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Old Navy wants fat people to shop online

Big Fat Deal recently reported that Old Navy will soon stop stocking its plus-size line in stores, relegating those sizes to online ordering only. An article in the The San Jose Mercury News confirms it in a blurb halfway down the page, saying “final shipments of apparel in sizes 22, 24 and 26 will be sent out during the next few weeks.” (The article was written on April 28, 2007.) It also says Old Navy will “continue to carry women’s sizes 16 to 20 as part of their regular collection.”

Gap spokeswoman Robin Carr gave this rationale for the decision: “We really wanted to showcase the Plus collection and felt the best place to do that effectively was online…online is everywhere.” Which is probably the lamest excuse I’ve heard since that time I told myself Raspberry vodka was good for me because it contained fruit. If we follow Carr’s reasoning, why should Old Navy bother having stores at all? If online is everywhere and it provides the best showcase for your clothing, you could significantly reduce overheard by shutting down all your brick and mortar stores. Old Navy also faces significant competition online from retailers who specifically target overweight women, treat them with respect, and have a good understanding of how to fit and flatter a fatter figure. If I’m shopping online, I’d rather give my money to one of those retailers.

I don’t know if Old Navy hates fat people, but I do know that they are a corporation. Even if they do hate fat people, they love money more. They seem to be making this decision because it makes the most financial sense to them. I think they haven’t tried hard enough. As I understand it, Old Navy’s efforts to stock plus-sized clothing in their stores has always been half-assed. According to the Mercury News article “plus sizes have been carried since 2004 in only 175 of Old Navy’s 950 North American stores.” This probably explains why they haven’t been making a big profit in the big girl’s clothing division.

I understand that Old Navy has no responsibility to anyone to devote floor space, and thus money, to plus-size clothes in its store. But I find the decision to remove these sizes from their stores while still selling them online disrespectful to fat women. They are in essence saying, “We don’t want to see your fat asses in our stores, but we’ll still take your credit card information if we don’t have to look at your double chin.” If they are losing money on their plus-sized clothing, it would be more respectful to their overweight customers to determine why these items are not selling instead of ridding them from stores. Commenters on the Big Fat Deal post suggest that they need to use a variety of fit models to make better fitting clothes. They also need to put money into marketing the line so overweight women know the clothes are out there. If a line of clothes for thin women was not selling well, I doubt they’d stop selling clothes to thin people in stores. Instead they might look into it and realize, “These peasant skirts are so 15th century. Let’s try selling something that doesn’t make everyone look like hippies!”

While I love shopping online for a lot of things, I almost never buy clothing online because I never know if it will fit right. Even if I take measurements and refer to a sizing chart, I can still purchase shirts that choke my underarm flab or pants that give me camel toe. And I have to eat the shipping fees even if I return the items. This is true no matter what your size. If Old Navy doesn’t want to pursue the plus-sized fashion section, I would find it less insulting if they discontinued the line all together. At my largest, I felt embarrassed that I could only find pants large enough for me online. If you’re going to take big girls’ money, they are worthy of having floor space devoted to them to try things on.

I also dislike the message Old Navy’s decision might send to the fashion industry at large. Fashion is already a thin-prejudiced place. On the blogs I always see women wondering why there are not more plus-sized retailers when supposedly more than half the nation is overweight. Now clothing manufacturers might use Old Navy’s decision as an excuse to say, “See, fat clothes don’t sell! Stop bugging us about selling to you!” But in reality it’s bad-fitting, unmarketed, and poorly stocked clothing that is not selling.

If Old Navy can be convinced that there are fat women out there who want to buy their clothes, they might be swayed to reconsider this decision. If they realize that fat women do not appreciate being told they cannot shop in Old Navy’s stores in malls and shopping centers, but must hide their fat asses behind a computer screen to purchase clothing, maybe they’ll make a real effort to meet those customer’s demands. So, if you think Old Navy should continue stocking plus-sized clothes in their stores, let them know! I would suggest you be respectful though. Getting a hundred letters addressed to “Dear Soulless Corporation of Thin Nazis,” probably isn’t going to sway their decision. Old Navy’s contact information is listed below.

We’re fat, we’re here, and we want to buy you effing khakis.

E-Mail

custserv@oldnavy.com

Snail Mail

Old Navy Customer Relations

200 Old Navy Lane

Grove City, OH 43123-8605

Phone

1-800-OLD-NAVY (1-800-653-6289)

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37 Comments

Rachel • May 3, 2007 at 11:35 am

The thing that drives me crazy about Old Navy’s plus sizes is that they’re just clothes designed for thin girls made bigger. Fat people aren’t shaped like thin people–we have bumps and curves and arm flab that needs to be considered. Is there no reprieve for the thick-wasted gal?

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Janell • May 3, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Old Navy does the same thing with their maternity clothing as well (ie, it’s not in all stores and you can find the majority of it online.) I’ve also noticed that when I go into Old Navy, it’s the larger sizes that are marked down from $39.99 to $5.99 because it just isn’t moving. Maybe they do need to do better advertising of the plus sizes.

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Kimberly • May 3, 2007 at 1:00 pm

Wow. That is freakin’ disturbing. Thanks for letting us know.

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spacedcowgirl • May 3, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Old Navy clothes are pretty much ill-fitting across the board–I used to like the quality and fit of their dress pants back several years ago. But when I try on the current “equivalent” version they’re huge in the waist, tight in the thigh, and have an exaggerated flare at the ankle. I think their issues are not in being able to design for plus customers, but the fact that their entire line is so hit-or-miss that online shopping is almost not an option.

I have to differ from Rachel slightly. I think if clothing is well-designed, there is no reason for the cut to differ significantly from size to size (see, for example, Lands’ End). I feel that the argument that our bodies are shaped differently is sort of overhyped and is often used by stores and designers as an excuse to produce lazy, frumpy, shapeless designs in plus, put them next to the cute, well-cut regular items, wonder why they don’t sell well, and decide it’s just that the plus-size consumer doesn’t spend money. I’ve never seen the appeal of “beautiful” “designer” plus clothes like Marina Rinaldi or Elisabeth either–they’re incredibly expensive for garments that basically have the same frumpy, boxy “plus look” as anything else.

If Old Navy’s plus line wasn’t selling well, I think part of the problem (in addition to the many good reasons PastaQueen detailed) is this belief that you have to have dedicated plus lines and that plus-size customers don’t want the same cute stuff everyone else is wearing. I figure, a good strategy for a store is to make and stock everything in an extended size range at first… market it well so people actually know that all those pieces come in plus… and see what sells well once people have a chance to try it on and see what flatters. Maybe then you’ll have some idea of what “fat girls like.”

Great post, PastaQueen. I emailed them and got the same lame canned response as everyone else who commented at Fatshionista. I think I’ll paste the email chain into a paper letter and mail it to them… not that anyone will read it in that format either, but at least I can say I tried.

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Erin • May 3, 2007 at 1:05 pm

I agree with what Rachel said COMPLETELY. I understand you get what you pay for, so I’m not even addressing the quality of their stuff, but I get sick of the implication that plus-sized women shouldn’t demand clothes tailored for their bodies.

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Lisa the Waitress • May 3, 2007 at 1:22 pm

As someone who used to answer the e-mails at Old Navy Customer service, I can tell you that you will probably just get a form letter; however, when I worked there I did extensive feedback reports and the moms of America did manage to convince the company (Gap stores, in this case) to start making “reverse fit jeans” (aka “mom” jeans, with the spacious bum area and tapered legs), so you never know.

And I agree that the clothes are cut wrong. I carry my fat in the midsection (buddha belly) and whenever I buy something to fit that part (currently a size 12), the butt is baggy. And to fit the chest area (an XL in Old Navy clotes), the shoulders are too big and I have bat wings under the arms. It’s like they assume everyone will have the same basic proportions no matter the size.

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Deb • May 3, 2007 at 2:20 pm

I honestly had no idea that I could even attempt to shop at Old Navy. Oh well…

Leaves another goal to attain still, just like being able to shop at Express!

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Patty • May 3, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Yeah, I agree. Sell all the plus sizes in the stores or don’t sell them at all. I rarely go in there as I didn’t really see anything I like. The only thing I did buy was a tank top.

I remember going in there w/ my thinner sister and she found some cargo pants and there was nothing I could fit into in Seattle, well at least the cargo pants. It sucks!

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lana • May 3, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Here is my 2 cents:

I ordered an Old Navy plus size dress online about a year ago because there wasnt a store close enough for me to go try it on in person. I ordered two different sizes hoping one would fit knowing that you can return anything to any store.

When I received my package in the mail I was upset that neither one of the dresses fit. They were both way too big. At the time I was probably wearing a size 22 (at lane bryant) and I had ordered a size 20 and 18 from Old Navy.

I think the problem Old Navy is having is that their clothes simply do not fit most women. Even now when I can wear most anything size 16 regular, Old Navy pants just do not work for me. The waist is usually way to big and the legs are a bit too small.

I have a feeling that Old Navy cut the sale of their plus sizes in store because women were going in there and trying something on and not buying them because stuff doesnt fit. I bet they are hoping more women will buy stuff online, pay the non-refundable shipping, and never return the item.

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meowmix • May 3, 2007 at 2:56 pm

Honestly, I don’t care if they take the plus size stuff out completely. It’s poorly made and doesn’t fit me at all. I’m a size 20, but I can’t even get into a 3x shirt there. It’s all super thin material and cut completely wrong. It shows every bump and bra strap. Does anyone actually wear Old Navy plus size clothes??? I’d really like to know who fits in that stuff. I’ve recently lost about 15lbs since having my daughter and I can finally fit back into their “regular” size 20 and have enjoyed shopping for that, but I can’t find a shirt there to fit me at all! I’m soooo ready for styles to change. I hate all the empire waisted stuff that makes me look like I’m still pregnant. I spent 18 months (2 kids) in that stuff, why would I want to wear it now?? The ONLY reason I shop there at all is because they do carry a regular size 20. I can’t really wear “plus sizes” because they are always too big/too long in the hips and crotch. I carry my weight in my tummy and arms, not my crotch!

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Lorrie • May 3, 2007 at 2:57 pm

Interesting…I just got back from old navy here in brooklyn and did some plus size shopping. I’m sad to see that I won’t be able to get larger clothes in the store anymore. I agree with the commenter that mentioned the line being “hit or miss”, so true, you never know what something looks like online. I have shopped there online, but liked knowing i can do both.

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Eriner • May 3, 2007 at 3:55 pm

I agree, that there really arn’t alot of plus size clothing stores out there, and it sucks that they’re getting rid of their plus size clothing in stores. In old Navy’s defense, they carry sizes 16 – 20, which most other stores don’t. I wear a size 18 jeans, and I think it’s an impossible size to find if you’re not in plus size store. Even sizes 14 and 16 are hard to find if you’re not in a plus size store. I guess it’s always been comforting to me that I always know old navy will have something in my size. So I give them points for that.

Other stores however are getting no points. I’m pear shaped, so I’m pretty small up top and can usually find tops in a regular store if they’re an XL or even an L. In the last year though, I’ve noticed that where most stores used to always carry XL, they don’t anymore, but of course they advertise that you can buy it online. So the stores are getting even more skinny predjudice. We can’t help it if we have big boobs and the L doesn’t fit.

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Emily • May 3, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Old Navy sells to the masses, not a niche market. It sucks, but if I was a retailer I would want to stock predominantly 8-16 sized clothes, because most women I know fall somewhere in there. I’ve always heard (not that I would have any experience in this) that it’s just as hard to find clothes if you are super skinny, too. If they can sell 2 pairs of sized 24 jeans and 20 pairs of size 12 jeans, it’s easy to see which one they are going to pick. Not saying it’s right….just saying I don’t think they are prejudiced…just a normal business in it for the money.

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well • May 3, 2007 at 7:20 pm

I kind of suspect taking it off the floor is a marketing decision.

I suppose they don’t want their store becoming the place where “really fat moms” shop. I think they want the store to have a cheap-but-chic vibe — a place where tweens and teens beg their parents to get them inexpensive school clothes. Where young women go to get cute little kicky, cheap tops and sweats and stuff.

I imagine inexpensive retailers don’t want to get the label of being the store where poor fat people shop. Sad but true.

The whole “but we’ll offer online” doesn’t make sense otherwise.

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altho • May 3, 2007 at 7:34 pm

although…. thinking more about it, I wonder — how many people really are a size 22? Considering most women are pretty short in this country, maybe it really is a marketing decision? Maybe there are a lot of size 22s and up in the world (and maybe the speciality stores like lane bryant, et al have captured that market?)

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the veggie paparazzo • May 3, 2007 at 7:48 pm

I have noticed that when I am shopping the clearance in Old Navy (which does have the larger plus sizes where I live), I see bunches of the largest sizes and the smallest sizes left, so I don’t think the decision is totally unreasonable, though you don’t see Old Navy pulling the size 0 clothes, do you?

I am wearing an Old Navy dress right now–I buy things there that are seasonal rather than things I want to wear for 5 years. The stuff in there is hit and miss, but so is the stuff anywhere, for nearly anyone. I don’t know anyone who can be sure that clothes will fit just because they look like they might or are in the usual size for that person.

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Heidi • May 3, 2007 at 8:44 pm

I actually just finished stocking up on some new clothes from the Plus size section of Old Navy. We’ve never had one in my area that carried their “Plus sized” clothing and their regular extended sizes (the 16-20s) never fit quite right. I’m actually a pretty big supporter of their real plus sized clothing as I find the cut significantly more generous than their standard 16-20s. The regular 16-20s seem to be geared towards tall girls with big frames while the plus sizes are modeled towards average height girls carrying around some extra weight.

I’ve recently lost some weight and find I’m now too small for the Plus sized 16 bottoms I was wearing. I’ve actually skipped right past the regular 18s and I’m back in to their regular 16s and I’m a bit intimidated. “Regular” size clothing never seems to have the roomier sleeves my chubby arms need or the princess seamed middles that give my curves some definition.

None of their clothing is meant for years of wear but when I’m looking for something casual and affordable, Old Navy is usually one of the first places I look. Too bad we’ll never know exactly what prompted their decision.

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Trixie Belden • May 3, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Thank you so much for posting their contact information. I am drinking a glass of wine and I’m ready to give them a piece of my mind. They are a bunch of bigoted a**holes!

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gaby • May 3, 2007 at 10:28 pm

It probably doesn’t help much because most of these clothes aren’t available online, but this New Zealand site shows what is possible when designers really try to create beautiful clothes for all size women to wear.

http://www.fashionnz.co.nz/plussize/

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gaby • May 3, 2007 at 10:34 pm

PS I just checked the link to the NZ fashion site. Somehow it has been ?hi-jacked to a site called Ragtrade Recruitment. Sorry. Don’t know how this has happened. Please ignore. You could try to access the site by typing in the address

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gaby • May 3, 2007 at 10:38 pm

OOOPS! try this

http://www.fashionz.co.nz/plussize/

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Kate • May 4, 2007 at 3:28 am

I think well’s right. I think clothing stores want to be seen as hip and fashionable and fat middle-aged women shopping there just spoils the image.

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psychsarah • May 4, 2007 at 8:44 am

After reading this post I did send Old Navy and e-mail and got a response less than an hour later, which made me awfully suspicious that it was a form letter. I’m going to copy it below so others can read the bulls**t for themselves:

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your e-mail regarding our Women’s Plus line. After much evaluation, and as difficult a decision as it was, we will be removing the Women’s Plus line from all of our Old Navy stores. Please accept our sincere apologies for any disappointment this may cause you.

While we will no longer carry Women’s Plus in any of our stores, the complete line is available on our website at oldnavy.com. You can place

an order on the web or by calling 1-800-OLD-NAVY, option one. Our online representatives are available 24 hours a day to assist you with

questions or order placement.

We hope this information is helpful and look forward to shopping with you soon.

Sincerely,

Adam

Customer Service Consultant

This e-mail did not address anything I wrote directly, and just irritated me more! I told them in my e-mail that even though I don’t wear plus sizes anymore, I won’t shop there if they continue with this decision, and I am going to stand by that. Maybe they need to realize they aren’t just losing the “niche” plus size market when they take this action!

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deanna • May 4, 2007 at 10:17 am

I am write there with you sista, and I am writing my letter as soon as I hit “post”. My letter will state that I will no longer buy from old navy kids, mens and maternity!! Screw them if they can’t accomodate me, than I can’t make them richer by purchasing for my family!

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deannna • May 4, 2007 at 10:24 am

I say if we are going to write to Old Navy than target the executive board as well as customer service:

President: Dawn Robertson

EVP and CFO: Byron H. Pollitt Jr.

EVP Marketing: Michael Cape

Old Navy

Two Folsom St.

San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: 650-952-4400

Fax: 415-427-2553

Toll Free: 800-333-7899

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metamorphose • May 4, 2007 at 11:29 am

Old Navy’s clothes are ill-fitting for everyone. Unless you’re shopping in the toddler section.

I hope they get enough emails/letters to realize what a stupid move they’re making.

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Bree • May 4, 2007 at 1:18 pm

I agree PQ. I’m not about to buy online and chance that the clothes will fit. I have to try on 20 things to get maybe 1 or 2 that fit. lol It sounds like they may just be biased against us big girls. Maybe not, but as you said it doesn’t make sense. I hate it. I love old navy and gap.

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Denny • May 4, 2007 at 5:37 pm

I agree with Emily. They don’t care what the people look like that come into the stores. They don’t have anything against them. It’s just a business decision. They weren’t selling enough in the 20+ range and they wanted to devote the floor space to things that would sell faster. It just wasn’t cost effective. (This could be because they don’t do plus sizes well, and they haven’t done enough market research).

It would be better if they just SAID this though, rather than going on about the best place to showcase their clothes and all that other rubbish.

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Cindy • May 5, 2007 at 10:01 am

LL Bean had this same “falling out of grace” issue several years ago. First, they had just a simple line of plus size in the store…then they cut it out completely…then they limited their size range, even on-line. I was working so hard to be able to wear their clothing (I was busy losing weight through all these changes). I am finally in “regular” sizes, and I do have a few LL Bean items in my wardrobe (quality does matter!), but it doesn’t have the same appeal as it would have, had I not felt so marginalized before. I wish I could “blacklist” them completely, but there are a few things I really want/need. It does make me feel hypoctritical, though, like I am betraying myself. Thankfully, I don’t like old navy. Try Lands End (at Sears!) or Eddie Bauer, for better quality. Liz Claiborne (at outlets) or at Macy’s, is a great brand for quality and fit (to size 24, which is very generously cut—more like a 26 or 28 at Lane Bryant…). I think they call it vanity sizing…

Shopping in regular sizes for the first time in my adult life is a bit overwhelming, by the way. I used to try something on, think “Thank god it fits!”, buy it a leave as quickly as possible. I am having to learn that there are a LOT of choices out there now and I can be discriminating. I can wait and find the exact tan skort I like—from any store I like. This is both liberating and intimidating. I HATE trying on clothes and am still sure nothing is going to fit. Heck, clothes I own and have been wearing for months still look too small when I first take them off the hanger. I swear they won’t fit, even as I pull them on. It is freakish, really. Anyway, good luck out there. And keep trying. There are good choices out there, if you work at it. And maybe some day, there will be more and life will be more fair for us all!

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Sarah • May 5, 2007 at 3:23 pm

I was so excited when I was in the US the last time because I could finally fit into Old Navy Clothes. Boy was I unpleasantly surprised when I went in to discover the only big girl clothes were a)hideous b)ill fitting and c) mixed right in with the maternity…yes because being overweight and pregnant are EXACTLY the same thing.

I left the store totally offended and without purchasing a thing (not that there was anything cute in plus size). I will never go back.

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Mark • May 6, 2007 at 11:16 am

“Old Navy clothing is poorly made.” You guys realize what Old Navy is, don’t you? It’s how The Gap responded to competitors selling cheap knockoffs of Gap clothes. Of course the clothes are cheaply made. You need to shop at The Gap if you want better quality.

Re mail order. I’ve never ordered from Old Navy, but I’ve ordered clothing from Land’s End, and I can’t believe the experience would be that much different. The catalog has a detailed size chart in inches and centimeters giving the measurements of their clothes at a dozen or more points. Buy a tape measure. Get a friend to measure you. If the measurements fit your body, order them. They will just fit. If the measurements don’t fit the particular lumps and bumps and proportions of your body, look elsewhere. If for some reason you order clothes after all this and they still don’t fit, send them back. (Land’s End even pays the return shipping costs–from my home in Japan, and calls me long distance to ask what the problem was.) A little trick: find something in your closet that fits you and lay it on a table and measure it at the various points. Then order something that is close to that.

All the conspiracy theories about stores not wanting to sell plus size clothes don’t ring true. As Pastaqueen said, they are businesses. They will sell whatever makes them money. If they don’t, their competitors will, and they will decline in the market. I think Pastaqueen is being too hard on Old Navy though, saying they didn’t try hard enough. They developed a whole line and sold it via 175 outlets. Retail is brutal, and devoting that much manufacturing capacity, inventory, and shelf space to a project is a major effort.

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Mary • May 6, 2007 at 4:31 pm

I got the same response from Adam that a PP got. I shop at Old Navy very rarely, and I am thinking that might end, actually. When you consider all the marks against them, taking their plus line out of stores might just be the straw that broke this camel’s back. Grrr…

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Rhonda • May 7, 2007 at 4:16 am

I agree. Buying clothes without trying it is not very smart. Some clothes don’t share the same standards in sizes. Sometimes it’s useless to watch for sizes only. Trying it should close the deal.

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spacedcowgirl • May 7, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Mark and Denny, it’d be different if anyone knew the plus sizes were in the stores. I agree that the end result was probably mostly a hardheaded business decision (the line wasn’t selling well, axe it) but I think that there are more complex factors that resulted in them having to make that hardheaded decision, and many of those factors were their own fault. The in-store line was not marketed at all, the clothes are poorly designed and were generally a half-assed afterthought. Not to mention, if it’s true they don’t like the “cachet” of having lots of us fatties in their stores and think it will decrease their popularity among image-obsessed teenyboppers (as someone else mentioned, I don’t see them cutting out the 0′s and 2′s even though there are tons of those on clearance whenever I go in), that’s part of the business equation too. So they can have made business missteps and can have other bottom-line related motivations that in my opinion are sort of offensive (i.e. they want my money but don’t want the cool kids to see me in the store) without it being a conspiracy theory.

Re: measuring, that’s not foolproof in my experience. I once measured myself at a Lands’ End 24W. I thought, that doesn’t sound right, I wear a 20 or so from Lane Bryant, so I ordered a 22 and I was swimming in it–I probably could have gone with an 18. Now I just pick the size that I think will fit and I’m usually right. But Old Navy items are so inconsistent that I don’t think it would be worth the hassle of mail-order trial and error. I don’t so much mind that the clothes are cheap and crappy (I like the cheap part) but it does make it pretty tough to mail order.

Anyway, I wear a 16 or 18 in ON regular sizes now, but most other discount and mid-range department stores (Target, Penney’s, Kohl’s) carry those sizes too, so there’s really no reason for me to shop at a store where I’m unhappy with their business practices.

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Pat • May 7, 2007 at 10:25 pm

I wonder why chothes manufacturers don’t follow the standard sizes for clothes. Even if they have different designs and styles in making clothes, it’s still possible to follow the right size.

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Capricorn • May 11, 2007 at 12:32 am

Mark, you are dead wrong. I used to be a size 2, and I could always buy anything I wasted from clearance because sizes 0-4 just don’t sell. Whereas from working in retail, the larges and the top range of sizes flew off the shelves. If you hesitated, forget it. Every time we turned over, all we had were the small sizes. They don’t sell, but they’re not being discontinued, now are they?

And it’s impossible to buy clothes online, the sizes vary crazily and customers don’t understand that most jeans are low rise now, so you have to buy a smaller size than usual or they’ll slide right off. Could be a size smaller, could be 3, no way to tell without trying them on.

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Barbara • March 8, 2010 at 3:27 am

Well the way I see it being a big girl, I want to try on my clothes in the store before my purchase rather than looking at pictures and presuming they fit! Most skinny people know their size and can just run through the store picking up size 5 and running out the store with it and it fits, were I have no clue if one pair of jeans fit me in size 22 or 24 due to the misconseption of fat peoples lumps being here or there. Therefore I spend more time sending clothes back then actually purchasing and wearing those clothes. I mean I already have to pay the extra dollars for one more minute of stitching and 2 inches of fabric, less trendy clothes because in the clothing industry fat people clothing equals old people fashions or huge prints, or awkwardly unporportionate clothing were the waist is tight and the thighs were made by the tent maker. Now I can’t even go to a store and buy my big clothes, I feel like me being fat, I am being discriminated against, although everyone wants us to cover our huge asses!

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