Size Segregation

Joi of InMyJoi 1

Recently while perusing Instagram, I came across a post from retail sensation Forever 21 announcing plans to showcase its plus size fashion line under a separate Instagram account. I could not help but delve into the hundreds of comments that had been made less than one hour of the initial announcement. My immediate thought was: “Size Segregation.” Aside from the ‘she’s fat’ or the ‘she’s ugly’ rhetoric, there were a considerable number of comments questioning the need and or decision from Forever 21 to launch a s e p a r a t e Instagram account solely to showcase their plus size clothing options, versus making the choice to showcase all of the sizes that they offer under one account. For instance, a number of comments read this way:

‘Why should plus size have a different store/page?’

‘Please, why does there have to be a separate account for plus size!??’

‘Wish bigger sizes were just a part of the norm instead of a separate line with the plus label. Make plus sizes mainstream!’

‘Why do you have plus size separated …By making it like this you make sure that there is one accepted and ideal size (the small one) and YOU make the plus size seem abnormal!’

‘All women are equal’

‘Keep straight and plus together’

‘What’s the point in making different sized people their own Instagram! …You’re too big for this account, you can follow this one it has people like you-that’s what they’re basically saying’

‘Whether you’re petite or more curvy, there should be clothes for all sizes. LET’S ALL SHOP TOGETHER! People have different body shapes, so let’s just all accept and love all of them and all be treated equally’

Joi of InMyJoi 2

Within the exact same week, retailer River Island announced that they’ll be selling plus sizes beginning in March – which inadvertently added more fuel to my brewing mental fire …. Why are sizes segregated to begin with?! Would it be horribly wrong if designers and retailers made a commitment – or shall I say, the SAME commitment- to ALL consumers, providing them with ample options in ONE central place, both in-store and online?! What exactly is the benefit of forcing prospective customers to limit their fashion options based on what is available in, for example, rare petite shops, mail order catalogs for tall women, or specialty venues that offer plus sizes?

Joi of InMyJoi 3

Sure, it’s nice that more retailers are attempting to bridge the gaps, but the ways in which some choose to do so…give me pause for cause. Over to you, how do you feel about size segregation within the fashion retail market?

Jacket: Michael Kors | Maxi dress: Swak Designs| Scarf: Nordstrom| Booties: Chinese Laundry

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16 Responses to “Size Segregation”

  1. Monica H

    Well, I can certainly understand that some people may feel this is segregation, but it doesn’t really seem that way to me. I want tall sizes, which are the least widely available of the specialty sizes as far as I can tell. I would love having a place where a retailer showcased looks that would actually FIT ME! I don’t see it as a value judgement, any more than segregating men’s clothes from women’s is segregating. I’m not interested in men’s clothes. I’m not interested in petites or plus either, not because there is anything wrong with them but simply because they don’t fit me! It is super frustrating to me to see and admire clothes that I wish I could buy, but then 95% of the time they aren’t available.

    Do I wish I could just walk into any store in the mall and find anything in my size? Of course. But I recognize that I am not a common size and I expect retailers have to balance the needs of the market. To me, having separate Instagram accounts is just a way to target the marketing of a product to the people who actually can consume it, and I don’t see why that is a bad thing.

    I suppose my perspective is different because being tall is generally perceived as neutral or positive, whereas being plus size is negative. Where there is a special section for talls, I think, “Yay, the stuff that fits me is over here!” Not, “they want the weirdo tall people to be confined to their place.”

    • livi

      Except being plus size is a common body type. One third of the population isn’t unusual.

    • InMyJoi

      Very interesting perspective Monica, thanks for sharing! I am fortunate to be able to shop petite, misses, and plus sizes. However, what I would like to see ideally when I walk into, let’s say for example Macy’s, is this and in this order: 14, 14p, 14w. I do not want to traverse over to another section (upstairs, or in the basement) in the store to locate the same exact item in a different proportion, nor do I wish to be limited to online shopping. However, I can understand that a woman not in my position, say who wears a size 24, may appreciate having a certain section to shop in. If Macy’s (for the sake of example) and or any other retailer would like to showcase the options that they have available for purchase via social media, I believe that can be done successfully under one social media account, versus three…one separate account for misses, one for petite, another for plus, and one for tall. Of course that is just my opinion! I don’t feel confined to one general area, but more so irritated at the effort that it takes for me to find the right fit. Plus size women are not uncommon, as multiple studies and surveys have proven that plus size women actually outnumber women wearing straight sizes. The average size that a woman wears in this country is a 14.

  2. Holly S

    Whenever I see something like this, I immediately think “size segregation,” too. Because experience has conditioned me to assume the worst at such times. That said, I can imagine a version of reality where some clueless social media manager (one who is probably not a person of size) questions, “How can it possibly be a bad thing to make it easier to connect plus-size customers with content relevant to them?”

    I am reminded of one of my very first jobs in my youth, a stocker at Old Navy. We were trained to put the merchandise out on the racks and folded in stacks in ascending order front to back and top to bottom. The rationale was that making sure everything was in the correct order made it easier for customers to find their size and putting smaller items on front/top made for a neater presentation. I remember making a joke to my (thin) manager about how “size-ist” it all was. He stared at me like I was a crazy person because this was straight-up logical. But the unintended consequence was that our smaller customers could waltz through the aisles, happily picking up the first item on the rack and the first shirt off the top of the stack. Being larger myself, I understood how demoralizing shopping can sometimes be when you’re not a size 2, and then on top of that, it’s just physically a lot more difficult because you always have to dig to the bottom of the stack or to the very back of the rack. At Old Navy in particular, the back of the rack thing can be a bigger deal than you would think because of the way they present merchandise in booths, which makes it extra difficult and uncomfortable trying to reach to the back.

    Anyway, that was a long way of saying that negative consequences don’t always follow from negative intent, but I certainly don’t mean to suggest that people shouldn’t express their dismay and displeasure at the situation. Of course, they should. Especially because it could very well be on purpose. Because jerk retail executives like the ones at Lululemon and Abercrombie & Fitch do exist.

    • InMyJoi

      Thanks for weighing in Holly- I truly appreciate the background info on Old Navy and your firsthand experiences!!! I can understand that the initial intent may very well have come from a positive place. However, when you observe that people are offended by it, is it reasonable to make adjustments? As things continue to shift in our society, at some point retailers will have to not only acknowledge- but also plan accordingly- plus sizes are here to stay!

  3. Tricia

    Personally, I don’t care whether they are together or separate. I don’t feel less than or unequal shopping in plus stores. In fact it’s quite nice to go to a store and find pretty much everything in the store is available in my size. Let’s face it, designers design differently for plus sizes than straight sizes. Things that are designed for straight sizes that they just make bigger don’t usually fit or flatter plus sizes. Same thing is true in reverse. Logistically it’s easier and better to have separate lines.
    Also- I don’t love to spend hours shopping. I prefer to have my own store or my own section so I can get in, see what’s there for me, and get out without having to wade through tons of stuff that I can’t wear. Some stores that offer all sizes in one shop are frustrating because I see so many cute things in straight sizes with a small section in the back full of less fashionable or trendy options.
    I understand people wanting inclusion, but logistically it just doesn’t work very well IMO.

    • livi

      Some towns don’t have plus size only stores. Our only option is to hope for the right size in other stores or shop online.

    • InMyJoi

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tricia! I think my perspective is greatly shaped by the fact that I am able to shop across the sizes. I prefer certain well known brands (because of the quality), and I would personally appreciate it if their sizes did not stop at a 14. Although they so graciously do go up to a 14, it is very challenging to find that one size… I don’t want to be limited to a certain number of stores, or brands. While it is true that designs must be different based on body type and size, I feel that brands/retailers/designers should go the extra mile for the benefit of the consumer.

  4. livi

    Well, as a fat woman (size 22-24) I can say it sucks. I have spent the last few *months* looking for a few new shirts in stores. I constantly see the styles I like in smaller sizes, but there is nothing in my size. What is in my size is boring, boxy, and almost always black or grey. I went into a Sears last week to see if they had anything, and was told they don’t carry any sizes above XL. An entire, huge store with hundreds of items and nothing would fit me. I’m in a pretty good place with loving myself, but damn, that stung.

    I have a very small budget for clothes so I can’t just go anywhere, and I think I deserve to be able to try things on and see how they fit before buying. I also hate that because of store discrimination, I have to pay a “fat tax” in the form of shipping charges that thinner people don’t.

    I’ve heard all the excuses stores come up with for doing this and it’s all bs. They want our money, but they don’t want us to be seen.

    • livi

      I guess I should clarify, I don’t have a problem with having plus sizes in a separate section of the store. I prefer to go right to my size. What I have a problem with is stores that only make plus sizes available online. And segragating pictures on instagram is straight up offensive. The intent is clearly to keep thin people from having to see fat people.

    • InMyJoi

      It can be very disheartening Livi! I am happy to see the advancements and strides made in the plus market, but it is a long time coming. I personally prefer to shop in-store versus online, because I enjoy the experience. Trying on clothes, feeling the textures, seeing the true color of an item, comparing fits, and so on. I have been very slow to get into the online shopping game, but at last I am finally there, LOL!
      P.S. I was happy to see Eloquii in-store at Nordstrom now! I’ve seen a ton of their pieces at Nordstrom Rack on clearnace, marked down very low (like well under 30.00). You may want to check them out 🙂

  5. livi

    Another thought: instagram pics can be filtered with hashtags. So they could add a hash tag for plus and let users decide what they see. A separate account is unnecessary.