More fashion rant

If I blogged about this as much as I’ve been ranting in person you’d think this was all I ever thought about. Which it might be.

The more I poke at it, the more this clothing size issue is getting to me.

I’ve learned a lot about the clothing industry in the process, though. A few observations:

1) It is actually harder to know where to shop after losing 50 pounds and dropping to a size 16/18 than when I was solidly in the plus-size range. The clothes in women’s departments and stores are cut differently than the misses lines, and pretty much any clothing retailer aimed at the smaller end of the scale either doesn’t carry anything larger than a 14 (or in some cases, particularly with interesting small boutique lines, no larger than a 12), or they only offer it by catalog or online (Ann Taylor, Gap, J.Crew, and many many others engage in this practice). So you can’t even find out whether it fits without paying shipping.

2) There are places you can buy clothing up to size 18 or 20 all on the same racks as the smaller stuff. So far, the ones I have found are Old Navy and Target. So basically, if I want cheap clothing (and I don’t just mean cost, I mean quality), it’s okay to be my size. If I want good clothing… well, I’d better be rich enough to have it altered or custom sewn, or have the time to make it myself.

3) Plus-size lines tend to be crap. If it’s not ugly and matronly, it’s skanky. (I think the only reason people gush over Torrid is because it’s one of the few places you can find acknowledgement that you don’t have to be skinny to be sexy. The clothes are very cheaply made, and it’s not going to solve most people’s work wardrobe problems.)

This isn’t a recent discovery for me, but I was reminded of it recently when I wandered into Saks 5th Ave. I asked the concierge if you had to go to the women’s dept (called Salon Z, which somehow sounds even stupider than Nordstrom’s choice, Encore) to get anything larger than a 12, and he said yes, but they carried most of the same clothing lines in there. He was lying through his teeth. Not only do they hide that section in a separate building above the men’s clothing (at least here in Portland), but everything in there reminded me of those “mother of the bride” outfits, pastel and unfitted and generally resembling expensive mumus. I didn’t see a single size 14, either, it was all 1X, 2X, etc. So the best you can hope for if you care about fabric or construction is Land’s End classic boring.

4) Even if someone were to do something intelligent like offer a better or bridge clothing line for women under 40 that ran from sizes 2-22, most retailers wouldn’t stock the whole range, or at best they’d shelve it in separate sections. I found this quote in a Washington Post article. It’s from Andy Hilfiger, the co-founder of J.Lo’s Sweetface clothing line, on why they’re discontinuing their plus sizes:

According to Hilfiger, the plus-size line “did okay.” The problem, he said, was
that department stores stocked it in their plus-size departments; Hilfiger wanted it in juniors, next to the brand’s other sizes.

“A lot of designers, they’re not advertising the plus-size line,” Hilfiger said. “I wanted a girl that was a size 2 to shop with a size 13.”

So even if the clothing comes in larger sizes, it’s treated like a dirty secret. See item 1 about not even bothering to display the largest size offered in the store. I wanted to make a scene when I discovered that J.Crew won’t even put XL knits on their store racks. I can’t even begin to comprehend the logic behind that.

5) Men aren’t punished like this. Guys who are slightly larger than average get to shop at the same stores as skinny men. Few men’s clothing lines would dream of trying what women’s retailers do in this respect. It would be bad for business. Whereas if you are female, and you wear a larger size than the 14/16 which is the current statistical average, you are fat. FAT. Automatically. And the whole fashion industry has decided they will punish you by only providing fat chick clothes. They will lead you to believe that it’s not possible to create clothing in your size without it being loose and drapey, that structured styles are not possible or attractive unless they involve a lot of Lycra so you don’t bust the seams. This is so untrue it’s not even funny.

6) Karl Lagerfeld can go fuck himself.

7) The Fashion Designer Survival Guide estimates that an investment of between $25,000 and $100,000 is the bare minimum needed to start a ready-to-wear clothing line. If anyone has that kind of cash floating around, let me know.

8 responses to “More fashion rant

  1. Seriously? You expect to find something non-matron at Saks 5th Avenue!? Uh… That’s where my 82-year-old grandmother shops.

    It’s been about a decade since I was in the 16/18 size range, but I seem to recall Eddie Bauer carried up to a 16 in-store, and the stuff was well made. Granted, they’ve been through a bankruptcy since then… And I think Coldwater Creek carries up to a 2x, but not much of their stuff is tailored or structured. I seem to recall Meier & Frank having a decent selection too, but they don’t have them here so I haven’t been there in years. Macy’s, maybe?

    Torrid’s trashy, Lane Bryant’s fine if you want to wrap your ass in pink and gold sparkly leopard print, and Catherine’s is okay if you don’t mind looking like you’re the mother-of-the-bride AND you’ve stapled a live puppy to your chest… But have you tried Avenue? A lot of their stuff does have lycra in it, but even the skinny girls are wearing stretch denim these days – it’s the only way to get low-rise pants without girl love-handles (an effect which can make even a size 2 look like her ass needs its own zipcode). Avenue’s got a lot of more tailored styles, too. And, being on the low end of the size range, you have a much better selection to choose from than those of us on the upper end.

    Or… You’ve got sewing skills. Why not buy something off-the-rack and tailor it yourself? A couple of darts in a mens’ $20 cotton dress shirt would take a hell of a lot less time than making something from scratch.


  2. You’re missing my point, though. There are only a couple of reasons for manufacturers to not offer the same clothing in sizes from 6 to 20:

    -Snobbery. Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, really does hate fat people. No one’s going to honestly try to dispute that, just soften it up enough to not lose their job. Karl Lagerfeld says he’ll never work with H&M again because his clothes are only for skinny women (but check out that photo of him as a fat old lady from his diet book).

    -Ignorance. Maybe they really do think that the only women who would want good quality clothes in larger sizes are also over 40. Or that the only clothing that will look good is loose and drapey. Or that anyone over a size 10 is not particularly fashion-oriented (because if they were, they’d starve themselves skinny to fit in. But there’s a difference between an interest in fashionable clothing and in wanting to imitate Kate Moss.)

    -Cluelessness. If you don’t know what you’re doing, expanding the size range of existing designs will expose the flaws in how you grade your patterns. This where plus-size clothing with bad proportions comes in. It’s also associated with being too lazy/dumb to hire a second fit model with larger measurements to test things against.

    I can find clothing that fits me and that I want to wear if I hunt around or make it myself (though both often feel like a lot of effort just to get week’s wardrobe). My complaint is that I think I should be able to walk into Saks and try on the same cute designer clothes I saw giggling Japanese girls shopping for last week. I’m really offended by being treated as abnormal by general clothing manufacture standards, and I think it’s bad business on their part.

  3. I totally feel your pain. I am like a 16 on top and a /1820 on bottom. Why do manufacturers not make shirts for women with breasts (I am a DD) the shirts at LB are cut crappy for girls like me, too long to drapey too crappy. And pants…hahahaha all of my pants are from old navy and they all gap at the back. And to add to the problem….why are all pants cut for people with toothpick legs……I like slimmer cut pants, but on me the slim cuts look like leggings…and well the relaxed look like PJs..and the have baggy butts. Who fits in these clothes.

    And let’s not get started on knee high boots! My calves are like 15 inches….too big for normal boots. Too small for plus size boots.

    If you find a donor, I’ll be happy to help.

  4. Audrey – thank you for sharing your feelings – I am working with a team on a business plan for a “better” line of clothing size 2-22; targeting the urban-chic professional woman ages 25-40, using size 12 models for promotions to be sold initially to specialty boutiques and then to major department stores. Our story reflects your comments and yes higher-end designers recognize the market for sexy, sophisticated clothing that fits plus sizes but due to a “image” factor they stay away from this market or make “extended” lines of select items etc. We have done a ton of research speaking to woman as yourself – who are larger-sizes, curvy bodies and want “fashionable” clothing that fits! We are in the middle of a business plan competition right now – our Financial Mentor wants us to prove there is a real PAIN that are product will address by showing X number of larger size, middle income women and spending X aomunt of money and time to get their clothing custom made or to have major alterations due to the lack of options of buying stylish “off-the-rack” clothing that fits. We have a of very good chance of winning the competition and resources to move forward if we can prove larger-size women who want quality, stylish clothing are spending alot more time and money tham there smaller counterparts who are able to buy clothing “off-the-rack.” Sorry if this is a ramble…just been searching for any numerical PROOF to back up our story. I have talked to my curvaceous friends, famliy etc and they all echo your comments, so I know the market exists and the PAIN is real – but have to prove it for the financial folks. Do you have any information you think would be helpful or can direct me to any websites that may have some numbers – thanks!

  5. I try to be stylish. I try to be edgy and cool, but when your a size 20 it’s pretty much impossible. I will shop ANYWHERE that sells larger sized clothing. But nothing is “me” or “my style” so guess what? I wear basic black and try to style up my wardrobe with shoes or handbags because we know they fit regardless of what size you are.

    Mail order? Absolutely never. I have to try on everything I purchase, even if its the same thing in a different color.

    Large size clothes are mostly made with acyrlic or some other “man made” disastrous material that balls up or looks like crap after you wash it once. Everything is overpriced and cheaply made. Take a quick trip into The Fashion Bug next time you see one. CRAP! I found a sweater set that was about 70.00 made of something extremely insulting, I ended up buying a sweater set from Saks on sale and paid 69.00 for it. Hmm, let me think.

    Nordstrom Rack doesn’t even carry large size clothes anymore. Well, if you consider the 3 rounders of clothes they use to have as a choice.

    Why are all the shirts made so long? Why does everything have this elastic band at the bottom? Why are pants made that they hug my thighs but I would need to belt to keep them up? Why does everything that to have some fucked up pretty floral design, a tacky cartoon character or some bright “look at me, I’m a fat person” pattern that you would NEVER see a thin person wearing. I won’t even comment on low rise pants…

    I ended up spending 65.00 (on sale) for my last pair of basic black pants. No, I don’t do that everyday, but when you can’t find something that doesn’t look like I’m going camping, Eddie Bauer, or hanging out with my Homie G’s, DEB, what else do you do?

    I don’t mind being a size 20 but it would feel a whole lot better if I could find cute clothes like the size 10 girls get to wear.

    I’m extremely embarrassed by the choices we have and more embarrassed by some of the choices we’ve made.

    Everyone hates fat people.

  6. Ok so I understand where you are all comming from. I am in the same boat being a 20/22 girl myself. However, if you want to be stylish then you need to work at it. Not all skinny girls can buy off the rack either. Also, alot of the stores that you trashed (i.e. torris, old navy, and lane bryant) are not really all that bad. I mean there is some stuff that I see in lets use torrid for an example, that i just wouldnt wear, however there are alot of foundtaion pieces in there that can help build your wardrobe. Then its a matter of find a great accessory or jacket. It hard but do able. I mean I do it everyday, and I get compliments all the time that I dress really well. I know my body and I know what looks good on it. That is really the key. And as for the designers, do you really expect the head of the fashion industry where the sex sells everything is going to fix the problems…..I dont ever see that happening so be a little openminded and try new styles or cuts at these stores and see if they look good. Just try.

  7. carolann sears

    I am a 54 year old female; who back in my high school days dreamed of being a fashion designer; in middle school; i designed and sewed most of the outfits i wore; some were a success and others were the joke of my classmates. At this time in my life; I am at a cross-roads; and the designing bug has made itself known again; after being dormant for so many years. There are no clothes out there for the fifty-plus woman who has a protruding abdomen due to the effects of menopause. Would all the women affected by these physical effects on their body; want to find a clothing line that addresses their particular body types……………no one addresses these women. I would like to create a clothing line that these women are proud to wear and accents their best attributes and diminishes the ones they wish to hide. Clothing should be able to do that; but no one has chosen or wanted to take this on………I want to be this person………….

    I shopped all day today with my closest friend; who is 6 years my senior; and we found nothing to make us look good . The country needs clothing to fit the real bodies of women . And we don’t want to dress dowdy; how many size six’s are there? If you respond; please add : Attention CarolAnn to the email address I submitted; it is my husband’s email address.

  8. I am in my twenties and I am on average a size 5-7. I went shopping with my mom a couple of times, and she is maybe about 14- 16 or so, I’m not quite sure, she does not look fat though, if anyone were to ask me or if anyone was to look at her, she just looks like a full-figured regular woman, in her late thirties or early 40’s. I think she is a very beautiful woman, however when we went out shopping, we couldn’t find anything that would fit properly, they sizes either didn’t exist or like you’ve mentioned the clothing item itself would just be crap. I don’t think that’s right at all, I mean my mother is an average normal size for a woman, and yet she can’t find normal clothing that fits properly or a nice pair of jeans. I mean she does have a good enough wardrobe, but she really needs to put a lot of effort in to find clothing, and it just takes away from the whole fun shopping experience. It breaks my heart.