Victory Is Ours!!!

victoryI blogged on Tuesday about my experience dealing with Lane Bryant Customer Service over my anger that their new high-end runway-inspired line was only going to size 24 – especially when LB typically goes to 26/28.  You can read the entire blog here.  The gist is that they thank me for taking the time to contact them repeatedly and also say:

  • “I do apologize, at the current time the size availability for the Lane Collection are not intended to change” Sheri A.
  • “Please know that we received word that, at this time, there are no plans to offer the 26/28 option for this particular line, I sincerely apologize.”  Shawn C

When I repeatedly asked for an explanation I was told that “Unfortunately, the reasoning was not included in the response we received and are unable to determine why this merchandise is not offered.”

Finally I was told “Please know that the decision is subject the change at any time and that your comments have been forwarded to our Merchandising department.”

So I sent this message:

Hi Shawn,

It’s unfortunate that you can’t get your own company to answer your questions on behalf of your customers.  Just wanted to let you know that I blogged about this today to my 5,680 subscribers.  In less than 24 hours there are over 106 comments, most of which are offering suggestions for how to avoid shopping at Lane Bryant.  I could not be more disappointed in Lane Bryant as a company or more happy to have so many options to avoid spending money with you.

https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/lane-bryant-letdown/

~Ragen

Today I received an e-mail from Lou-Ann Bett, Chief Merchandising Officer at Lane Bryant. It said

Hi  Ragen,

Your blog dated November 27, 2012 regarding the sizing of the new Lane Collection was brought to my attention today and I would like to share with you some exciting news.  Starting in Spring 2013, the Lane Collection will be offered in size 26/28!

In our excitement to deliver the collection before Christmas, we were unable to perfect the fit of all of our traditional sizes and thus could not execute the 26/28 in time.  Perhaps we should have waited, but I assure you we remain committed to serving all of our customers and look forward to showcasing our spring and summer Collections for 2013 up to sizes 26 and 28.

I sincerely apologize for any miscommunication we may have provided and hope that you will take the opportunity to try the exciting new pieces we’ll be offering and sharing this news with your blogging community and readers.  And, if you are ever in Columbus, we invite you to contact us, so we could meet you in person and show you some of our new collections.

Sincerely,

Lou Ann Bett

SVP, Chief Merchandising Officer

Victory!  Butt shaking happy victory dance!

Was this really the plan all along?  Who knows.  It’s the plan now and that’s what is important to me.  I know that a lot of you sent e-mails to Lane Bryant and left the comments that I was able to forward to them and this victory is yours – thank you so much for rocking so hard.  Now, I know as soon as I publish this, someone will point out that there are still problems with LB – that they aren’t perfect.  There are, and they aren’t – but “never enough” activism is just not my style.  One thing that helps me is to celebrate the victories big and small.  This work can be difficult and unforgiving and sometimes it can feel like we’re Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill.  But our hard work is paying off.  We are gaining ground.  We deserve to celebrate the battles that we win even as we keep fighting the war.  Activism works, and butt shaking happy dances are sometimes their own reward.

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I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

Published in: on December 1, 2012 at 11:29 am  Comments (52)  

52 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. (__!__)
    (__!__)
    (__!__)

    My butt shaking happy dance!

    • ~~(**Y**)~~
      ~~(**Y**)~~
      ~~(**Y**)~~

      I’ll join you!

      • Dimples?

  2. I don’t do butt shaking, but holy cats, I can shake my boobies…

    ((((( o Y o )))))

    I’d say a trip to Columbus is in store. Take ‘em up on it!

  3. Ragen, if you do decide to come to Columbus I will go with you! I am there frequently to visit family. In fact we should bring a handful of buxom beauties and maybe they will update pics in their catalogues!

    You go girl!

    • That would be super awesome, maybe I can set up a trip there to do some speaking gigs and such so that I can afford it…I’ll keep you posted! ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  4. Fatpeople united will never be defeated! This feels SO GOOD. It shows that it can be done! They hear us when we speak in unison! Congrats to you, Ragen, on leading yet another wonderfully effervescent and effective campaign to further Fat Acceptance/Liberation! (And in this case, Size Acceptance – literally!)

  5. Numfar, do the dance of joy!

  6. Yes, go to Columbus! I want to see a report from the Lane Bryant mothership!

    I tell you, Lane Bryant can suck, but right now I’m living in a country where there are TWO plus sized stores. I mean two storefronts, one an Ulla Popken and one an Evans. I don’t even know where big ladies go to buy underpants or bras in this country. I would LOVE to have a Lane Bryant for bras, underpants, and jeans, no matter how often their designs bite. They’re better looking than Ulla Popken.

  7. Perfect? No. Definitely not.

    Progress? Hells, yeah!

    One victory can lead to another. There’s a lot of fighting left to do, but when things start going in the right direction, it’s definitely time to celebrate.

    My booty and boobs are not the shakiest of things, even at fifty, but I’ll shake my belly like a bowlful of jelly and bake us all a virtual cake.

    Chocolate, anyone?

    And then we move on to the next battle.

    • Oooooh -belly shaking victory dance. I love it!!!!!!!

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  8. Huzzah! When I was telling my friend about your previous LB post, I said something along the lines of “I don’t think they realize the voice Ragen has in our community” Looks like they know now! Very proud of you for every victory!

  9. If their Spring Line has those sizes, it *was* the plan all along. I’ve worked in merchandising – their Spring line is already at least in production, if not already packed and ready to ship. They couldn’t grade new patterns for manufacture before the Fall line at the earliest. (Understand – they are currently just starting to design and pattern Spring *2014*)

    And the Customer Service people really aren’t many answers – and can get in trouble for not fobbing you off successfully with just the stock phrases… But every once in a while they *can* pass something on like that, and get a response.

    And it is important that the company knows that this is important.

    • Yes. In trying to persuade clothing manufacturers and retailers to change their approach, it’s crucial to understand how they operate and why. Know your enemy, if you will. Sadly, many activists don’t understand why many clothing companies operate the way they do and I’ve seen a lot of people assume it’s fat hate rather than the costs and logistics of size breaks, fabric cutting with minimal waste, new fit models etc. It is frustrating to see underserved people shooting themselves in the foot this way.

      • Well, if it weren’t for fat hatred, companies wouldn’t care so much about the cost of size breaks, fabric cutting, etc. If it weren’t for fat hatred, they would have offered a much larger size range to begin with. So no, that argument doesn’t hold water.

        • Not so. There are extra costs involved with size breaks, cutting larger sizes without wasting fabric, hiring new fit models and so on. Look for the excellent Fashion Incubator blog, it will explain it very well. You see exactly the same issues with other size niche markets, eg tall and petite ranges. I do not deny that fat hate exists and harms you and I do not deny that the difficulty in finding clothes is heartbreaking and exclusionary. But to attribute logistical, engineering and financial business strategies and decisions to fat hate is simply wrong.

          That said, this is good news for plus size clothing and I’m glad to hear it. May more follow suit.

      • Thanks for the comments Holly and Anne. I want to respond to your comments but also to these ideas in general:

        If it was planned all along that’s still totally cool. We had no way to know that since we were told twice in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t, people got their voices heard and Lane Bryant got an opportunity to see what the response would be if they did try to downsize their store, and got a lot of customer feedback from the comments and e-mails we sent which to me is still a victory.

        Second, I don’t think the issue isn’t that we don’t understand why the stores say that they can’t expand their sizes. I think understanding the rational for not serving a group of people is not the same thing as agreeing with it or giving up the work to change it. Activism is often, if not almost always, about asking people and organizations to change behaviors and practices that they’ve found a way to justify, and this is no different.

        Maybe I’m not understanding the comment completely, but I don’t see how anyone is ever shooting themselves in the foot by asking a retailer to solve a problem. I got tons of e-mails on Tuesday about how writing the blog that I did was a horrible idea, that it was a waste of time, that I must not understand fashion or business, telling me all about how fashion works and how if they said it went to 24 it was impossible for them to go to higher, blah blah blah.

        Fashion isn’t just about sound business principles, it’s also about image – and that means that the size breaks a designer or store choose often have as much to do with the image they want from the people wearing the clothes as it does supply and demand (anybody remember the store 5 7 9?) Straight sized clothing lines don’t always cover 00 to 14, and stores don’t always carry clothes from 00 to 14. The same goes for plus. Lane Bryant goes to 26/28 (including in the collections they commission) but Catherine’s – owned by the same company – goes up to 36 (including the collections they commission). We’re not asking for something impossible or something that’s never been done. We’re asking them to make an investment to serve a customer base. I also think sometimes people confuse/conflate the rationale that companies use to charge more for plus sizes with the rationale for not making those sizes to begin with, but of course I could be wrong about that.

        As a reminder that it’s not just about business principles – LB staff has said over and over again that the largest sizes run out first, so the choice to put less and less of them in the store and push larger size people NOT to come into the store but to shop online is not justifiable simply by supply and demand. It also doesn’t explain why they would choose to downsize to a 24 in new lines when existing lines already go to a 28 – especially if those are the first sizes to sell.

        In general I think the phrase “we can’t do what you want for x reasons” shouldn’t be the end of activism, but the beginning.

        ~Ragen

        • “anybody remember the store 5 7 9?”

          Yes. I used to shop there.

          “so the choice to put less and less of them in the store and push larger size people NOT to come into the store but to shop online is not justifiable simply by supply and demand.”

          I would *never* buy certain kinds of clothing online. Even as a “straight sized” person, there’s no way to know if something’s going to look good unless I try it on… I can imagine it’s even more difficult for people of size.

          If LB is doing this deliberately to keep larger people out of their stores, well… that’s awful. I’d say they’re not really interested in serving their actual customer base, and they’re going to end up regretting that.

        • Hi Ragen, I apologise if my comment was unclear. You certainly should give feedback to businesses to encourage them to start catering to you and support them when they do. My comment about being counterproductive was actually referring to some other fat bloggers I’ve read – I should have made that clear. Clothing design, cutting, manufacturing and selling gets very technical at times – I cannot recommend the Fashion Incubator blog highly enough for clear and lucid explanations.

          High fashion may be about image but most clothing companies are about business and profit. Plus sized clothing is still underserved and therefore less explored and for many companies, especially new and smaller ones, it’s just too much of a business risk. In addition, the costs and logistics of plus sized clothes – new patterns, new scales (you can’t just size up from a small size – past a certain point you need a size break, else you just start sizing for giants, not normally proportioned fat people), New fit models, new cutting systems (sizes tend to stop where they do because after that you start wasting fabric in the cut) and so on all contribute to the difficulty. Should you stop pushing for more options? Of course not. Should you understand why things are as they are to help empower you to know the best way of changing? I believe so.

          And in the vast majority of mass produced, high street clothing, it is simply not driven by a hatred or revulsion of fat people. Coming at it from that angle, as many people do, isn’t generally productive. Especially in the case of straight size shops. They are not catering to you now, their business model doesn’t include plus sizes, they have no plans to profit from your business. Many fat bloggers I’ve seen think that the way to persuade a company to include them in what us already a successful, profitable business model is to send fractious emails accusing them of bigotry and hate etc. Would you change your perfectly fine business to start including this customer?

          As ever, I’m glad to hear you will soon have more options. Best of luck.

          • Hi Holly,

            Thanks for clarifying, I’m sorry I misunderstood. I think that we’re mostly on the same page here. I do agree that understanding why things work the way that they currently do can be important to activism. I also think that there is a place for all types of activism – successful civil rights movements have always utilized a combination of radical, in-your-face activism with other styles. I think sometimes people do need to hear that their policies are being perceived as bigoted, and other times the radical activism can serve to make less radical requests seem easier or more plausible.

            ~Ragen

  10. Ragen-
    I’m one of the moderators of a 13,000 member Yahoo group based in the Northwest USA (BBWNorthwest if anyone wants to check us out). Next time you send a letter and want to cite numbers of people hearing the message, I’d be happy to re-post to our group.

    • That’s amazing, thank you so much :)

      ________________________________

  11. “In our excitement to deliver the collection before Christmas, we were unable to perfect the fit of all of our traditional sizes and thus could not execute the 26/28 in time.”

    Backpedal faster dude, Lois Lane is still dead! :p

    • If they were really planning to extend their sizes, they should post that in stores and their website. At least share that info with customer service so they can answer that question. I mean really, why keep it a secret? Surely it’s just shooting themselves in the foot to lead their customers to think that they will be excluded. You shouldn’t have to threaten them with bad press to get that info. Makes no sense to me!

      • Excellent point!

      • Phases of marketing. Start pushing something too soon and people will be less excited about it when it finally comes. They may also get more frustrated with knowing they have to wait a year than if they think they’re pushing for something that’s currently not on the radar at all.

        The psychology of sales and anticipation is really intriguing. We all think we are cold logical rational buyers but we are not. People buy from their emotions, ask any successful salesperson. The demand may not change between then and now, but people buy what makes them feel good and you feel better at the peak of excitement.

  12. Gettin’ it done! BAM! nice work, Ragen! and I would so love to see a photo/video essay of you and some pals at the LB mothership! While you’re there, maybe put in a good word for those of us over a size 28?

    • Amen! I stopped shopping at Lane Bryant in college. Now that I have money, I’d love to shop there again, but they don’t carry my size. They’re really shooting themselves in the foot by not carrying extended sizes. Back in college (about 10 years ago, almost), I liked the styles they carried; I have no idea what they have now. I imagine it’s better than Catherine’s, though, which seems like a miasma of polyester and acrylic.

  13. I was just going to add something along the lines of what Duckie said. Hey, Lane Bryant (& many others), what about, since you are exclusively selling to fat women, including women OVER size 28. As someone else said, Ulla Popken clothes are not great, but they carry up to a size 38 in some things. And Roaman’s & Woman Within, not great favorites either, carry a lot up to size 44, as does Making It Big. If you are going to design for fat women, for god’s sake, try designing for as close to ALL of fat women as you can manage. I get a lot of catalogs of various kinds, I buy almost everything online, but what most catalogs still say, especially the more mainstream companies who sell straight sizes & think they are doing us a ‘favor’ to add some plus sizes in some cases, to a lot of women, “We don’t care about you & we make nothing to fit you.” I have been somewhere between a size 16 & a size 24, given both body changes & the vagaries of sizing, for the past 35 years, & I can usually find what I really like to fit me, but I do know what a pain, what an insult, & what a total pain in the ass is to even for me to occasionally see something I like & find that it does not come in my size. Women of ALL sizes should be able to buy & wear any damn thing they want.

  14. HOORAY!!!!!! Victory!!!!!!

  15. Huzzah! *shakes booty*

    If you (and any readers/commenters) are looking for another fatshion activism opportunity, check out Ariel’s campaign to ask ASOS Curve (which currently only goes up to 22, although some styles run large) to expand their size range:

    http://kiddotrue.tumblr.com/post/36847931573/addontoasoscurve

  16. That’s great! Unfortunately, LB sizes are still too small for me, but I absolutely hate these stores that advertise that they go up to a certain size, and then start making fashions that go to less than that.

    Avenue is one that has done a lot of that over the past few years. I have plenty of clothes from them that I bought years ago, and they still fit. But these days, I find that I can’t get ANYTHING to fit from them. First, most of their clothes seem to be made smaller than they used to (as I said, older clothes in 30/32 still fit, but when I try on new ones, they don’t).

    But even more than that, going to one of their stores is just an exercise in frustration anymore. Even though they advertise that they go to a 32, over half the store stops at size 28 or lower.

    I sent them an e-mail about it. I got much the same kind of run-around as you did from LB. I only went through 2 rounds before I gave up though. Maybe I should have persisted. I don’t know that I even care anymore – I’ve turned to other sources for clothes, and am thinking it’s time to get back to sewing and start creating what I want instead.

    It’s just so frustrating. We had a few years there where the clothing market seemed to be making progress for the larger sizes. But now, it seems that it’s acceptable to have larger sizes as long as they only go up to a 24. Maybe a 26 or 28, if they are feeling generous. Evidently, beyond that, our money just isn’t any good anymore.

    • Yup. Another former Avenue shopper here. I thought “vanity sizing” was supposed to make clothing BIGGER, not smaller? Avenue definitely did not get that message.

      Oh, and can I grouse about the fact that some of these stores (Fashion Bug, I’m looking at you!) will carry clothing up to 30/32, but their undergarments don’t come even close to that size? It makes absolutely no sense to me.

      • “Fashion Bug, I’m looking at you!”

        They’re still in business?? I haven’t seen a Fashion Bug in years!

        • They’re closing in January. Once they go, that’ll be the last option for plus-size shopping in my area, which is ironic, because I live in one of the East Coast’s most popular shopping meccas. You’d think that with all the wealthy out-of-towners coming here, plus-size stores would realize they’re missing out on a huge income potential.

          • Wow. Sorry to hear that! :(

            I still have some jeans from Fashion Bug I bought back in the ’80s, heh.

          • Fashion Bug is closing and Catherine’s is downsizing – they’re closing stores in smaller towns (as if St Cloud MN is a small town, there’s a college there and a pretty big National Guard Armory). That Catherine’s closed, as did the one in Mankato MN, another college town, and where the Vikings have their training camp. Those were the 2 stores I shopped at (I’m 40 miles from St Cloud, and my son lives 45 miles from Mankato, so I shopped there too). Now, if I want to shop at Catherine’s, I have to drive 2 hours to the Twin Cities or 4 hours to Duluth. Yeah, not happening. And the selection online at Catherine’s isn’t nearly as good as what’s in the stores. Catherine’s clearance racks, and Woman Within are about the only places I can afford to shop, where I can find pants in a size 34 Tall, and tops in a 5X.

  17. Yay! Thank you for leading the charge! We know that a nation of millions cannot keep us down.

  18. Awesome. Since Lane Bryant was bought out I have not been pleased with most of the offerings. Hoping their Spring line isn’t laden with 50 dollar t shirts filled with flowers and sequins.

  19. You amaze and inspire me!!!! – Jen/PSMM

  20. Awesome!

  21. This ROCKS! Well done Ragan, et al!

  22. Great job Regan! Often it is so frustrating when you ask a simple question and the company answers with a bunch of doublespeak and it appears that they haven’t even READ your letter. That being said, just like size ranges have to start somewhere, they also have to end somewhere.

    • Thanks FrugalCat! I agree that sizes have to end somewhere, I just think that there’s work to be done around where.

      ~Ragen

      ________________________________

  23. As long as we have to resort to going online to shop for the larger sizes (even at Vodemart .. walmart, they carry Just My Size and you can find the exact same items in a JMS catalog or online in more colors and sizes), these stores are going to loose local business dollars and the economy will cause them to shut down.

    As for LB, the last time I really tried to shop there was over 8 years ago when everything went to denim and tricot knits and I could not find any decent work trousers/tops. All the mall stores that were ‘women’s shops’ with nice looking clothing stopped at 24 (Dress Barn) or had no talls in the plus sizes. Just this past year I looked at LB again for jeans and was overwhelmed by the obscene price for jeans there… so back to Woman Within catalog for me and jeans under $30. But I do so miss being able to try things on.

    I grew up with my mom making most of my clothing due to my height and size. After all, they didn’t have ‘chubby’ sizes in things I wanted to wear in Junior High. Is it any wonder that when I was older I wore bib overalls from Orschlen’s most of the time?…lol… never a fashinista, I wanted to be comfortable and covered.

    I also am trying to shop locally more, and that makes it hard for me to support local businesses if I’m spending online.

    Susan

  24. Excellent work, Ragen. What a difference you are making!

    Peace,
    Shannon

  25. CONGRATULATIONS! A brilliant strategy. I’m sure the number of your your subscribers did the trick. Well done!

  26. LOVE!!

  27. Amazing! Congrats!


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