Dear Lane Bryant

Published July 30, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Dear Lane Bryant*,

While I am Australian and don’t have access to your stores regularly, I am still however one of your customers.  I travel to the US every few years, and buy up big when I do, because the clothes are priced better and are of a better quality than many I can find here.  I also purchase your bras regularly via a friend in the US, and should you offer international shipping, I would be a shopper there too.

I am a fat woman.  I am a very fat woman in fact.  But I am a very fat woman with plenty of money to spend on clothes and accessories.

However, I am not ashamed of my fat.

In fact, I can even laugh at the subject of fatness, because there is no shame in fat despite much of the mainstream media implying that there should be.

Which is why I am dismayed at your tweet earlier that is clearly disapproval at this shirt design by Natalie Perkins.

Now I know that the Australian sense of humour doesn’t always translate across the oceans.  I learnt that the hard way myself when first in the US.  Perhaps the design is not to your taste, that is ok too, taste is a subjective thing.  But a little look around at the culture of where the design was coming from would have told you the intentions and story of the design.  Where did you hear about the link?    Did you look for information about the artist and find out anything about them before you made public criticism of their work?    Did you consider who was purchasing the design and whether or not any of those might also be your customers?

The thing is, your customers are fat.  They pretty much have to be fat to want or need your product.  So wouldn’t it be wise to celebrate those customers?  To show some respect for who they are and what they want?

By using euphamisms such as “curvy” and “real women”, you’re implying that “fat” is somehow shameful or negative.  By avoiding any connection to the word “fat”, you’re implying that you don’t want fat people as your customers.  However, your product is entirely designed for fat people… and fat people only.  Please do not pretend that your customers are not fat people, or that you’re not selling your product to fat people.  It’s insulting to us and it’s insulting to you.

Instead, if you want a loyal, happy-to-spend customer base, try embracing the very people who make up your core demographic by appreciating them for who they are, as they are.

There is a myth in marketing that you have to create a desire for something other than reality to sell a product.  That by making people feel bad about themselves, they spend money on trying to achieve something that they are not.  I want to challenge that thinking.  I believe that if a company is willing to sell acceptance, and embrace their customers for who they are, to celebrate those customers, they’re building a positive customer experience.  When I go shopping, that’s what I’m looking for.  That’s what I’m going to want more of when I find it.  That is what is going to encourage me to spend more.  Not being made feel bad for who I am.

Have the courage to make a difference Lane Bryant*.  You will be glad you did in the long run.

Yours sincerely
Fat Heffalump

*This actually goes for all companies wishing to sell to a fat market.

20 comments on “Dear Lane Bryant

  • I quit shopping at Lane Bryant, for the most part, because they use “skinny” mannequins and their in-store posters are all of skinny women.

    In fact, about 17 years ago, I worked with a guy who quit our company and went to work for Lane Bryant. Of course, since I knew him, I told him how I felt about those mannequins and posters.

    He told me that Lane Bryant, as a whole, did far better sales if they used the “skinny” props. I had a HUGE argument with him – I told him that I would like to see what I would REALLY look like in those clothes, not some idealized image of myself. He told me that fat women want to imagine that they look a certain way – reality doesn’t sell!

    All these years later, that still pisses me off!!! I hope these stores get the message soon. I shop at Catherine’s – they at least use “plump” mannequins and models – not downright fat women, but they’re a little closer to the mark!

    • One of our big plus-size clothing chains here has started to use bigger mannequins – they look great. I’d say they’re a size 16 – which looks CONSIDERABLY bigger than the size 6 or 8 ones most retailers use.

      It makes a real difference to see plus sized bodies in the clothes that are aimed at me. But most of the others are using mannequins that actually are too small for the clothes – they just pin them all up in back.

  • If only they didn’t make good bras that I can actually afford. It really does kill me that I can’t give more independently-owned specialty bra shops more business, there’s plenty in and around NYC, but their bras are in the upwards of $60-75 apiece and right now I really can’t afford that. Lane Bryant makes the ones that really last and actually fit me, and are always buy 1 get 1 50% off plus they mail out coupons all the time.

    I never cared for their clothes much, I have a few LB work-safe items I’ve mostly picked up off ebay for really cheap, but for the bra quotient I’ve kinda seen them as a necessarily evil that every fat chick has a love-hate relationship with.

    • Their bras are the best thing about them. I bought a dozen when I was in the US. I need more but I don’t really want to give them any of my money right now, but I can’t find any that are as good.

      • It’s a horrid catch-22. They make those good cotton wire-free bras that are good for the gym or just general comfort (other manufacturers just assume fat women lay on the couch wastin’ mah tax dollars instead of needing something for a 12-hour work day that doesn’t cause bra burn?) that are not just good, they’re cheap. Could get 3 of their bras for what one Lunaire or Goddess bra costs.

        If only other manufacturers were more willing to accept my money…

      • That’s the truth. My absolute favorite all-time bra is an underwire model made by Olga, however, I’ve gained a bit of weight the past few years and they only go up to a 42. I’ve actually emailed them a couple of times, asking them to make some plus-sizes – of course, they don’t answer me. They sure could make a whole lot of money with that bra because it fits (me anyway) absolutely perfect! Why would any of these companies want to snub the plus-size community when we have spending power? Somebody needs some marketing lessons!

  • As I found when I taught a course in fat acceptance at a local community college, many people who reject some of society’s b.s. and want to reject more just can’t handle the word “fat.” I ended up discussing the issue explicitly, but then using “large” and “big” because otherwise the students would have been all wrapped up in the word they couldn’t stand and not in the message, which they did like and want. I ended up more concerned with the ideas, though I do embrace the term myself.

    I’m 52, and I remember when really nothing besides Lane Bryant was out there for women like my mother. I don’t actually shop there (preferring Roaman’s and eBay), but they have a lot of historical credit with me. I wish they would use bigger models; maybe that letter will help.

    • Argh I hate “big” being used as a euphemism for fat. I can’t even begin to describe how much it pisses me off because not every fat person is big.

      • I know! It irritates the living shit out of me because while I could be described as curvy since I have more of an hourglass shape, I’m not “big”. I’m freakin 5’2″ and a size 20. “Big” would be more apt on someone taller. But pear-shaped or straighter-shaped women get called “curvy”.

        Like geez people, we’re fat dammit. Quit being ashamed for us, we’re not fucking ashamed!

  • they have spent a lot of time answering every tweeter who was upset too! they should beware …they are using social media and so are their customers.

    about their clothing for australians…you can get it on ebay…just search for lane bryant…but when you are there try searching for designers like marina rinaldi…you can get her silk items there for the price of a new lane bryant polyester number!

    laura ashley us does large sizes as do a whole lot of other designers. lane bryant should beware…there are a whole lot of brands out there…online too.. who address the reality of fat people’s clothing…ie using natural fibres etc.

    • Actually they only answered the tweeters they thought were from the US. The two that I know are not from the US don’t have any location on their Twitter profile, and have both recently mentioned shopping from other US plus-size retailers, so they’ve clearly only targeted those they consider as “customers”. Firstly it’s not about ensuring sales (it’s about goodwill) and secondly, people outside of the US would find ways to be customers if they had faith and respect for the brand, as I have been in the past. But yet again they miss the point.

      • I got a copy-and-paste reply and I’m clearly from Oz on my Twitter profile…But it was just a link to their “apology”. I think @Definatalie retracted and said she’d gotten an @reply apology…Looking through their Twitter feed, which is FULL of @reply apologies, I found one to @Definatalie which is the same copy-and-paste one that I got. So if that’s all they gave her, that’s pretty lame.

        Also, as I tweeted back to them, I’m not sure how their social media person had NOT heard of @Definatalie before now…She was the first Fat Acceptance blogger I encountered!

      • I saw that Jen!

        It’s pretty lame if that’s the only acknowledgement Natalie got, I mean, it’s not even different to anyone else’s. Would have been the right thing to do to email her or comment on her blog.

        But it all smacks of trying to make their US customers happy to me.

  • I wish I could recommend a bra company that delivers overseas. I can’t. But if you’ve got a contact in the US who is willing to ship them to you, try jms.com. They’ve been fat-friendly for many years, and have always used larger sizes of women in their catalogs. They do have cotton wire-free bras.
    I’ve been hearing for DECADES about how Lane Bryant did some sort of catalog test and discovered that clothing sold better when it was modeled by thinner women… but I’ve never heard of anyone who was actually involved in this test.

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