The Plight of the Plus-Size Shopper
(Hint: Muumuus Suck)

as a young american woman, simply being "plus sized" can be plenty horrific on its own. having to SHOP as one is utterly humiliating.

it doesn’t matter which camp you’re in – whether you think “big is beautiful” or that being overweight completely sucks – the clothes-shopping experience is downright insulting.

first of all, as a marketer and as a human being, i do not understand the reasoning behind department stores separating plus-size clothing from normal-size clothing. why is this? is it because the clothes are so differently styled? or is it just a matter of space? because either way, i still don’t get it.

if it’s style – why? why not offer the “normal” clothes in larger sizes…and on the same racks? why offer those adorable pants in sizes 0­-14, but then offer only the ugliest, most unflattering, pleated-front-tapered-leg-balloon pants for sizes 14 on up?

who decided that women over a certain size have no fashion sense, no careers, and no social life? because let me tell you, the clothes i have to choose from are offensive. they are matronly and flowered. they are saggy and baggy and pastel in the wrong way. the few lines that try to be “hip” are terribly ill-conceived.

so where are the pants that flare? where are the skirts that are a-lined and above the knee? where are the summer shirts or undershirts that aren’t sleeveless? (why are all the shirts sleeveless?) where are the clothes for the office? where are the selections for a night on the town? i won’t even bother to ask where the sleepwear or lingerie options are.

as far as i can tell, instead of being designed to flatter, plus-sized clothes are designed to allow heaps of excess fat to billow beneath their tent-like sheath. they offer, essentially, trussed up versions of muumuus.

but see, here’s the thing: i’m a size 16, not jabba the hut. i’m also young and active. i am not a grandmother (i’m not even a mother), i’m not a school marm from 4 decades ago, and i’m not living in a fashion vacuum. just because i’m overweight doesn’t mean i don’t care how i look.

i’m not dumpy or frumpy and i don’t want to be made to feel like i am.

and it’s not just the styles that make my shopping experience depressing, but where they’re offered. i always feel a little bit slapped in the face when i see that the plus-size clothing is in a completely different zone from the rest of women’s clothing: Women’s Clothing – Floor Three; Woman’s World (Sizes 14 and up) – The Cellar. (and when did "woman" become synonymous with plus-size? ?)

yes, there is a macy's in connecticut where the plus-size department is located on the bottom floor. in the basement. in a corner. next to the bedding. (i always thought maybe they should just combine departments since half of what was offered already looked like bedspreads.)

what sort of message are these stores getting at? please, i already feel marginalized enough. you don’t have to send me down three escalators and hide me away to let me know that i am not the preferred body type for designers, retailers, or merchandisers (or most men, or employers, or hollywood…). trust me, i know.

thank you for taking my money anyway.


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  2. From the May 2005 issue of Consumer Reports:

    ===========Begin Article

    Clothing Confusion: The Tag Sats 8, But The Tape Says 12

    The size tags in women's clothing have lost much of thier meaning. Manufacturers are cutting clothes larger and labeling them smaller, a practice known as vanity sizing. At the same time, we have found, there's little consistency in measurements from one brand of clothing to another.

    Voluntary industry size standards are largely ignored. The standards say that a size 10 woman will have a 36-inch bust, a 28-inch waist, and 40-inch hips. In reality, clothing manufacturers deisng for a target market-young career women, for example-then chose a model that typifies that market and tweak measurments to fit the type.

    We measured 10 brands of women's pants, all labeled size 10, and found that the waists ranged from just over 30 inches to nearly 33 inches. Tailored shirts, also labeled size 10, ranged from nearly 39 to nearly 43 inches in the bust. We saw no correlation between price and measurements.

    Jill Staats, an apparel-industry professional, says vanity sizing has arisen in part because "its tough to admit you've grown around the middle." The average woman weighs 164 pounds today, up from 140 pounds in 1960.

    David Wolfe, creative director of the retail consulting firm The Doneger Group, says that tweaking the numbers isn't a bad thing. "It's not at all unusual for a woman to wear a 10 in pants or a skirt, but an 8 shirt or jacket. Clothing makers have to make compromises that will accommodate as many body types as possible."

    The bottom line. Our clothing experts and the idustry sources we contactd agree that you should try on clothes that look as if they're the proper size. Wolfe also says that where you shop and the brands you buy can influence label size. For example, if in Nordstrom you buy a pair of size 6 pants that fit, you will probably have to move up to size 8 or 10 for a similar style at Wal-Mart.

    ===========End Article

    Conclusion: Either Norstrom wants women to feel thinner than they are, or Wal-Mart wants women to feel fatter.

  3. Now this is something I can relate too! I hardly bother with department stores any longer for these reasons exactly. Even though the choices are more limited, I do almost all of my clothes shopping at Lane Bryant now. Plus their bras are the ONLY ones I've ever found that actually fit on me and stay on me the way a bra should. And they come in varieties other than the white and lace granny gigantic monstrosity with at least five hooks in the back most manufacturers and retailers seem think a woman wearing a 38DD should wear.

    -Rant complete :)

  4. I totally agree with you. As a plus-size 25 year old woman, with money to spend, I think it is ridiculous that most of my choices involve jeans with elastic and oversized shirts with embroidered flowers on them. If a majority of Americans are overweight, wouldn't it be wise for major clothing companies to offer larger sizes in more appealing styles? We have money to spend, just nothing worth spending it on.

    Another thing that irks me about plus-size clothing/shopping is that the manequins are all a size 12 with the clothes pinned back so that they fit. (Check out any Lane Bryant window) And also most supposed plus-size models are at most a size 12 with flat stomachs. They would never even be able to shop at the stores they advertise for without the clothes falling off of them.

    Despite all of this and after a lot of searching I have managed to find some stores and internet sites that offer plus-size clothing for a younger/hipper audience. Just to name a few favorites: (also some store locations throughout U.S.), (now offering a completely separate clothing line with sizes up to size 26 and XXXL, available in some stores too), and

  5. Found you via the "Best of CL" - the fireman and ass story is the best!

    Try - a pretty good selection of women's sizes in their stylish, fashionable clothes.

    LOVE your blog! Good luck with the lifestyle're gorgeous, already, BTW.


  6. I'm just now going back and reading all the old stuff... and I'm right with you on this. I hate shopping period. I'm a 16 too and it's hard to find stuff. The other gripe I have is the lighting in the fitting room. Could they find something more fat friendly?!? Please?

  7. Because of all the things you mention, INCLUDING a childhood spent in Fairfield county CT, I HATE HATE HATE shoppingf in stores. if you can and will shop online, Gap, Eddie Bauer, JJill, and Hanna Andersson offer the same clothes in sizes that will fit me and you.

    Your blog rules!


  8. Amen, amen. I can't ever figure out why, if most of America is as fat as it supposedly is, why more designers and manufacturers don't avail themselves of the gold mine that would be making attractive clothing for larger people.

  9. Awesome post. My only guess is that have market research that suggests that thin women don't want to be seen shopping next to heavier women. From my own personal experience, I think this is probably true. Capitalism sucks sometimes, I think.


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