’t even bother looking for clothing.  Maybe if I wore a size 20 or 22 I’d have tried, but ye gods, why would I waste time in NYC looking for something as hard to find as clothing in women’s size 28+?  Hello?

In my case, it means I often don’t go to plus-size stores where I haven’t found supersizes in the past.  Sure, sometimes a 24 fits me, but it’s rare enough that I don’t count on it.  If Lane Bryant or Avenue started carrying supersizes, I might find out from the Fatshionista Livejournal community…but then again I might not.

I live near a major mall and I regard the clothing stores as almost negative space — places to walk by on my way to the stores I’m actually interested in, or scenery to walk by when I’m just there for a walk.  I don’t shop for clothes at the mall because I’ve given up on anything fitting me.

And when you’re out of the habit of looking for clothes in stores, well … lots less impulse shopping, you know?

*It was December, so I’d brought warm clothes, and discovered all the NY buildings I entered were much warmer than I’m used to.  I’m not used to sweating to death inside.  In December.

16 thoughts on “When You Get Used To People Not Having Your Size…

  1. I think all fat people have conditioned to be destination shoppers with regards to clothing. We have a destination, a purpose. We go to it, get it done, and get out. We might do that in store, we might do it online, but we don’t go out to the mall to stop at a bunch of places. At most, we might 2 or 3 stores if its a good mall. But that mall will have maybe 5 times as many stores for thin people to shop. Probably more. The thin person has options. They may not exercise them, but they are there. Fat people just have a different experience and retailers need to get that when test marketing something. They can’t just put on the rack and see what happens. They might as well test market plumbing fixtures.

  2. I had a happy experience last weekend. I went into Matalan, which is a discount clothing/home/everything store looking for luggage, and walked out with 3 t-shirts. I had NO clue they did plus sized clothes. They had a small range of 18-30 (UK) sizes, pretty summery tops, some workout clothes, lots of nice tops suitable for work. Nothing spectacular, but YES for work basics. I bought three short sleeved tops for the grand total of £14. Wow!

  3. I have friends who are into “shopping therapy”. They don’t always get that looking for clothing is not a happy funtime for me.

  4. You know, I wasn’t even aware that I wasn’t looking for plus size clothing anymore in “regular” stores….at least consciously…until this post! It’s just been so long since I’ve shopped for clothing for myself anywhere except Catherine’s, Fashion Bug (meh) and online retailers that I had “forgotten” that I, well…..don’t shop anywhere but Catherine’s, Fashion Bug (rarely) and online retailers. Even when I am buying clothing for my 10 yr old, or adult daughter, or other family members, I don’t even bother looking in the plus size section of stores because when I have in the past I’ve been majorly disappointed. The main reasons being: a) they don’t have my size b) if they do, everything’s too short or c) it’s too trendy/gaudy/embellished/young for me/old for me/low cut/more of the same I already have.

    It always makes me scratch my head to see ALLLLLLLLLLLLL those clothes in regular sizes clearance priced during seasonal shifts. Need a small or extra small? Wait for clearance mark downs because there’s a shitload of those sizes. How can a store turn a reasonable profit with so much inventory going for pennies on the dollar?

    In a way, I am hopeful that this latest kerfluffle with Lane Bryant will bring this lack of marketing from mainstream stores to light. It’s almost as if those stores seem ashamed to admit that they have plus sizes because that might scare away their average size customers. As in….”Ewww….the fatties shop here too! I’m going to shop at *insert exclusive store here that only sells sizes up to a 10*!!” Are mainstream retail stores (who are already feeling the hit from the recession) willing to risk their future by remaining “ashamed” to market what’s already in their stores? But I suppose they will find a way to ‘blame the fatties’ for that, too. *snark*

    • Even when I am buying clothing for my 10 yr old, or adult daughter, or other family members, I don’t even bother looking in the plus size section of stores because when I have in the past I’ve been majorly disappointed.

      Ayup. I mostly wear larger than size 24, so most stores don’t have my size.

  5. It’s never made any sense to me, from a capitalist point of view, why these retailers are not catering to fat money. They are being so stupid and obstinate for missing out on it.

  6. There are a lot of reasons I think retailers don’t want our money:

    -Despite the constant cries of their being an obesity epidemic, either they don’t think they believe there’s enough fat people to warrant lots of stores for us, or on the opposite end, they don’t want to be accused of promoting obesity, so they don’t make clothes.

    -It’s assumed most fat people are poor, so we don’t have the money to spend. And if we do, it’s assumed we don’t want to buy stylish clothes because we’re ashamed of our bodies. So they give us tents and loud prints to hide behind.

    -They don’t want fat people to be seen shopping in their stores, so put their large sizes online only.

    -They think their designs won’t look good on larger bodies.

    -They believe we will buy smaller clothes once we’ve dieted away the fat.

    There’s also a claim that it’s harder to cut patterns for plus-sizes, and materials are more expensive. Which is true, but if they really had the ambition and the drive, they could find a way to make the patterns.

    • I think there’s also just an assumption that there aren’t that many fatties out there. I mean, it’s not like we walk into their stores all the time, right? (Never mind that we’re not doing it BECAUSE they don’t have anything that fits….)

  7. Saks has one of the few high-end retail plus-size shops in New York, Salon Z. It is where many wealthy, prominent fat ladies shop, like Madeline Albright and Liz Smith (according to my former boss’s personal Saks shopper). So I’m a little confused about this “test-marketing” thing, since they have a very loyal clientele for their Salon Z clothing already, and personal shoppers who have expertise in working with plus-size clients. Does this line focus on younger shoppers? The Salon Z stuff certainly targets the over-50 crowd.

  8. I’m glad you wrote this. I thought the same thing when I read the announcement. If people don’t know about it, they aren’t going to shop there and then the retailer will “sadly” announce that this experiment didn’t work.

    I’m not a big shopper, so, I don’t mind having limited amount of stores to go to. What I do mind is having limited choices within those stores.

    I’ll be the first to admit, I do not understand buyers or how certain brands end up at certain stores. But, why can’t these high-end designers sell in the actual stores we go to? I feel like that is the only way they would get a true sense of what fat women will buy. So come on designers – go to where we already are shopping!

  9. Preach it. I love what you’ve said about clothing stores being “negative space”. If there’s nothing there worth buying, why even bother putting it on your radar? It’s only going to cause needless pain and irritation.

    I still have those revelatory moments of “Wait, what, I can shop at this store?” I recently had a friend take me to Ricki’s, and nearly everything there was available as plus-sized up to 18 or 20. I could have died from joy. And a co-worker of mine heard me rambling about the local Old Navy, snorted “bah, I can’t shop there”, and then I pointed out how crazy-generous the sizing was. She came back after the weekend with a grin on her face and a new shirt, saying “I love Old Navy and I bought $150 worth of clothes!”

    Smaller fats have more and more options these days. But the fight is TOTALLY not over until more super-size stuff becomes available in stores! It’s only fair and right! I want the world to be full of more “OMG I CAN SHOP THERE?!” moments.

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