Lane Bryant – Can We Talk?

Just in case you’re not in the know, Lane Bryant is a store in the US that caters to plus-sized women.  Recently they ran a “Curvy Revolution Contest”.   They gave women the opportunity to show off their best runway walk in a one minute video and win a chance to walk in the Lane Bryant Curvy Revolution fashion show in Vegas.

I’ll tell you right now that I have a some skin in this game, although not my skin.  This probably wouldn’t have been on my radar at all except that CJ Legare is a dear friend of mine. She is the second place winner.

Let me also state for the record that I’ve been competing at something or other almost all of my life athlete from way back, I’m currently a competitive dancer and I know full well that sometimes you just get beaten.  Sometimes your best isn’t good enough.  Sometimes it really is an honor just to be nominated.  So at first I thought – Second Place…HELL YEAH (10 points if you know the movie reference). But then I saw the winner and first runner up.

CJ is a pro and is taking this gracefully.  I am not.  And here’s why:

First of all, the rules include that there could be no pre-recorded music, no designer labels and that 75% of the score was based on “creativity, perceived personality, vitality and inspiration of entrant …The Grand Prize selection will be subject to verification, including without limitation, verification of eligibility, compliance with these Official Rules”

Here are the videos:

The Winner – Sydni Sayles

First Runner Up – sorry, I don’t know her name

Second Place -  CJ Legare

Ok, the winner and runner up both have pre-recorded music, the second not only has a designer label but the emcee POINTS IT OUT.

Thousands of other women turned in videos that could have been improved with pre-recorded music and designer clothes and accessories, but they didn’t include those things because they reasonably believed that they would be disqualified if they did.

Lane Bryant says that it’s not their fault, they outsourced the final decision to a modeling agency.  Their stance is that their rules were copied from somewhere else and were therefore not important. (Apparently they are like the Pirate Code – really more like guidelines anyway.  10 points if you know the movie reference).  My stance is that it’s your damn contest so if you don’t have the balls ovaries to make a decision, then that IS a decision, and you are responsible.

But those are little things compared to what I think is the greater issue here.  I adore CJ and of course I wanted to see her win.  But I was also excited about the idea of having a truly plus-sized model, a model who could shop for clothes at Lane Bryant, walk down the runway.  Except I didn’t really get one. And I was left asking – why would Lane Bryant break all of their rules for those two girls?  It looks to me like neither of them could even shop at Lane Bryant.  When I look at their website, it seems like part of a trend.

This is my friend CJ. She is a plus-size model and is a size 18/20.  She can shop at Lane Bryant:

Here is a model who is on their website right now.  I’m not linking  because I’m too irritated to help them get any internet traffic:

How is that plus?  How does that reflect their customer base?

One of the models below is a straight sized model from the New York and Company website and one is a  “plus-sized” model from the Lane Bryant website.  Can you tell which is which?

The one in the white shirt is the straight sized model, the one in the green is plus-sized.

Seriously?  SERIOUSLY!?

There are a few conclusions that I can draw from this, none of them good, and I’m not sure what is actually true:

1.  Lane Bryant would love me to spend my size 26/28 money there,  but they are too ashamed of the way I look to show women who look anything like me in their clothes.

2.  Lane Bryant thinks its fun to disappoint plus-sized women and make them feel bad about themselves by creating a public image of their clothing that cannot possibly be recreated on the  plus-sized women to whom they sell those clothes.

3.  Lane Bryant thinks that fat women hate our bodies so much that we can’t bear the sight of ourselves and therefore will only buy clothes if they are sold on a non-plus sized model so that we can commit the fallacy in #2 wherein we believe that these clothes will make us appear not plus-sized.  Maybe seeing clothes that have been altered to be worn by women much too thin to fit into them is what the majority of plus-sized women want to see.  Even if it’s true, here’s the huge problem with Lane Bryant’s approach.

If you think about it, almost every normal activity that we see  on commercials, billboards, magazines etc. is being done by a thin women. We keep hearing that over 60% of the people in this country are “overweight” or “obese” (a statement of questionable accuracy for me to deal with another time).  We are the majority.  We control the vote in this country.  But if the only thing I knew about this culture were movies, billboards, commercials and television shows, I would think that almost everyone was thin and the rest were successfully losing weight.  And Lane Bryant, which could be a bastion of positivity showing plus-sized women looking confident and fabulous, instead opts to alter their clothes to fit women who will never pay them any money because they do their shopping  at the vast array of stores that carry their sizes, not the the very few stores that carry my size, and that’s disappointing to me.

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 6:54 am  Comments (33)  

33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Woman Within does the same thing. I’ve bought clothes from them before but I am reluctant to do so now because they do not use true plus size models.
    15 years ago when I was a size 10, I went to a modeling agency. They told me that they could use me as a plus size model. I wasn’t insulted but I was wondering, since when is a size 10 plus size? This leads mid-size women to think they are “fat” (and after all, there is nothing worse than being fat, right?) and plus size women to think they are so “ugly and disgusting” that we can’t even bear to look at other women of our size. What a horrible message to be sending to people!

  2. Sad that Lane Bryant, or any of the plus size merchants out there feel they cannot model their fashion lines size-appropriately. My hat is off to any plus size retailer who’s gutsy enough to bite the bullet, shell out the funds for plus size mannequins, arrange for -truly- plus size models, and present the plus size fashions realistically. My own online store, which strives to specialize in plus size fashion from a variety of retailers, can’t display the fashions realistically since the merchant-provided images are 90% unrealistic.

    Merchants who DO display their plus size fashions on plus size models deserve to be cheered, celebrated, and patronized — and I’ll be at the head of the cheering squad handing out lists of those merchants.

  3. Would you mind if I (and maybe others) send the link to this post to Lane Bryant? Maybe we could open some eyes!

    • Hi Lauren,

      I wouldn’t mind at all. Thanks!

      ~Ragen

  4. I don’t shop at Lane Bryant anymore because I’m a superfat and they don’t carry anything to fit me, not in tops, anyway (their sizing stops at 3X). They don’t carry bras to fit my rack of doom either, so they don’t get any of my money, even if they do happen to carry other things that would fit me.
    Woman Within also uses thin models, but at least they carry sizes that fit me in tops and pants (still no bras, tho). Roaman’s is improving, they do have some plus-size models in their latest catalog, and I’m not talking size 10 as plus models, these models look to be 16/18s, which is an improvement, but still doesn’t tell me what the clothes are going to look like on me (for that, I have to look at Making It Big’s catalog, and I can’t afford their prices).

    • Depending on your bra size you should check out Catherine’s or if you are a bigger bust the bust shop (or stop can’t remember which). They do custom. (:

  5. Lane Bryant has never, ever, gotten it that they are insulting their customers by only showing thin models. Unfortunately, theirs is the kind of warped thinking shared by most of the fashion industry, and even most of the plus-size fashion retailers.

    Would you target black women as your customer base without showing black women (of all shades of black) in your catalog?

    LB has long said that they have run focus groups to compare customer reaction to larger models, and say that most customers react negatively to them. As a corporation, they are in business solely to make money, not to make anyone feel good.

    Who runs companies like this? Accountants, lawyers, marketing experts, white men in suits, and so forth. They will never change until the market itself changes, and larger women give more of their money to stores who do understand their needs and their feelings.

    One commenter said that Making It Big is too pricey. They are a wonderful example of a company that uses large models of ALL sizes, and carries a very wide size range, even for “supersizes.” Unfortunately, the economics of the garment business is that if you produce garments in the United States in small quantity, like MIB, your prices must be higher. LB’s prices are artificially low, based on low-wage workers in third-world countries churning out work in large volume.

    I have a small business catering to big people, and I primarily use genuinely large models–even though, by so doing, I may lose potential business from people of size who hate their bodies.

    Bill Fabrey
    http://www.amplestuff.com

    and

    Council on Size & Weight Discrimination
    http://www.cswd.org

  6. I’ve always been irked when I got into a Lane Bryant and they have their plus-sized clothes pinned onto a regular size mannequin. See, I buy me clothes to fit me and not have someone pin them in the right places to make them look good.

    When I got married the first time, the selling point of my wedding dress was that “it makes you look like a size 5!” Except I had eyes and knew that I looked wonderful–but I looked like the 22/24 I was and still am.

    Your friend is gorgeous, by the way!

    xo Susie

  7. Your friend is fab – I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the styling videos at thinkthrufashion.com but she’s just as charismatic in her presenting style as the pro.

  8. CJ is gorgeous and it’s a shame that she didn’t win.. ESPECIALLY considering that she is the only one of the three that actually followed the rules! I thought the first two videos were bland and boring (not to mention, again, not following the rules) and CJ’s video was fantastic! I LOVE that she didn’t just parade back and forth, that she spoke to the camera and talked about her clothes and accessories. Plus, she has a GREAT walk!

    I absolutely couldn’t agree more with the rest of the post. I am a native Floridian living in the UK. Many grocery stores here have small clothing sections as well and, guess what? They typically carry sizes up to at least a 24 or 26 (equivalent to about a US 22/24) which was a HUGE relief for me! I am a US 14/16 and I find it very tough to buy clothes in Florida. I avoid Lane Bryant for all the reasons listed above and now I have a new one. Apply your own rules, LB, or don’t bother having any!

    Thanks for this post!

  9. I have actually had this conversation with my cousin who used to be the manager at a Lane Bryant store and she said they have tried using larger sized women in their ads and they don’t sell as well as they do when thinner models are used.

  10. You answered your own question. “Maybe seeing clothes that have been altered to be worn by women much too thin to fit into them is what the majority of plus-sized women want to see. If it’s true, then I think that it’s more than a little bit sad.”

    It is sad. I echo Ashley above.

  11. My flatmate used to work for a magazine that decided to use real women in their photoshoots. There was an immediate backlash from readers. Women, apparently, like to see fantasy versions of themselves in magazines.

    I do like your idea about an advertising campaign to normalise fat women. Why don’t you think about this a bit more? See if you could raise some money.

    I worked for some years as a blue chip advertising copywriter and I would be more than happy to donate my skills to such a campaign, if you could raise the money. You’d get excellent PR for it as well, I can guarantee it.

    Also, I second the person above who is sending the link to the store, except that I think you should write them a letter.

  12. Firstly, I want to thank Ragen for taking up the crusade on a real issue. The anti-plus sentiment being perpetuated within the plus-size industry is sad and wrong. Ultimately, I think the real issue is that most plus-size women are still convinced that they are unattractive by virtue of their size. I remember the rare occasions that Lane Bryant would use larger models and they were always significantly older than their smaller counterparts, they were styled to look matronly and they weren’t photographed in the same celebratory way that the smaller models were/are. The first company that truly embraces their plus-size consumer base by using genuinely plus-size models, styles them (hair, make-up, wardrobe) beautifully and shoots them looking joyous and liberated will start a real curvy revolution. When plus-size companies use “faux-plus” models they’re not selling a fantasy, they’re perpetuating a lie that women can only be attractive at a certain size. If they use gorgeous, truly plus-sized models, they’re empowering their customers by saying, “Look at how beautiful you are just the way you are! We make clothes for you just the way you are. We celebrate you just the way you are!” Imagine how many women would see the reality, not a fantasy, but the reality of how beautiful they can be if they start to love themselves… just as they are. That is a revolution.

  13. Exactly why I rarely shop at LB – I was so angry w/their latest catalog, it went straight to the recycling bin!

    (I do like Junonia, which shows actual big girls PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES, be still my heart!)

  14. I would love to see happy fatties on billboards! That would be awesome! And yes Lane Bryant is full of BS, but unfortunately it’s one of the few places where I can get a pair of work pants that don’t have elastic in them, or jeans that don’t have a ‘slimming panel’, or shirts that don’t make me look like I’m trying to be 16 again (and I’m only 22).

  15. I won’t buy anything from the Lane Bryant or Roaman’s catalogs since they do not use plus size models. I can not tell what their clothes look like on a plus size woman.

  16. My niece is 5’10″ and stunningly gorgeous. She did a stint with modeling training and was told at the end that if they tried hard, they MIGHT be able to get her work as a plus-sized model.

    She’s a size … (wait for it)… 4. Yes, f-o-u-r.

    Gratefully, she told them (very nicely, in her best Southern voice), “No thank you.” Not because she was insulted, but because she thought it was ridiculous to be instructed to “get her weight in order” if she was really serious about modeling. Good girl!

    • I’m 5’10″ & reasonably attractive. When I was a naturally underweight teenager (e.g. not disordered), I tried modelling since people were always going on about my height.

      My doctor suggested I try to put on 10 lbs., that it would be healthier for me. No pressure, a suggestion.

      The modelling agency told me to lose 15 lbs.

      Even at 14, that sounded really wrong. I left.

      My dad backed me, even though he’d shelled out for the modelling classes. He said seeing my confidence increase (no longer ashamed of my height, learned how to groom myself) had been worth it, no regrets.

  17. They hardly ever carry anything I can wear, because I am short and plus size. They must also think that one has to be tall to be acceptable as a plus size woman. Many other plus size retailers seem to be the same.

    I hope you don’t mind, but the correct words in your piece should be “bear the sight”, not “bare the site”. Just thought you might like to know.

  18. This couldn’t have come at more of a better time for me. In my photography I strive for body acceptance and reclaiming what is mine but every once and a while I have my moments of insecurities.

    I had just been to Lame Bryant and went home crying a little. That banner you posted with their model was in the dressing room. I stared at it as I changed from awkward fitting shirt to too small pants. It hurt, it hurt to see that while simultaneously watching myself change next to it.

    Thank you for this post.

    Brittney Cathey-Adams

  19. Hi!

    First time poster, but I did want to say that Torrid only uses plus size models and only plus size mannequins in their stores.

    While their styles aren’t to my taste all the time, they always make an effort to stress that even if you’re a different size than what the media pushes, you can still be sexy, desirable and fashionable.

    I can say it makes shopping in their brick and mortar stores fun, and it makes shopping online easier. I just pick a model built like me, and how the clothing fits her. So far, I’ve been right on every time!

    http://www.torrid.com/torrid/Homepage.jsp

    Note: Looking at the site, there are some models that are more towards the straight sized type around, but I still see the blonde that shares my body type looking beautiful in a few dresses I covet!

  20. I emailed Lane Bryant about their lack of relatable models. This was their response:

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

    Please be assured the models we use in advertisements for Lane Bryant stores and lanebryant.com all wear between size 14 and 32. They represent the sizes we offer in our merchandise.

    • I have an extremely hard time believing that. You are awesome for contacting them and thank for letting us know what they said :)

      ~Ragen

    • LB: “the models…all wear between size 14 and 32″
      Translation: size 14! You know like when the cable people say they’ll be at the house between 9 and Noon and show up at 11:59…
      If by some miracle they shoot any models with a diget higher than 1 at the front of their size you can bet it never makes it to print…
      Show me a 32 in a LB catalog. Seriously, *show me*.

  21. Ragen -

    I love this post! Lane Bryant is super yicky sometimes.

    However, you also say:

    “But I was also excited about the idea of having a truly plus-sized model, a model who could shop for clothes at Lane Bryant, walk down the runway. Except I didn’t really get one.”

    I agree that CJ definitely turned in the best audition tape, no question. However, when I look at the winner, I see someone whose exact dress size is difficult to determine. I see someone who probably does shop at Lane Bryant a lot. Maybe she is technically smaller than CJ, but her body is still not that skinny template that so many mainstream stores carry to. In fact, in certain towns that I know of, Lane Bryant is the *only* store with anything above a size ten.

    CJ was robbed. And Lane Bryant generally does a bad job with their models. But I don’t think that these facts make speculation about Sydni Sayles’ lack of plus-size cred okay.

    I don’t mean this as a take-down in any way. Even though I moved to Viet Nam, I still read your blog all the time! However, as someone who looks like Sydni, I want to make sure that people like us feel included when plus-sizes and fat acceptance are addressed.

  22. Honestly, the first girl looks GREAT and also walks great, she would have got my vote for number one but I would have voted for CJ as the runner up

  23. Going shopping makes me feel like chewing through concrete. Rarr.

    I’m right in between “straight-sized” and “plus-sized” when it comes to US clothing sizes and I go back and forth between different sites of different sizing types. I have to say, I can most definitely pick out a straight vs plus model. For me, its a relief to see the bigger models-despite them not being realistic; the thin models make me feel sick to my stomach and/or angry. I’ll take what I can get I guess, and count my blessings. Then I’ll go support companies that use bigger models.

    Side note: I still have to alter most everything due to longer than “average” legs, shorter than “average” torso, and a bigger than “average” chest. I’ve recently resorted to making my own clothes.

    Ps-I really hope you’ve watched “Killing Us Softly.”

  24. Here’s the thing about the clothes on Lane Bryant, they are all the same style, just different patterns! Moo Moo’s with different patterns! Where are the form fitting, sexy looking clothes that big women can wear?

    I swear, I’m going to create a fashion line!

    • You can look at igigi – they are great!

  25. Syndi Sayles looks plus-sized to me. Maybe not as large as CJ, but she’s plus.

  26. just fyi- I work at Lane Bryant and the “prerecorded music” from the first video is actually one of the songs that comes on the muzak rotation at the store. I had quite a few girls come in and shoot videos for this contest so the background music must have been in their videos as well. The music is especially loud in the fitting room.

  27. I know that this is an older post. But I would like to say that I have encountered similar problems with Lane Bryant, Dress Barn, Fashion Bug, and Roman’s, to name a few. Your friend C.J. is hot! She is also clearly a professional model and should have won if the contest’s rules had been applied properly. Further, my latest problem with Lane Bryant has been their size 6, fat hating, sales clerk, at my local store. I told her off quite publicly and when she attempted to ask me to leave her plus size manager threatened to fire her and sent her packing for the day. I think it was a victory for fat women everywhere. Now, if you want a plus size clothing chain that does have plus sized models, check out torrid.com. Their clothes are a little on the young side, but they are beginning to cater to women of all ages. ^ ^


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