Target Market My (Fat) Ass

wtfplus:the completed plus size clothing bingo card.Bingo! BINGO! BIN-GO!!!!

From the fabulous WTF, Plus Size Clothing Manufacturers http://wtfplus.tumblr.com/

I was on Alberta Primetime last week to discuss “target marketing” from the springboard of the Abercrombie and Fitch issue (video below).  I’ve heard plenty of excuses and justifications for why companies don’t choose to make clothes in plus sizes.  In this segment one of the things that kept coming up was that stores have to target their marketing and therefore excluding plus sized people is completely normal and justifiable part of marketing strategy.

First of all, saying “we want to target our marketing” is not the same thing as saying “we want to make it impossible for people who look a certain way to wear our clothing.”  You can have a target market that is based on the aesthetic that the customer is looking for (what the customer wants to buy), rather than the aesthetic of the customer (what the customer looks like).  So a store can make clothes in a wide variety of sizes and then market those clothes to people who are interested in a “preppy” look, or a “goth” look, more classic or more modern etc.  I learned about a company today that sells Victorian style couture gowns up to a size 28 (and gives a portion of their proceeds to bulldog rescue!)  They’ve got a couple target markets – people who enjoy Victorian style clothes, and people who are interested in bulldog rescue, and they didn’t have to discriminate based on size at all.

I was also asked if stores that only sell plus-sized clothing should be accused of the same type of discrimination.  If considered technically and in a vacuum, I suppose it’s possible.  But based on the actual reality of the current culture, I think it’s a derailing and basically indefensible position to take.  When you realize that, as things are, I can be in a huge mall in LA and not find a single piece of clothing in my size, it seems ridiculous to begrudge me the few stores that do sell clothes that fit me.  Those stores aren’t discriminating because they don’t want thin people in their clothes, indeed most of their clothes mimic those already available in straight sizes, these stores fill a gap so that fat people don’t all have to learn to sew or make our lives into some sort of endless toga party.

“People who wear Catherine’s Brand are just cooler than everyone else!” said nobody ever.  Fat people aren’t asking for specialty stores, we just want some clothes that we like and that cover us at least as the law requires.  Unfortunately we often have to settle for only the latter, and the only place many of us can get these clothes is specialty stores (and for some fatties plus-sized stores don’t carry their sizes and they have to order online or from catalogs) because all the other clothing stores just happen to have chosen to “target market” by making sure that people who look like us can’t wear their clothes.

I think that the fashion industry has long taken advantage of how easy it is to discriminate against fat people by simply not making clothes to fit us, and acting as if that’s simply an aesthetic choice and not a discriminatory one.  I would love to see fashion become about personal expression rather than defining who is cool and who is not (are we seriously adults still trying to be the “cool kids”, could we maybe stop doing that?), or becoming a way to tear each other down (Who has that kind of free time?  If I ever find myself with enough time to sit around and judge other people for their clothing choices,  I will immediately volunteer somewhere.)

There are some signs of positive change in the fashion world right now.  H&M used a “plus-size” model to advertise their swimsuit collection, some Cornell students created a plus-size dress form that actually makes sense, and the “fatkini” sold out in record time which, though not without its problems, gives a real word example of what happens when designers make clothes that plus size women want to wear  (rather than clothes that the rest of the fashion world thinks plus size women “should” wear.)

As a fat person I know that I’m the target market for all kinds of crap I don’t want, courtesy of conferences like “Marketing to the Overweight American,” Since I’m not paying money to these companies that want to sell me diets or stomach amputation, I have some money just waiting to spend on a store that chooses to target their marketing to the aesthetic I’m looking for, rather than trying to score “cool points” by specifically not making clothes to fit me and then encouraging their customers to see the fact that they can get clothes that I can’t as some kind of status symbol.  I guess I’m saying that I wish that particular segment of the fashion world would stop delighting in the fact that they act like junior high school bullies, using justifications that are thinner than that cute gauzy top I can’t get in my size.

You can check out the Alberta Primetime Interview here.

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Published in: on May 28, 2013 at 11:04 am  Comments (22)  

22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ooh, found a link that shows one image of one of the jackets the students designed. I think I might be a little in love with it just from the sketch.

    http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2013/05/fashion-students-create-outfits-plus-size-women

    And yeah, I kind of love these students. A mannequin that actually reflects an average plus shape would be a HUGE boon in helping make decent plus clothes a reality. Oh gods, my kingdom for a fitted suit.

    • Damn but that’s a cute suit, Bunny! Here’s hoping these girls inspire other fashion students to notice a hole in the market and fill it intelligently.

  2. What are your thoughts on the whole “Hot Topic” “Torrid” Thing that they have going on.
    When I was younger, Hot Topic was all that and a bag of chips, but they are sized WAY too small, but they remedied that and now, beside (like right next to, or across from) Almost all Hot Topics is a store called Torrid.
    Their sizes (I think) Go up to a 28? Maybe larger?
    Their sizes are different from those of Layn Bryant to which I stopped shopping because the clothes just were NOT my taste at ALL, Plus somehow I ended up in thei like 14/16-18/20 Size bracket which a LOT of other people are as well. Most “Name brand” stores stop at 10, 14 if you are VERY lucky, and even then.
    Cloths shopping for me in my school years was AWFUL! I wanted to be cool and at least a little fashionable. Every time my mother took me shopping it ended in tears. I would pick out shirts and pants and other things I liked, and would get excited about wearing the clothes, and think how great I would look, then even though it was “my size” I would try them on, and it was a freaking JOKE!
    That’s when I learned about “cuts” That some clothing though it says size 14 actually means size 10, and sometimes when the cloths say size 10 they really mean “10 as long as you have no ass, no thighs, no stomach pooch, just planning to wear these pants/shorts on your hips instead of your waist”
    That is a crock if I ever heard one.
    SO anyway, after I got sick of Layne Bryant because to me those clothes were NOT me and I could never find jeans I liked. I am not just fat, but also short.
    Then…I found the perfect pair of jeans. My Mother and I discovered Torrid. It had almost ALL of the same clothes as hot topic. The (cheap) Corsets, the sexy for my age underthings, shorts, dresses, even *gasp* Thigh High Boots that could encapsulate my thighs!! And then, the Jeans…
    These jeans come in a variety of cuts and LENGTHS, so those of us fatties who are also shorties, look no further!
    These jeans were AWESOME! No Tummy control, not hiding my fat, or making me look thinner, they didn’t need to! They just Fit.
    I will repeat that, they…just…fit…
    My Thighs, my calves, My Hips my Ass, my waist, EVERYTHING. And they were Stylish! And Comfortable! And didn’t drag the ground!
    I turned to the sales woman (with her funky dyed hair, and classy, punky gothy clothing that was the store’s namesake) And she said “yeah those are like the jeans from “The Sisterhood of the traveling Pants” Everyone who wears them seems to be able to find a pair that just fits. And she was right. She was wearing the SAME PAIR I was and her and I were vastly different shaped people!
    I will go so far as to say that Torrid has NICER Clothes then Hot Topic because, well, hot topic is more, IDK, it’s not about clothes, it’s about style. Though Torrid seems to get the whole “style” part more.
    Now it’s not perfect. I can see after a certain age, some people may not like that style (though they do seem really fashion forward, WAY more so then Layne Bryant) Or others never liked that style at any age, which is fine. Though My Mother has found things in there, she has a BALL picking clothes out for me. And we have noticed a couple of other stores are stocking the “misses” section a LOT more.

    I Digress. Should there be clothing stores that are more concerned about the people they sell to rather then people wanting to look a certain way, wear a certain style?
    No.
    All stores SHOULD be created equal. BUT since we live in an ass backwards world, the way Torrid did their thing wasn’t a bad idea. It’s usually not even located near Layne Bryant. So it’s not like the Fatty section of the mall.
    They wanted Girls to be able to look as pretty and classy as their thin counterparts when this style came into fashion. And they did it by NOT making said person walk half way across the mall in shame to the fat section, but just walk next door! Some are even connected to Hot Topic. So they can go shopping with their friends, and it isn’t super obvious that there are no clothes or sexy things that fit in the one store, it’s more like “Oh I will jsut walk 2 feet over here and find the same thigns you have, yay now we have the same trendy clothes!”

    It’s a start.
    It’s NOT Perfect.
    But It is basically the Opposite of what Abercrombie and Fitch is doing.
    What they SHOULD have done, is make a little side store that is part of the same company, that DOESN’T look like the fat section, that is integrated, and then guess what. You will have groups of girls who are of ALL sizes shopping there, or groups of guys (though guys don’t shop in herds much do they?)
    If their Punk/Goth counterpart figured it out, well then there is a larger chance there will be less preppy fat people. Less sales for them.
    Just an idea.
    Change comes slowly (as mentioned with the Boy scouts, small victories that are worked on for a LONG time)
    It is a start.

    • I may just have to check out Torrid. I rarely step foot in a mall… but excellent jeans might make it worth the trip!

    • Torrid/Hot Topic sells “junior” sized clothing, not “women’s” so the sizing *is* different, not only smaller but proportioned differently for the younger body. I found that out years ago, soon after they opened. As a nearly-60 year old woman I could never find anything close to my size (26/28).

      • I can understand the styles being for more of a “juniors” variety, but as for sizes?
        The store nearest me seems to always have a very large variety of sizes. I have never once gone and not found multiple things in all the sizes.
        Sorry you were not able to find things at this store, but things like it for different age groups and styles would be a wonderful thing.

    • Torrid and Hot Topic are owned by the same company, which is why they’re always very close to one another in the malls. I used to love Torrid, their prices are what drove me away. When I was a 22-24 they were great, when I lost weight and settled around a 14-16 their clothes didn’t seem to fit as well. I think a lot of the problem is my waist fit into their “1” size for shirts, while my chest required a “2”, sometimes a “3” so I couldn’t find shirts. I do still love their dresses though, for some reason I don’t have any issues with those.

      • Yes, I guess I didn’t mention clearly in the original post that they are both under the “Hot Topic” umbrella.
        I can find tops there sometimes, but I usually go there for pants, and dresses.
        It’s harder absolutely if you are too big for the “regular” stores and too small for the Larger stores.
        But it is still a decent place.

    • Torrid can get expensive, but as plus size women’s/femme clothing goes it’s pretty good in terms of selection, and it is possible to get stuff like lingerie and stockings there. The clothes are definitely “younger” in style than, say, Lane Bryant (though the two stores might be owned by the same people, since that happens a lot).

      • Yeah, the price can be a deterrent, but on the same hand, I know designer stores sell for a LOT more. I don’t think it;s one of those cases of having to pay more for larger sizes/ large stylish clothes, Hot Topic is just as ridiculously overpriced for things that if one had held on to them when they came out in the 80s they’d be rich. Know what I mean? Like the whole buying pre-ripped jeans thing.
        And Lane Bryant is not owned by the same company. At least not to my knowledge.
        I just don’t like lane Bryant, the styles are just..idk..I feel overly frilly or just not pretty when I try on their clothes.

        • Lane Bryant is owned by Charming Shoppes, who also owns Catherine’s and the now-defunct Fashion Bug.

  3. Y’know, I do so much on-line shopping (try working retail…it will destroy your urge to go to the mall and shop for anything!) that I rarely go into stores that aren’t grocery-related. The other day, though, I had some spare time and wandered into the local Old Navy because I get a lot of kiddie clothes there. I used to buy a lot of adult clothes too, but stopped because the quality has really slipped.

    Anyway I was headed to the back where the Plus Size used to be and felt like a dink because I couldn’t find it. When I came home I read that hot piece your wrote about ON putting all their Plus Size on-line…and then only allowing you to return it on-line. I guess since I didn’t go into their physical store much I never noticed, but your line about “…they want my fat money in their store but not my fat ass. They’ll get neither” has been ringing in my head ever since. What a bunch of hooey.

    Then the whole Abercrombie and Fitch folderol broke out, and I started to see a pattern: you, with the big thighs and butt, you with the bigger than size 12 body…yes, you there with all the jiggles…SCRAM. Get outta here. YOU. ARE. NOT. WELCOME. No, don’t even put your head in our store or say you’re looking for a present for anyone. We don’t even want you in our retail space because…well, you KNOW…Ta, now. There’s the door.

    Made me want to punch the wall. A lot.

    Then I did something pleasantly rewarding: I googled images of famous Wagnerian sopranos and saw the size of their bodies. A Wagnerian soprano (some might know) is considered to have the most powerful female voice in the opera world…not necessarily the highest but one so powerful that it can cut across an orchestra and still make the people in the back row plug their ears. Every single one of them was my size or bigger. And I thought, “With that big an instrument, you need a big vessel…how else would it work??”

    I wonder what would happen if Jessye Norman, who is a queen in the opera world (and who started RIGHT HERE IN AUGUSTA!!) popped into the ON and said, “Now, where are the plus-sized tops? I need a shirt for tonight…” I imagine she’d let out a high F that would blow those itty-bitty spaghetti-strap tanks right off the hangers.

  4. I am happy that your Victorian dress place is including plus sizes, but since they make the items themselves why do they stop at size 28? Why can’t they go to whatever size someone wants to order? I happen to be between a 28 and 30 and am married to a gamer and former SCA’er and may have been in the market for a Victorian garment but cannot wear their largest size. There is even discrimination in the “plus sized” clothing industry.

    • If they custom make them you might be able to talk to them to see about doing custom sizing.

    • Your very right about discrimination even in the plus sized clothing industry. I went to a Lane Bryant about three years ago, I didn’t get ten feet in the door before the sales clerk looked me up and down and told me “we don’t carry anything in Your Size”. I did a double take, I’m like – did I come into the wrong store on accident? I mean, I have heard that repeatedly at stores that carry straight sizes only, but in a Plus Sized store? I was livid and have never stepped foot in a Lane Bryant since.

      I used to shop at The Fashion Bug but they all closed down. I now have ONE potion for clothes shopping at a physical store (I hate shopping online, you can’t try things on to see if they fit). My last option is Torrid and the last time I was there I spent over $80 on only two shirts. It is just too much for my buget. I guess my only option left is buy a sewing machine and learn to sew. It’s ridiculous! I can’t believe there aren’t more options for fat girls who dare to want to wear clothes.

  5. I love clothes, my biggest issue with my body used to be that the clothes I loved NEVER came even close to my size. I used to go shopping with my much smaller cousin, and she’d find clothes we both loved and when we’d look for my size it was never there. It was horribly depressing to realize according to clothing manufacturers my body wasn’t allowed, I wasn’t allowed to be fashionable. I spent most of high school in jeans and t-shirts wishing I was thin enough to wear the clothes I liked. After I graduated and started working I was able to afford clothes at places like Torrid and Lane Bryant, but I still felt (and still feel) gypped, it’s like we’re being told we have to stay in the “fat girl stores” we’re not allowed in “regular” stores because we don’t meet the aesthetic preference of society. Well, I hate to break it to clothing manufacturers and designers and the rest of society, but there isn’t actually a weight limit for clothing and more and more of us are realizing it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks we’re gonna wear what we like; it’s about time fashion caught up with the real world and realized we exist, we like clothes too, and they’re the idiots losing money because they don’t want to expand their clothing to include fat people.

  6. This may be a bit off topic, but what really bugs me the most is a catalog with ‘plus sizes’ or ‘women’s sizes’ that use a MAYBE size 10 model wearing the clothes item!! I’m sorry, but there is NO way I will look like the model does in the same dress! I want to know how ‘I’ will look in it if it’s a size 24 give or take!! Purely pisses me off! And I must agree with the comment about the god-awful fabrics some of the ‘plus sizes’ are! UGH!!

    • No, that is not off-topic. That is very much smack ON topic and it’s the reason I never EVER patronize Lane Bryant. If I’m not good enough to showcase your clothes, then my money is clearly not good enough, either. They can take THAT to the freaking bank.

  7. The nearest shopping mall to me got rid of it’s Lane Bryant. Yes LB contains ample amounts of suckage but it was also the last place I had found pants that fit, looked good and were affordable. What is now coming soon in that space? Old Navy. Yes, there is a Torrid but they cater to a fashion I am not interested in and they don’t have my size – since I’m a plus size with a 2 instead of a 1 in the front of my double digit number, I am even more s**t out of luck than other fat shoppers. Looks like it’s back to catalogs for me…😡
    And maybe it’s just me but the Torrid store in my mall comes off like Forever 21 and Victoria’s Secret had a fat bastard daughter. They market as sexy more than plus size, like they are trying to pass for a “normal” store that caters to hip people instead of fatties.
    I’m sorry but if I get rejected by 99.9999% of the clothing stores in a mall I do not think it is unreasonable to want ONE LOUSY STORE that has something for me. Do you really think thin people are whining about how they want to shop at Lane Bryant and Catherine’s but they don’t feel welcome? Why would they when they can shop anywhere else they want!
    Don’t the stores realize that if they give me affordable clothes that fit and I will give them all of my gd money?! How hard is it really? Really? I can’t believe it: fat bigotry is officially stronger than capitalism. God I’m ranty tonight but that’s what happens when you have nothing to wear!

    • “They market as sexy more than plus size, like they are trying to pass for a “normal” store that caters to hip people instead of fatties.”

      Who says fat people can’t be hip and sexy!? I’ve meet plenty of fat people who are.

      But I do agree with the “one lousy store” bit. Torrid is MY last option as well. Too bad their prices are out there too. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t really have any competion, you can charge people whatever you want and they have to suck it up or learn to sew.

      • I didn’t mean that fat people aren’t, I was referring to the overall vibe I get from plus stores – there is this shame/denial that they are a plus store. They don’t use big models, they don’t use big mannequins…I didn’t even know Torrid WAS a plus store until someone mentioned it online! When I walked by it in the mall it just looked like another overpriced shop that didn’t cater to my style preferences. I didn’t see anyone my size in the ads or in the actual store. That’s why I described it as “F21 meets VS” – it just reminded me of those two stores, neither of which are especially fat friendly.
        When I wear clothes I like I feel very sexy…but I can never find the clothes I like in my size. I recently looked up over 10 clothing stores online based on the description of their clothes/style/business philosophy…all only went up to 1x. I am a 3x top and 4-5x bottom depending on which brand I am wearing. I can only take so many symbolic doors slamming in my face. I am now going to bitterly and cynically assume that unless they advertise how high their sizes go, no store carries anything that will fit me.

        • Torrid most certainly DO carry sizes that start with 2 instead of 1. They generally go up to a 4X or 5X. I, myself, am expecting a shipment full of 3X items any day now, and have bought things ranging from 18 to 24 from them over the years.

          I’m having trouble understanding how looking like a trendy store (which it is) means they’re ashamed of being a plus-size store. Are plus-size stores not supposed to look stylish or colorful?

          I actually find Torrid’s approach refreshing. They’re displaying their clothes (on mannequins that ARE larger than standard-size mannequins, if you look around and compare) in a way that is designed to place both them AND their target customer on equal footing with their “straight size” counterparts. To me, that looks like the opposite of being ashamed.


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