Thursday, March 13, 2008

Keep Your Polka Dots Off My Pants

My sister, an under-30 clotheshorse who works in the fashion industry, once told me that I took shopping too personally. She's usually the first person I call when I score a particularly great outfit off the rack, which is rare. She's also the first person I call when I've gone to seemingly every store in my mid-sized city and been confronted with rack after rack of the tackiest, plus-sized crap ever.

I take that extremely personally, because it speaks volumes about what certain stores (or at least the clueless buyers) think of women sizes 14 and up.

Even though I've been working out with a trainer, I'll likely be shopping in the plus-sized department for a while. Thanks largely to luck, the Internet and a handful of fashion-forward, niche designers, I've managed to assemble a semi-stylish wardrobe that doesn't make me look like a church deaconess. But sometimes a girl's got to go to the mall, or to Target. And with a few exceptions, what I've seen isn't pretty.

For starters, the plus-size department is always located in the back of department store because it's, you know, shameful. But I could get past that if the larger clothes resembled the offerings in the Misses department. I happen to like simple, classic, grownup clothes — the kind of stuff you'd find in Ann Taylor. Flat-front pants with a modern shape, wrap dresses, pencil skirts, etc. Nothing crazy. And none of these things are hard to translate to larger sizes, especially if you have a reasonably proportioned figure.

But in most of the department stores where I live, "plus-sized" is interpreted as either "Thick 'n Sassy" (snaps!) or "Matronly and Fond of Embroidery." In the first category, we have clothes that are fine for certain nightclubs, but not so much for work: plunging necklines, eye-assaulting colors, an abundance of bedazzling. In the second, there are items (usually dumpy) with all manner of WTF elements — gigantic dragonflies on the pockets, sailboat anchors along the hem and polka dots. Instead of offering a simple, elegant shirtdress — like the one across the aisle in Misses — the designers of these clothes opt to slap cat faces or strawberries on their gear. It's as if to say, "We're going to punish you for being bigger."

Even at my beloved Target, the plus-sized clothes are mixed in among the maternity wear ("Plus, pregnant; it's all the same!). Worse, the cute designer stuff is just out of my reach, fit-wise.

I understand that fashion is all about aspiration, etc., etc. But this isn't about the latest, cutting-edge offerings from the catwalk — this is about middle America, where I'm told the average woman is a size 14. Some of us have read a fashion magazine in the last five years, and we'd like our wardrobes to reflect that. And we have money to spend. This is why certain online boutiques and catalogs have been so successful. (Thanks, guys. Seriously.) Still, it would be nice not to have to wait for a package to arrive before trying something on.

The antagonist might say, "You want to wear nicer clothes? Lose some weight." But that shouldn't be a prerequisite for "deserving" certain kinds of clothes. And even if weight loss is the goal, what's wrong with having something attractive to wear in the meantime?


Sghoul said...

I was trying to think of a way to put this tactfully. Then I remembered who I am.

Hate to say it, but most businesses run on statistics. In my addmittedly limited experience, the majority of larger women do not in fact have any fashion sense. You are a rarity in that regard.

Look here at work. We have you. Then we have someone who is perfectly at home in traler park garb. Another who dresses old and conservitive and another who doesn't seem to care that much in general. And I don't believe that the stores have dictated what they wear. That is their personality.

But to be honest, yes you should lose weight. I don't say that to be mean. I am saying that you can use this as motivation. A few years back we went on a roller coaster vacation. My dad missed out on several rides because he couldn't fit in the seat (and he really isn't that big). It is largely because of that event that he has lost close to 40 pounds.

EDP said...

Harsh! But weight loss is a good idea for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with clothes. That is the icing. But do you think the bad dressing might have something to do with the choices available? I'm just saying.