Archive for September 21, 2014

The chicken-and-egg problem of plus-sized fashion

There is an article in today’s New Yorker that talks about Full Figure Fashion week and the plus-sized fashion industry in general.  Before you read the rest of this, go read the article.

Go ahead…

I’ll wait….


Good.  Moving on.

I was thinking about the article, and more specifically about a couple of the observations it makes about the disconnect between what many bloggers SAY plus sized buyers want (more fashionable clothing, higher end, cutting edge, etc) and what we buy (shopping the sale racks, etc.).  What we have here is a chicken and egg problem.

Plus-sized shoppers have, unfortunately, been trained.  We’ve been trained very well to have exceedingly low expectations for what clothing will be available to us. We’ve been trained by fashion magazines to look for things that are “flattering”:

  • Black/dark colors will make you look thinner and white/light colors will make you look bigger
  • Don’t wear anything too tight
  • Horizontal stripes make you look wider
  • Cover your jiggling parts (upper arms, thighs)
  • Crop tops?  NEVER!  Bikini?  The world might end.

Etc.  Heck, magazines give this advice to straight sized women, so if it applies to them, it applies doubly to us, right?

And the fashion industry has supported this by providing us few things that didn’t fit that mold.  Lots of stretch polyester tents (god forbid we should want a natural fiber) and elastic waist bands, shirts that reach practically to our knees and shapeless everything.  Heck, who wants to pay a lot for things that look like that.

Before Torrid, there were no options for trendy plus clothing, and their initial offerings ran to the Goth end of the scale and were completely inappropriate for a grown-up. [I was so pissed that they came along 10 years after my goth phase…]

Then Eloquii V1 came along and was the exception that proved the point.  Limited had this great idea for a cutting edge brand, and threw it out there (essentially online only, although they said there were a few stores that carried the line) with almost no marketing, gave it very little time and then killed it when it didn’t succeed immediately.  We hardly had time to realize we had an alternative before it was gone.

We have had years (decades in some cases) of training to overcome, both in terms of what we want to wear and in what we are willing to pay for it.  And we were given mere moments to adapt.  Not surprisingly, we weren’t able to.  One has only to look at the success ASOS has seen to realize that we are capable of making that change.

Honestly, the what we wear will change before what we are willing to pay for it. We live in a culture where everyone wants a discount on everything, and retailers encourage that behavior by having sales going on pretty much all the time.  My day job is in higher education, and studies have found that a student would rather go to a school with a list price of $10,000 and a $2,000 “merit” scholarship than a school with a list price of $8,000 and no scholarship.  The price is the same, but it is the perception that changes.

To take the example at the end of the article, frankly we ALL know that everything at Lane Bryant goes on sale on a very regular basis.  Wait a week or two and you can pick it up for less, so unless you can’t live without something (very rare), why pay full price?  That is a reflection of our broader consumer culture, not something specific to plus sized fashion.

One last comment.  I really struggle with the fact that many of the more up-market department store brands want my money but refuse to acknowledge my existence.  I love Michael Kors, Eileen Fisher, and several similar brands, but I hate that I can’t walk into their stores and try things on.  I can’t decide if I am more annoyed that they do that or that Kate Spade and that type don’t make my size at all.  (I would pay full price for Kate Spade clothing in my size, and that’s a promise. If you could encapsulate my dream style, that would be it.)

Anyway, no answers, just some random thoughts.  Change is hard, and asking a large group of consumers who have been trained to shop one way to suddenly shop another takes time.  If the writers like the New York Times author want to help, perhaps they should remind retailers of that.


Reflections on style and some shopping results!

246932_10100498100389721_3514712_nSimon’s Surgeries: Update

Simon had his 2nd surgery, so outfit pics have been overshadowed by helping him get around.  He’s healing nicely.

Thoughts on Style

In the meantime, I got into a discussion with a friend that I wanted to share.  We were talking about personal style.  She informed me that mine was somewhat boring because I tend to prefer cardigans to jackets and tend to prefer fit-and-flare dresses or fuller skirts to sheath or body-con dresses and pencil skirts.  Her argument was that the latter were in style and were very flattering on “everyone”, so I should try them.

Here’s the thing.  I have tried them.  Gwynnie Bee has allowed me to try all sorts of things with no real risk.  Most recently (literally yesterday) I received and tried on a shift dress.  Then I put it in the bag and sent it back.  Even with shapewear, the dress made me look like I was all hips and nothing else.

But more importantly, I WASN’T COMFORTABLE IN IT.  I felt self-conscious.  I have the same issue with pencil skirts, and in addition I don’t feel as though I can move comfortably.

I don’t care HOW in style something is or how chic everyone says a look is.  If you don’t feel comfortable in it, you aren’t going to LOOK comfortable in it.  And if you aren’t comfortable, you sure as heck aren’t going to feel sexy, attractive, powerful or smart.

For me, that means an A-line or wider skirt.  Others may find they feel more pulled together in a pencil skirt, and that is their right.  (Chastity over at Garner Style TOTALLY rocks those, and she’s curvier than I am!) I’ll keep rocking my fit-and-flares.

On to something more fun: SHOPPING!

_9066308Remember this cardigan/jacket that was $368?  *happy dance* It went on sale for 40% off ($220.80), which is STILL expensive but a lot better.  At that point I showed it to my husband who agreed that it was an AMAZING, wardrobe-making piece.  After some negotiating about my spending money, I bought it and am spreading the cost out over a month to pay back our credit card.  I CAN’T WAIT!  This will be my perfect Arizona winter coat!

jumpers-and-knit-zhenzi-knit-cardigan-berry-purple-black_A22058_F5224Another thing I’ve been focusing on this fall is particular colors.  Specifically deep purples, plums, burgundies, wines, etc.  I’m also making an effort to buy better items, but fewer.  So I was surfing around and found this cardigan.  It arrived today and the colors are every bit as rich and beautiful as I wanted.  Expect to see it very soon now that temps are dropping below 100.  (This has the advantage of being a loose enough knit that I can wear it already…)2014-09-11_13-02-11

I used 2 different store credits I had this week.  First I had a store credit at eshakti – a dress I ordered had proven to be too tight through the hips, and they are absolutely amazing about returns, so back it went.  Instead, I bought this swing/trapeze dress and had them modify it with short sleeves.  It’s an incredibly light weight gauze in a beautiful red.  In general, I’ve been afraid of swing dresses, since many tend to look like a mu-mu on plus women, but this one has fixed pleating at the bust to keep it from belling out too much.  It’s cool, crazy comfortable, and is about to become a hot weather staple. You’ll be seeing it soon!

8f37a6253d56d7f14a08a931ebb9ad46The second store credit was with Modcloth, and this item hasn’t arrived yet.  One of the dresses I ordered had the weirdest shoulders that just sat wrong, so the dress went back and I decided to try to fill in that charcoal to gap I’ve previously mentioned.  I found this one and decided to give it a go.  Fingers crossed that it will look as cute on me as it does in the picture.  Per the comments, I sized up, so we shall see.

That’s all for now.  I hope to get back to outfit pics soon, and I am still on the hunt for the PERFECT burgundy purse (with no luck in my price range).

What have you added to your wardrobe this fall?