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.
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.