My clothes are wearing out. They are pilled, stretched, faded, misshapen. They have lost buttons. Hems are fallen and seams are torn. My t-shirts inexplicably developed pin-holes in weird places. My pants completely explicably developed tears in the inner-thighs. I have babied my clothes, repaired them, dyed them, and patched them but I can only delay the inevitable disintegration for so long.
In other words, it’s time to shop. And that’s where the frustration starts, because Spring 2009 Trends? I am just not that into you. I wasn’t that into your older sibling, Spring 2008 Trends, either. The year before that? That was my Magical Year of Shopping While Fat. Unfortunately, because I’m fat, and because plus-size, high-quality, timeless pieces designed to last more than one season are the Unicorns of the Fashion World, my clothes are wearing slam out, as some of my country relatives would say.
Dear dingy, pilling Target dress, hang in with me for one more year and then I will give you the royal send off you deserve for three years of loyal service, which is two and a half more years than you were created to offer.
Of course, some retailers do make clothes that I love. I have a life-long, tragically unrequited love affair with Anthropologie. Back when I could wear their clothes, I couldn’t afford them. And now that I can afford them? They have decided that I am Too Fat. And don’t even get me started on Ann Taylor, which used to be my never-fail go-to for professional clothes. They are selling clothes that I love, but they are not selling clothes that I can wear. The retailers that are selling clothes in my size are stuck in this whirlpool of Boho-animal print-polyester-bedazzled-South Beach colored horribleness that is to my personal aesthetic what right-wing evangelism is to my political leanings.
And so Twistie’s post here spoke to me, right to my fat, discontented heart. Twistie calls us all to action:
People, it’s time for a revolution. Not a dreary one nor a bloody one. We need a revolution of fabulousness. I want each and every one of you to stand up and do something about this. We are not a tiny minority. We are a mighty community and we are not being served.
I want every person reading this blog – fat or thin, tall or short, male or female, every color of the rainbow and all stops in between – to refuse to be invisible. Write to a retailer or manufacturer and say that you want clothes in your size. Wear something down the street that makes people stop and stare in wonder. Laugh in the face of someone who tries to shame you into ’slimming’ colors or ‘weight appropriate’ cuts.
We. Deserve. Nice. Clothes.
And she’s totally right. And so I wrote to two retailers – Anthropologie and Ann Taylor, natch – and not only told them that I want clothes in my size, I provided them with a sample order of what I would purchase, today, as I sit here on my lunch hour, from each of them. And friends, it’s a significant amount of money. An amount of money that I am extremely privileged to have at my disposal were those stores far-thinking enough to offer anything in a women’s size 20. An amount of money that instead will stay comfortably tucked away in my checking account, patiently awaiting the clothing trends that plus-size retailers are willing to embrace to come back around to my way of thinking.
After the cut, I’ll provide you with the text of the letter I sent to the corporate office of Anthropologie so you can use it as a template for the letter you write to the retailer of your choice.
Glen T. Senk
Chief Executive Officer, Urban Outfitters, Inc.
Dear Mr. Senk:
I have often admired the style and quality of clothing offered by your Anthropologie brand. I fall squarely within Anthropologie’s target demographic of a “fashionable, educated and creative woman of 30 to 45.” Much to my disappointment, however, you have chosen not to make any of the clothes within the Anthropologie brand available to me.
While I note that Anthropologie does offer both petites and tall sizes, you have chosen to limit your size options to a 16 in a limited number of styles and smaller in most styles. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, over one-third of American women can be classified as “obese.” According to some estimates, over half the population of American women wear a size 14 or over. Despite this, the majority of clothing retailers, like yourselves, choose to exclude up to one-half of all American women from their target demographic. The reasons most often cited–that larger women are disinterested in purchasing clothes and that the additional costs of manufacturing larger sizes make doing so unfeasible–appear logical at first, but fail to withstand closer inspection.
First, larger women are, in fact, very interested in purchasing clothes. We are interested in purchasing fashionable, well-made, well-fitted clothes that we can try on in brick-and-mortar stores. We are “fashionable, educated and creative” women with specific wardrobe needs that most clothing retailers refuse to meet. We are not embarrassed to shop in public. We long for clothing that is “carefully designed and selected with an eye for craftsmanship and detail.” We are varied in taste, style, and budget. We are here, and if you offer clothing of the same design, style, and quality in our size as you do in smaller sizes, and inform us that you are doing so, we will absolutely buy that clothing. If, however, you take the puzzling path that other retailers have trod and offer a severely limited range of plus-size styles that do not fit with your overall aesthetic or quality standard, and then fail to advertise the presence of those styles, your plus-size experiment is destined to fail.
Second, the argument that manufacturing larger sizes is cost prohibitive due to the costs of creating patterns, hiring fit models, and using additional fabric is specious at best. As a retailer that offers both petites and tall sizes, you are already familiar with relying on fit models of different body types to create patterns to suit different-sized customers. Why are plus-size patterns or plus-size fit models any different than petite or tall patterns or fit models? As for the claim that additional fabric is cost prohibitive, I wonder how you justify charging the same for a size zero as you do for a size 14, given that the amount of fabric you use for a size fourteen is considerably more than you use for a size zero. The amount of fabric you use for a size 20, however, is not much more than you use for a size 14. Although I recognize the need to “draw a line somewhere,” you are randomly choosing to draw a line that, for reasons that defy both logic and business sense, alienates half of American women.
Let me provide you with an example. I am a 36-year old professional with a graduate degree. I take every opportunity to highlight my own quirky, artistic personal style. I looked through your website this morning, and found a number of desirable items for my casual wardrobe, which is in sore need of a Spring refresher. These include:
Anthropologie Scholar’s Garden Dress for $198.00
Lace Button-Down for $88.00
Candied Corsage Blouse for $98.00
Skirted Cardigan for $118.00
If you carried these items in my size, a women’s size 20, I would have already spent over $500.00 with your company this morning. Instead, because you illogically chose to limit your clothing offerings smaller sizes, I have spent nothing.
I’m writing to ask you to reconsider your short-sighted business decision to limit the sizes you offer. I’m also asking you to look beyond the flawed prevailing wisdom when it comes to plus sizes, and embrace the 50% of American women who are longing for stylish, well-made, easily accessible clothing. If you win our hearts and minds, you will also win our wallets.
Feel free to contact me about any of the subjects I have discussed in this email. Thank you for your time.
Very Truly Yours,
Otter Matic, Esq.