Ugh, when are these plus-size retailers going to get it? Check out these screen shots I took from a post Autograph Fashion made today:
Now I *LOVE* Autograph. I really do. They’re one of the few brands that actually cater to my size (26AU) and I love that they’re presenting a lot of great colours, prints and styles that aren’t your usual black and boring boxy fare. They’ve come so far in the past few years, from when they used to be full of peasant tops and capri pants and nothing else, to a range that is bold, colourful and full of variety. In fact I’d pretty much wear that outfit above as is (maybe not the black tank, too many layers for Brisbane!) I’m currently wearing an outfit entirely made up of Autograph pieces, including a pair of their leggings, which I am wearing as pants, and rocking the sh!t out of!
But when I saw this post today, I saw RED.
My objections? Two things. Firstly, the statement that “leggings are not pants”. I’ve spoken about this before. Leggings are pants if that’s what you wear them as, and none of us need anyone else, particularly not a retailer who is supposed to be marketing to us, lecturing us on how to wear clothes. We’re fat, we’re not babies. We’re able to determine what we want to wear and how we wish to wear it.
Secondly, a constant bugbear of mine in plus-size fashion – all the rhetoric about how to “hide” or “flatter” our “problem areas”. I’ve actually been in store, browsing the products at Autograph, when a staff member remarked on a top I had picked up “Oh that’s lovely, it will hide all your bad bits.” I responded very firmly “Excuse me? I do not have any “bad bits”, thank you very much!” It’s so entrenched in plus-size women’s wear, that it’s seen as acceptable for a sales person to actually say something like that to their customer and not think for a second that it would be offensive.
The assumption that every customer of a plus-size retailer must by default wanting to hide, disguise or minimise any parts of their bodies simply because they are fat women, has to stop. The assumption that we even HAVE any “bad bits” or “problem areas” has to stop. We don’t pay these retailers for body shaming and lectures about how we should dress to “flatter” our bodies. We pay these companies for clothes, not body shaming.
For too long, this kind of marketing has been used to try to get us to purchase their products, and they wonder why it doesn’t work. Women who feel bad about themselves are not going to spend money on themselves. All it does is create more arbitrary policing of how fat women dress.
Now I’m not saying that they can’t give style advice. Definitely tell us what pieces look great together, how to layer for changing weather and what colours and prints are hot this season. This is helpful information, and all part of good marketing. I love to hear new ways of wearing things, and it helps me think of outfit ideas that I may not have thought of before. The thing is, it’s not difficult to keep body shaming and judgement out of marketing copy. Look, I’ll have a go:
“The Printed Legging
A hot trend this season is the Printed Legging, no matter what size or shape there’s a style for you. The trick to wearing leggings is to ensure you have the right fit, so that they hug your body. The right fit will ensure your leggings are comfortable, not see through or do not roll or bunch at the knees or ankles.
Printed leggings look fantastic with block colours, and we have a range of fabulous tunic tops that work perfectly. Pair this seasons animal prints in black and white with bold purple, and add some silver jewellery for extra punch. This asymmetrical tunic in royal purple looks great and is floaty and feminine. If you want to add layers for cooler weather, a black tank can be worn underneath, or add a long line cardi or jacket for those chillier days.
Give them a try today!”
But time and time again we see the same old loaded copy, full of body shaming and judgement. Is it any wonder the comments threads are full of “But big women shouldn’t….!” In fact, right after my comment a woman declared apropos of nothing that women with big thighs “shouldn’t wear stripes” – as though what other people wear on their bodies is anyone’s business but their own. This is the kind of attitude that the negative marketing creates.
If you make women feel good about themselves, empowered and positive, they are very likely to spend money on nice clothes for themselves. I know that’s when I spend the most money – when I’m feeling fantastic. I want more nice stuff when I feel good. When I feel crap, there’s no way I’m going to spend money on clothes. It is not that fat women don’t want to buy clothes, it’s that we are so often made feel bad in the marketing, that it puts us off buying them. So many plus-size clothing companies shoot themselves in the foot by using such negative marketing.
What I’d like to see from a plus-size clothing company is positive marketing that shows off their product with pride, and says “We love our product and you’d look great in it!”
Your job is to provide us with great clothes, it’s not to tell us that we should be hiding, minimising or disguising our bodies as though there is something wrong with them.