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Oh Plus Sizes, Where Art Thou?

January 17, 2013

Once upon a brisk fall day this past November, a friend and I headed out to the “BIGGEST! MALL! IN! THE! SOUTH!” to get a little shopping done. Well, he needed to get a little shopping done; I was going because his car was broken down and he promised me gas and lunch if I took him.

We arrived at the mall and headed to Macy’s; my companion went to the Men’s section, which took up the entire first level, while I took the escalator up to the second level to check out the goings-on at the Clinique and fragrance counters. As he took his sweet, precious time choosing clothes (I later found out he had left the store without telling me), I started to get bored and decided to check out the plus-sized selections. Besides, I had already applied so much make-up playing around at the Clinique counter that I was beginning to look like a clown.

In addition, I remembered accompanying my sister to Macy’s one time, and thought satisfyingly about how she had found some beautiful dresses that had cost all of $8. Since I had a massive $10 burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to try my luck at locating a budget-friendly item that I’d love.

As I veered toward the Women’s clothing section — mind you, I am still on floor two, as Women’s clothing is, of course, located next to ALL things “female” (you know, handbags, jewelry, makeup, perfume, and shoes) — I began to notice something as I sorted through the racks looking for larger sizes. I couldn’t find anything above a 1X, or size 12. I started scanning the ceiling for a sign that said “Women’s,” as most plus-sized sections are titled, and I realized I was standing under it. Confused, I approached one of the ten salespeople that were milling about the floor, desperately pushing product on unassuming shoppers. “Where is your plus-sized section?” I asked. “On the third floor,” she replied. Not even aware there was a third floor, I found the escalator and headed up to find the clothing that was made for me.

As I rose higher and higher, something strange happened: the fluorescent lighting became freakishly bright, the temperature dropped about ten degrees and, as I arrived at the top floor, I swear I saw a tumbleweed blow by. The lively and warm holiday atmosphere that could be found on levels one and two were completely absent on floor three. I felt like I had entered into a sterile hospital room that had been prepped for surgery. I stepped off the escalator and looked straight ahead, and there, wedged between maternity, intimates, and mattresses, was the plus-sized section.

I mean, it made complete sense — if you are a pregnant, fat, or sexual woman, society tells you to COVER UP. And we all know how fat people lie around all the time, and how pregnant and nude women must be good at lying on their backs, so why WOULDN’T there be mattresses nearby? It was a completely logical layout scheme. All of the Men’s clothing items on floor one (including everything from “Boy’s” to “Big & Tall), the socially acceptable Women’s items on floor two, and the unmentionables on floor three.

As I tried to get my bearings about what I was seeing, I started sorting through the racks in a haze. “This is ridiculous!” I thought. “Am I the only one who notices how wrong this is?” I questioned in my head. “Are they fucking kidding me with this ugly shit and these laughably high prices?” I murmured to myself. As I was looking, I came upon a shirt. Let’s call it “The Holy Grail.” I was watching television one day last year when I saw a character on one of my favorite shows wearing a striped shirt that I adored; it had thin horizontal stripes in the front, and different colored, thicker ones in the back. I fell in love with it, and even thought about learning to sew so I could make one myself (that didn’t happen). The shirt I found that day was a cheap knock-off version: one color, but with thick stripes on one side, and thin ones of the other. I loved it, and it was discounted from $46 to $7. Even though I was furious with how the store was laid out, I decided my closet shouldn’t suffer because of it and decided to purchase the shirt.

I started scanning the ceilings for the cashier signs I had seen in the rest of the store, but they were nowhere to be found. Next, I started looking for a salesperson to direct me to one. I walked all around that floor and couldn’t find one person to help me. “What, are they all attacking people with perfume spritz’s down in fragrances?” I thought. Finally, I just started calling out, “Hello? Is there a salesperson here that can help me?” A woman appeared and showed me to the cashier station, hidden deep within the intimates section, and no identifying sign anywhere to be found. I paid for my purchase and got the hell out of there.

Now, I have never been one to shop at Macy’s; I’ve been there a few times for fragrance and make-up purchases and that’s all. I almost worked there once; I got hired, but then moved across the country before I started. There are no Macy’s anywhere close to where I live now (the one we went to is an hour’s drive away). I’ve never paid attention to where the plus-sized section was located in the various locations I’ve been to because I’ve never looked for clothing there. However, as I came home and thought about the store design of this particular franchise, I became more and more disgusted with the brand as a whole.

What kind of a company would not sense this type of blatant discrimination as problematic? While I love my new shirt, I could live without it and, I decided, I will have to in the future. I will not be spending any more of my money at this store. I’ve spent my life in stores feeling angry about the selection (or lack thereof) and the treatment from staff. I’ll be damned if I am going to now be pissed off about being relegated to the abandoned attic while wearing a Scarlet F (for fat and female) by Macy’s.

Kerasi sig

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    January 17, 2013 12:34 pm

    They’re closing the Macy’s in the Twin Cities, maybe this is one of the reasons why. You can’t cut out 2/3 of your customer base and expect to survive forever, and they have cut out fat women by relegating their clothing to a sterile, lifeless, ugly back corner. Personally, I’ve never shopped at Macy’s (or Kohl’s, or any other supposedly upscale store) because I know they aren’t going to have anything that fits me or that I can afford. In these economic times, it doesn’t make sense for stores to cater to a minority of customers, and let’s face it, thin people are a minority of the population (at least according to the media who keep screaming about 2/3 of the population being “overweight/obese”).

  2. January 17, 2013 2:24 pm

    Yup. My own pet peeve is when there is no actual plus-size section, despite being advertised. At the local branch of one of my big box stores, they’ve kept up the plus-size sign but have apparently removed all the racks specifically holding plus-size clothing. When I spoke to an associate about it, they said it was because they’d moved the plus-size items onto the “regular” racks.

    Sounds great, but um — What they actually seem to have done is move size 16 and 1X items onto the regular racks… and stopped carrying (in-store, at least) sizes above that.

  3. January 17, 2013 3:18 pm

    I’ve actually had good luck at Macy’s (my section’s in the basement). I prefer JCPenney’s, they have a decent selection (as in they try) and good prices, they are also known for their good Big and Tall selections.. Kohls is a joke, they recently put in a big and tall section which is also a joke due to the fact that they never add anything new. Don’t even get me started on Target…

  4. January 17, 2013 4:34 pm

    It’s the same here in Denver. The paltry plus-size section is present in most Macy’s (as far from straight sizes as possible) but it lacks any sort of style (ugh, how many tacky, printed polyester blouses does a woman need) and never has suits. As a fat woman, it’s hard enough to look professional…here you literally can’t find suits for your size.

    Don’t even get me started on the “improved” plus-size clothing section in Target. They got rid of most of the sizes (resorting to the nebulous 1, through 4 which seem to somewhat correspond with 1x, 2x etc) and all the style…

  5. The Real Cie permalink
    January 19, 2013 9:03 am

    The atmosphere you describe is to die from rather than to die for.
    I haven’t shopped at a department store in years, so I’m awfully out of touch. I must say, if this is how it is, I’m in no hurry to get back out there and shop at one again!

  6. Kerasi permalink
    January 21, 2013 5:29 pm

    Well I had responded rather thoughtfully to all of these comments and then I hit something and it deleted…and I have a migraine so I am going to shorthand it this time, lol. I had been hired by the downtown Macy’s in St. Paul MN right before I decided to move across country; I never checked out their plus-sized section because I went in for a job at the Clinique counter (love me some Clinique). However, I don’t assume it is any different from what we have all experienced at the various locations we’ve haunted. What irks me the most about my trip is this question: “Why does it seem more appropriate to pair infant girls clothing with size 0-12 women’s clothing, than it does to pair all women’s clothing together?” If there should be a separated section, it should be for children’s clothing. It’s just none-sense.

  7. January 21, 2013 6:07 pm

    The plus-size section at two of the Macy’s near to me are right near the other women’s clothing. That said, it’s still overpriced and unattractive. A local Sears is remodeling, and one of their changes seems to be eliminating all but two or three racks of plus-size clothing, wedging them in between the coats and the petites, and offering no signage. Target? You mean the place where there are twice as many maternity clothes, which are generally adorable, and a small plus-size section that over giant, dark, oversized items? Yeah, no thanks.

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