Letter to Clothing Retailers

To department stores, women’s clothing retailers, sellers of athletic wear or other specialty clothing, and all other relevant business ventures:

I accept that the majority of you do not sell clothing in my size, despite the fact that I have a body to dress and — sometimes, at least — money to spend.

For those who fit that category, I accept that if I enter one of your establishments and ask, “Do you carry size [mine]?” I will be met with much the same reaction as if I’d asked, “Do you carry plates of steaming poop?” As though your sales associates consider it amusing or horrific or unseemly that they should be expected to inhabit a place of employment that sells clothing in larger than size 12 or 14 or 16.** Occasionally, one will respond with genuine regret, but those are the exception rather than the standard.

Among stores that do sell clothing in my size, I accept that even this is of limited utility to the general plus size population. That is, a number of you will carry only up to sizes one or two larger than size [mine], meaning that people who are significantly larger than I am have even fewer clothing options than I do. In fact, what some of you will call “plus sizes” in your store extend only to what others consider the upper range of straight sizes.

Moreover, if you’re a store that sells both straight and plus sizes, your plus size selection will encompass approximately 5-20% of the floor space dedicated to all women’s clothing, and your selection of clothing in plus sizes will be proportional to those percentages. In addition, any sort of “specialty wear” — such as evening wear, swimwear, athletic wear, business attire, or lingerie (none of which are rare in straight sizes) — will be even scarcer.

I get it. Some plus size people will get to wear some articles of clothing — whether it’s suitable to our needs or not, at least it’s something — and you expect us to be grateful. In fact, you expect us to pay extra for the privilege.

And more or less I keep my mouth shut and abide by these rules.

However.

When I am in the plus-size section of a plus-size-carrying store minding my own plus-size businesses, not even getting too close to the perimeter of that section lest another customer or an employee think I have the audacity to expect anything in the rest of the store to fit me — in short, when I am doing my damnedest to be as unobtrusive and invisible as possible — how dare you stick a rack of straight-size clothing in the middle of the plus-size section? Are you seriously trying to tell me that a five-foot-by-ten-foot, three-rack plus-size section was just too expansive? That there was utterly nowhere else that this rack of (admittedly fabulous) sleeveless blouses could go?

Let me break down the math for you. If you have about 50 racks (a conservative estimate for the store where this actually happened) dedicated to straight size clothing, and you remove one, this leaves you with 49 racks dedicated to straight size clothing:

50 – 1 = 49

This means you have decreased the amount of available straight size racks by 2%, leaving 98% still on the floor:

1 / 50 = 0.02 = 2%

49 / 50 = 0.98 = 98%

If, however, you have 3 racks dedicated to plus size clothing, and you remove one, this leaves me with only 2 racks of clothing that might fit me. This decreases my selection options by approximately 33%:

3 – 1 = 2

1 / 3 ≈ 0.33 = 33%

Listen, if you don’t actually want my business — you know, because refusing money is a sound tenet of any capitalist business plan — then please, just say so. I will instead spend my money on extra Body Glide and Coppertone and just run around in my Vibrams all day. Because I’m sure this is a solution that works for everyone.

But regardless of what I am or am not wearing, me, my body, and my purchasing power are not going away.

** By the way, what’s up with the discrepancy? If you’re mostly not going to make or sell clothing in plus size, can we at least have some sort of industry standard for where straight sizes always stop and plus sizes always start? Because I would not keep asking your employees if I already knew. It’s not like the process is fun for me.

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I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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5 comments on “Letter to Clothing Retailers
  1. G says:

    Do you think if we start a plus-size clothing-optional colony we can get Body Glide and Coppertone and Vibram to sponsor us?

    • Tori says:

      Hrm. I’m not sure. While their products do fit me, most companies I’ve seen are not thrilled about using fat nude models. I’d like to think they’d be the ones to buck the trend, but who can say?

  2. Renee Martin says:

    Shit like this is exactly why I have stopped shopping in retail stores. I am tired of the lack of selection and the rude customer service. I know shop for my clothing exclusively online. It means I have to wait for what I ordered to be shipped but at least I know I am supporting a business that caters to me.

    • Tori says:

      I’m glad that’s a solution that works for you. Personally, while I don’t mind the waiting involved with online shopping, I don’t have the money to pay shipping multiple times** trying to find something that’s sized correctly for me. Perhaps this is a sign I should learn to sew — or at least invest in the services of someone local who can. :D

      ** Most online retailers I know offer free return shipping. However, if I want something exchanged — e.g., different size, different style — I still need to pay for the second round of from-retailer shipping. I get why they need to charge for it, but sometimes it can take a half dozen tries for me to figure out the right size/fit/etc..

  3. Cathy says:

    As someone who wears petite sizes, I have the same problems buying clothes that fit. Most mainstream highstreet/shopping centre/mall type shops sell only from size 8 (Australia, US4, UK6, EU32) and up. This is extremely disappointing because most of these clothes look wrinkly and sag on me, and look very unflattering. Because this is the smallest size they stock, I either have to buy it and have it altered to fit (garments are much too long for my height, waist and bust need to be taken in because I have a small cup size and waist circumference) or either search online and hope that items fit better without being tried on, and pay expensive shipping charges and returns.

    This runs to swimwear and lingerie as well, as I am an A cup and getting properly fitted bras and swimwear tops that don’t have unsightly empty pouches over the breasts is difficult.

    And unfortunately, it’s become even more difficult to buy properly fitting clothes because of the current trend of vanity sizing. 8′s are becoming 10′s and the very rare 6′s in stock need to be taken to the tailor as well.
    If garment makers want to appeal to everyone, then even less people will be happy.

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