Plus Size, My Ass!
As a former fat woman, I am still mad about how limited my options were to finding cool, stylish clothing when I was a size 20. One of the best things about being 67 pounds lighter is the endless options for clothing choices. But, that is only because I have gotten myself well below a size 14. Did you know there are certain brands, which I won’t call by name, that only make clothing up to a size 12? If you are bigger than that, I suppose they would prefer you not defile their style.
It’s amazing that around 70 percent of American women are size 14 or larger, yet the options for fashion for this majority group are limited to small, wretched sections of department stores called plus-size, or stores that cater specifically to the larger size women.
I have shopped many plus-size departments and you can’t imagine the experiences I’ve had. First, you never know where the plus-size department may be. Every other piece of women’s clothing is usually on the main floor of a major department store, but if you’re fat, you need to trek up to the third floor, walk through the children’s, home, mattresses and clearance sections to find what used to be a backroom, holding a smattering of highly patterned, mostly polyester frocks. The humiliation starts when you have to ask where the plus-size department is and it takes more than five minutes to get you directions.
Maybe the theory is to make fat women walk a long way so they can get some exercise. More than likely, it is well hidden because, unfortunately, this segment of women get very little respect.
For years I shopped alone. Most of my friends were smaller than me and if I shopped with them, there was nothing in my size; if they shopped with me, there was nothing in their size. It was very isolating, and in hindsight, seems very punishing. Shopping should be fun. It’s a “sport” women love to do together, sharing opinions, likes, dislikes and getting lots of laughs in between. However, when you reach that dreaded size 1X, you are summoned to the far corner of the store away from where the “pretty girls” get to shop. All of a sudden, you are a second-class customer, doomed to fashion hell.
The last thing I needed when I was overweight was for one more person, advertisement, entity, store or doctor to point out my state of extreme fluffiness and make me feel bad about it. Believe me, I knew I was fat. I wanted to do something about it. I just couldn’t seem to get a hold of myself at the time.
If size 14 is the average size of American women and 70 percent are size 14 or more, then why does 80 percent of the store floor plan cater to only 33 percent of the customers? Why is this archaic attitude, which tears larger women down, still acceptable in a day and time when everyone is offended by everything? Don’t say anything about anyone unless they are fat? It's OK to still hurt their feelings? What a “Mean Girl” method of approaching an important sector of women, whose money is just as spendable as their smaller counterparts.
By the way, I became quite the shoe girl when I was fluffy. I didn’t have to shop in a different department. I could wear the same size eight as the skinny girl next to me! Of course, even a pair of Michael Kors heels can’t make a muumuu look sexy. And, why must a muumuu sound like something a cow would wear? Coincidence? I think not.
Actress Melissa McCarthy (Spy, Bridesmaids, “Mike and Molly”) is launching a new fashion line on September 1, called Melissa McCarthy Seven7 Collection, which will be available in sizes four to 28. According to The Washington Post, “Melissa McCarthy may be hilarious, but she’s very serious about making over the plus-size fashion industry. She’s the real deal, having studied fashion prior to doing stand-up. She has enough celebrity-pull to get people talking and she’d like to start by losing the designation “plus-size.”
“I just don’t get why we always have to group everything into a good or bad, right or wrong category, McCarthy told Refinery 21. “I just think, if you’re going to make women’s clothing, make women’s clothing. Designers that put everyone in categories are over-complicating something that should be easy.”
While the old guard will not change quickly, maybe the slow-drip process will begin to teach retailers that larger women want to look good and feel good about their shopping experiences, too. After all, it is in the Declaration of Independence that we all have the right to the pursuit of happiness, and for many women, that includes clothing, handbags, shoes, accessories and the like.
The only way this is going to change is for women to start speaking up, and ladies, you don’t have to be plus-size to speak out. Women should support women regardless of size.
My friend Karlene sends me an inspirational email every single night. It hits my inbox usually between 11:00 p.m. and midnight. Tonight’s message was this: “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”
That, my friends, would solve it all.