Plus Size Segregation

Naomi Says:

“Today’s woman.” That is name of the plus size clothes section at Belk, a Southern department store. I will commend them on their effort to acknowledge that sizes are changing, but get real: nothing about this section says today’s women! The average size of women these days is a 14. But you would never know it by the way clothing stores size their clothes. I am 25 years old and I want to wear trendy clothing that flatters my figure or hides the bulge. I do NOT want to wear bright orange cargo capris or a muumuu.

This reminds me of memory from my childhood. I am not quite sure how old I was – about 7 probably.  My parents and I were shopping at this store called Added Dimensions (seriously. that is what it was called). I’m not sure what provoked my father to speak, but he said, “If you keep eating the way you do, you ‘ll have to shop here, too.” At the time, I had no idea that it was a plus size store, but from that moment on, I knew what it meant.

My father didn’t mean harm by what he said, but, man, was he right: shopping for clothing over the size of 14 is DIFFICULT. “Plus” size feels like segregation. I understand that even though the average size of women is a size 14, it probably shouldn’t be and that the country is facing a weight crisis. However, I know that I am above average, so does this mean I can’t wear cute clothes?

I am going to say something that may be controversial, but it must be said: “I do not want to be a size 0 EVER.” (Obviously, I don’t count those “clever” clothing stores that starts their sizing off at 0 -4 as in XL XXL XXXL XXXXL.) My overall weight loss goal is to be able to go into a “normal” store go to the rack and find my size. I do not want to go to a “special” section of the store. I do not want to go to the seperate store (and no I am not talking about Abercombie and Fitch versus Abercombie Kids). Most importantly, I do not want to have to exclusively shop online, which is currently what I’ve been doing.  I understand the “obesity epidemic” is a huge cause for concern, but as an avid fashionista wannabe, it is difficult to feel good about shopping when I can’t buy the clothes in the stores my friends shop at. Which brings me to my next point.

Separate but Equal?

A lot of my friends don’t understand why I don’t want to go shopping at the mall. Shopping when you are “plus size” is shameful and traumatizing. My friends will say that The Limited, Express, White House Black Market, J Crew, Banana Republic, Forever 21  is having a sale and we should go. Here is what I think when I hear those names: Eloquii (the Limited has a SEPARATE store online for “plus size fashion”); Express (please; they only go up to large and size 12); WHBM (size 12), J Crew (size 12, and who am I kidding; I’m not rich); Banana Republic (size 12); Forever 21 (they have Forever 21+ online). Now explain to me why I would want to go to the mall and shop?

I realize this might be a rant. But my pain is real. Shopping when you lose weight is great; imagine going from a size 22 to size 14. I am so proud to have lost weight and I should be, yet I am still segregated because I have yet to achieve the coveted size 0 or even size 2 so many of us long to be. I do not want to go to the store to buy clothes in the basement because that is where the store’s plus size clothes are located. I do not want to be confined to the back of every rack as if hiding the larger size is going to be the deterrent to being bigger. I do not want to have to play russian rulette clothing size style  every time  I go to shop online. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is anything like what African American’s dealt with during the Jim Crow Laws. However, segregation within clothing sizes gives me anxiety, makes me feel like less of  a person, and contributes to emotional stress which can lead to me over eating. I already look in the mirror and don’t like what I see must I also go to store and be shunned too?

Lastly, I want to shout out a blogger I recently discovered that quite honestly moved me to create our blog and helped me find clothes that fit me. Gabbi is a “plus size” fashion blogger who I discovered when she was on the today show sporting what they call a “fatkini”. I was inspired by Gabi’s willingness to push the envelope and force people to see that you can be stylish at any size. This doesn’t mean she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle she is promoting “love thy self” Something Elle and I are striving for along with weight loss and health.Gabi lists a  plethora of stores  that are mostly online,  and although it’s not the most convenient way to shop it has certainly helped to inspire me to buy clothes and not continue to wear stretchy pants and t-shirts till I lose weight.  I think that even in our transition phase EVERYONE deserves to purchase a piece of clothing that makes them feel sexy in any size and shape. I don’t want to shop online forever but until clothing stores get a clue and start making clothes for everyone, I’ll have to make due with what is on the market.

If any of you share my struggle OR have suggestions for transitioning sizes I’d love to hear from you! 


“Fashion’s Invisible Woman” by Emili Vesilind. Published in the Los Angeles Times.

“Plus-Size Designer: Bigger People Need Good Style.” NPR story about TLC’s Big Brooklyn Style.– Gabbi lists stores that carry “plus size” clothing


10 responses to “Plus Size Segregation

  1. love this blog! i’m ‘between sizes’ depending on the store i visit and while no longer ‘plus sized’ (which was the tipping point for weight loss when my shizznit no longer fit into the ‘regular stores) i empathize! my biggest tip for between sizes: be not afraid. it’s a mental mind f*%k that we trick ourselves into, saying we are a size ___ but it might be larger or smaller depending on the store. i also was taught to sew as a child, giving me the leverage to buy clothes that may be a bit ill-fitting, and throwing in some stitches or hemming them to make the clothes fit ME, not the other way around. love this blog! enjoy seeing the posts in my google reader.

    • First, let me commend you on bringing back “shizznit.” I miss the days…Also, I wish I could sew! It would be fantastic to learn such a useful (cheaper!) way of combating the in-between. I actually wear a lot of dresses, which can work between sizes if they’re not too structured – you can always cinch the belt at the waist a little more as you drop. Also, it’s helpful that big shirts are kind of in style right now…

      • My sister in law had the garstic bypass surgery 2 years ago she is due to give birth to a healthy baby boy in April.She had tried for years to get pregnant before the surgury, and the excess weight made it impossible for her.She is much healthier after the surgery and her dream of becoming a mother finally coming true .GOOD LUCK

  2. Loving this blog, and wishing you success in your journey! However, feel I must comment. I am personally struggling with my own weight loss failures and just trying to get back down to an 8. I ballooned after I broke my knee skiing and nearly immediately got preggers with twins. It’s been 4 years now and the baby excuses have long worn off… But regarding this post – I have a background in fashion and retail. Although I hear and feel your pains, all-size inclusion just isn’t a retail possibility. Logistics, inventory, staff training all come into play. The fact is, that while everyone may have a unique shape, those shapes become dramatically varied when you start talking an extra 30,40,50+ pounds. If you look at a 0-12 designer line that offers standard and petite sizes – you are literally talking a difference in hem or sleeve length. Hop up into 14+ and you start looking at 14, 14P, and 14W – all of which are completely different cuts and take trained sales staff to properly assess customer body types and find the right fit. Between the extra inventory and floor requirements to properly stock and display – it only makes sense to put these sizes in their own section. Plus, I personally would hate to be squeezing into a pair of 14’s and have a size 2 cutie pie in the dressing room next to me as I ask the sales girl for a 16… Talk about humiliation! Just pointing out there is a flip side and that it isn’t just the world trying to tell us we are unacceptable and need to be sequestered. Nonetheless – loving u both! And I don’t want to go to the special section either – so I am eating 1700 cal/day (whole foods) and hitting the gym 4x per week. 6lbs down so far – 44 to go!

    • Good luck on you quest for weight-loss thank you so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your effort to help me understand this incredibly frustrating issue.

  3. I have recently let myself go and gained SEVERAL LBS. yesterday I went shopping at all the boutiques I used to shop at. I was horrified to discover that none of their clothes go above size large. Needless to say, nothing fit! I completely understand your frustration. At the same time, it has inspired me to lose weight and get back to the weight I was before I began college.

  4. I feel your pain! The thing I struggle with the most is that my tummy is a size14/16 but the rest of me is about a 10/12 so either way I go nothing fits quite right!

  5. Hi, I am a man and a big proponent of “Big girls need love too”, as society robs you of your confidence you just need to realize that there is a faction out here for everyone and just tell society to go to hell. cCContinue on in your goal

    • When I first saw this title e0a6Ÿe0a6bfe0a6‰e0a6Ÿe0a7‹e0a6b0e0a6bfe0a7Ÿe0a6bee0a6b2 e0a6ace0a6bfe0a6a6e0a78de0a6afe0a6bee0a6b2e0a7Ÿ : e0a6Ÿe0a7‡e0a6•e0a6œe0a7‹e0a6a8 e0a6ace0a6bee0a6‚e0a6b2e0a6bee0a6a6e0a7‡e0a6b6 on google I just whent and bomorakk it.Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I’m very glad to see such excellent info being shared freely out there.

  6. gbs is very complicated prruedcoe in terms of long term and short term side effects.instead you try yoga or taichi or other natural ways to reduce weight and get what you want.i hope you will get sucess.believe in god.

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