Oh Plus Sizes, Where Art Thou?
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.