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Calling all Super Fatties!

Published August 27, 2011 by sleepydumpling

You know what?  I’ve had enough.  I’ve had enough of supposed plus-size retailers/manufacturers/labels sizing out the upper end of a standard plus-size range.  I’ve had enough of these companies deciding “We’ll make clothes for those of you who are fat… BUT NOT TOO FAT!”  I’m looking at you City Chic, Asos Curve, Dorothy Perkins, Pinup Girl Clothing, Leona Edmiston, Style369, Carmakoma, Forever21, Monsoon…. there are so many more.  Even regular companies that do some plus-size clothing as well as their straight sizes, like Threadless and ThinkGeek cut out before a standard plus-size range.  Don’t get me started on department stores that only go to Size 22 or 24 in most of their labels either.  Department stores!  The very stores that are supposed to cater to everyone!

Sadly, even two of my favourite online stores, who offer some plus-sized pieces, have further limited the upper sizes – We Love Colors and Sick for Cute.

There seems to be this perception that if anyone provides clothing in anything over a size 22, that they are “encouraging obesity”, or that we won’t buy them, because we’re not interested in style, or fashion, or shopping… instead we would rather comfort and cheap prices.  Which is utter bullshit.  Firstly, how can you “encourage obesity” when every aspect of society hates on fat bodies to the point that one cannot shop, or walk down the street, or open a magazine, or read a newspaper article, or many other things without seeing fatness pilloried, vilified and desperate calls to eradicate/cure us as though we are a disease or a plague?  And secondly, the reason we do not spend money on fashionable, stylish clothing is because there fucking is none!  Or what little there is often doesn’t fit us properly, is made of shitty cheap fabrics and constructed poorly so that it falls apart after only a couple of wears!

The other one I’ve heard from retailers is “But we can’t find manufacturers to make it!”  But then you go to the manufacturing companies and ask them, and they say “But the retailers won’t stock them!”  The blame game just keeps getting thrown around like a hot potato on to the next guy.  It’s just bullshit – you only have to see how quickly the upper sizes are snapped  up on those brands that DO cater to them to know that the customers want them, and will pay good money for them.  Every time I go to an online sale for any of the companies who do – Yours, Evans, Autograph, No Exceptions etc… the upper sizes are gone.

Major kudos to those companies who do, the manufacturers and labels and retailers who aren’t afraid to cater towards the full standard range of plus-sizes (which in Australia is currently 14-26) and even more kudos to those who go beyond this range to even larger sizes.  Yours, Evans and No Exceptions are three companies who go up to at least a size 32 in many of their garments.

Now it’s no use complaining about this without doing something about it.  So what are we going to do about it, fabulous super fatties?  Well, to start with, I have put together a Facebook group called Super Sizes.  Because Facebook, love it or hate it, is one place where we can spread the word VERY quickly.  I also need to know how many of you there are out there.  When we work together, our voices get stronger.  The more of us that are visible to the plus-size clothing companies out there, the more they are likely to listen to us.

Now I’ve chosen Super Sizes as the title because I want to gather in those folks who have not yet found fat acceptance, as well as we fab fatties.  And well… we’re Super Sized!

As size 22 Australian seems to be the most common cut off point, that is what I’m focusing on here – the sizes from 22 and upwards.  That’s about a 2x or size 20US, or a size 20UK (by the way, sizing conversions are never consistent – it’s so hard to get accurate information about clothing sizes!)  From a quick poke around the main plus-size companies I can find, this seems to be about the most common cut off point.  We won’t say that sizes smaller than an Australian 22 can’t be involved, but most plus-size clothing companies do cater to these sizes, and I want to REALLY focus on size 24 and beyond, which really miss out on the most brands.

Once I’ve got a group formed, we’ll start working on ideas and strategies to campaign for more fashionable, reasonably priced, reasonable quality options for we super fatties.  We will share those companies that do cater to us, talk about how we can make what we have work, and expose those companies who treat us badly, ignore us or give us pathetic excuses.

So I’m calling all of you Super Fatties to put on your capes (sizes 22 and above!) and get ready to make some change in this world!

New Year’s Revolution

Published December 31, 2010 by sleepydumpling

If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen the New Year’s Revolution campaign started by Marilyn Wann and Amanda A Evans.  The idea is to put an end to the ridiculousness of setting New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, or diet, or any other body loathing goal.  If you’d like to learn more, you can have a look at the campaign page set up here.

Most of the campaign has a Health at Every Size foundation, but since I don’t believe HAES (or even health) is compulsory when it comes to fat/body acceptance, I’m going to skip that bit.

I am however going to talk about fat acceptance and body acceptance as a New Year’s revolution.  I like the idea of “revolution” instead of “resolution” because, well, let’s face it, actively working towards NOT hating your body is radical, revolutionary.  When the mainstream media is flooded with ZOMGOBESITY CRISIS stories, magazines and other popular media tell us in one breath how to love our bodies, then how to diet them away, and then look at these yummy desserts you can make, stepping out of that flooding stream of body negativity is a radical act.

We are taught that loathing your body, no matter it’s size, is normal.  From being too fat, too thin, too short, the wrong shape, too wrinkly, going grey, having visible pores (let alone actual “blemishes” like freckles, scars, zits, moles, and all the other completely normal things that human bodies have), being too hairy, not having lush, flowing locks on our heads, having curly hair, having straight hair, having big breasts, having small breasts, from being apple, or pear, or whatever other fruit they can think of shaped bodies, you name it, you’ll find a magazine article, or a news story, or a television advert about it being “wrong”.  We’re bombarded with these messages from as early as we can hear and see.  We hear them from our parents, our colleagues, our friends, everyone in our life.  We are told what clothes to wear to be “flattering”, what shoes will elongate our legs, what makeup will hide our “flaws”, what diet will get us “bikini ready”.  Fitness, and increasingly more loudly, the moralising of “health” (to be exact: thinness) is the message that is hammered home over and over again.

Is it any wonder that when a new year rolls around, and the cultural meme of setting resolutions for the coming year kicks in, so many of us just default to body loathing to spur us on to our goals?

What if you were to just not do that this year?  What if you were to not set any goals, or if you feel you need to, set a positive one?  Or one not even related to your body?  What do you think would happen?  Do you think that your life would suddenly get worse if you didn’t diet or if you just stopped engaging in body hating activities?  Would you die?  Would anyone go to jail?  Would the zombie apocalypse happen?

I’m totally ready for the zombie apocalypse if it does happen, by the way.  No really, I’ve got it covered.

I know what would happen.  You’d not have to worry about the disappointment of failing another diet.  You’d not have to beat yourself up about breaking another resolution.

You know what else might happen?  You might actually feel good about yourself.  You might have more time to spend on living life, because you’re not fussing over diets or having to get to the gym when you hate it.  You might actually look in the mirror one day, and not feel bad.

I can tell you what has happened to me since I stopped buying into body shame and loathing.  Now, just like Pantene, it didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.  Let’s see:

  • I’m a heck of a lot happier than I was when I bought into all of that diet and body shame and loathing.
  • I can look in the mirror and not feel worthless, ugly, repulsive.
  • I can go shopping without it being a major exercise in self loathing.
  • I save a whole lot of money that I used to spend on diet pills, meal replacements, diet magazines, “fitness” gadgets, and a bajillion other expensive things designed to fail at losing weight and getting fitter so that I would just spend more money on them.
  • I get dressed in the morning and feel good about how I look, and if someone doesn’t like how I look, then tough shit to them!  I still feel good about how I look.
  • More people compliment me than ever.  Now that my shoulders are back and my head is held high, people feel they can approach me, they smile at me and I smile back.
  • I just smile more often than I used to.
  • When someone makes a rude comment, or is downright nasty, I now realise that’s their shit, not mine.
  • When the black dog of depression does bite my butt, and I find myself either depressed or anxious, I am better equipped to work it through than I was when I was full of body loathing and self hatred.  It still happens, but it is usually shorter and less severe.
  • I’m better company when socialising around food.  No more agonising, no more causing a fuss because “there’s nothing I can eat” (because I was eating nothing and hated being around food), no more self loathing and guilt trips for actually letting any food pass my lips.
  • The range of clothing I will now wear is far greater than it ever was.  All those things I told myself I was too fat to wear… just get in my wardrobe already!
  • I have so much more confidence with dating.  I hold my head up, look a dude in the eye and smile.
  • I save a shitload by not buying magazines.
  • I only watch TV without any ads… I can watch twice as much in the same time.
  • When I have conversations with people, it’s about INTERESTING stuff.  Not diets and how fat I am and blah blah blah.

And there are no doubt dozens of other benefits that have come my way since I got off the body loathing roller coaster.

Look, I can’t promise you that all of this is going to happen to you.  I can’t promise you that any of it is going to happen to you.  But don’t you think it’s worth a try?  Don’t you think that if you get just ONE benefit from giving up on all of the self loathing and actually being kind to your body, and therefore yourself, the experiment is worth it?

Would you give it a try?  Just for 2011.  Come on, the water’s fine.  Jump on in.  We’ll look after you.

Goal Reached! Now Let’s Double It!

Published December 22, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I am thrilled, elated, delighted and beside myself to share with you all that today, Operation Baldy whizzed past the initial goal of raising $1000 for the Cancer Council of Australia.  With currency conversions factored in, we’re currently sitting at about $1150AU  I really have no words for how awesome all of those who have donated so far are.  So much generosity, many of you I have never even met.  A few of you completely unknown to me.  If anyone tells you there is no power, no kindness, no generosity in the internet… you send them over here for a chat to me.

So, just in case I have some new readers out there (and I think I do) who haven’t yet been introduced to Operation Baldy, here’s a quick rundown.

A month or so ago, just after the latest ridiculous Facebook “awareness campaign” for Breast Cancer, I decided to put my money where my mouth was.  Well, in fact, your money where my hair is.  I could never donate anything near $1000 on my own, so I decided that on Australia Day 2010 (26th of January for any non-Aussies), I will shave my head, right down to skin to raise money for the Cancer Council of Australia, who have done some amazing work with cancer research (partially funded the discovery and development of Gardisil, the cervical cancer vaccine among other things) which benefits cancer patients around the world.

I am intending to go from this:
PhotobucketPhoto courtesy of Bri King

To something that looks somewhat like this:

Photobucket

Ok maybe without the chicken feet.  I will be holding some kind of picnic or barbecue event on the day so that locals can come along and *cough* encourage me to go through with it (hold me down kicking and screaming if need be!) and also help me say goodbye to my hair.  Plus of course we need lots of photographers so that I can share with you all afterwards!

So, originally I set the goal of raising $1000.  Today, thanks to a very, VERY generous donation of $500 (you know who you are, gorgeous!), I rocketed past that first goal.  I think in the little over a month left before Australia Day, I can double that.

I believe that people with cancer give up so much, the least I can do is give up my hair for awhile.

I’ve set up paypal for the US Dollar.

And the UK£.

And the Australian Dollar.

Or for the Aussies, if you prefer I’m willing to take cheque, money order or direct bank deposit, just email me and we’ll sort something out.  And I can provide an Australian tax receipt too if you’d like to claim it on your tax.

So, can you help?  Every dollar, indeed every CENT, is important and helpful.  I promise to blog/tweet/facebook the progress and results on Australia Day.  And if you come along to the party, you can rub my bald head for luck as well, but it will cost you a gold coin donation!

Plus-Size Clothing Retailers Take Note – Positivity Makes Money!

Published December 5, 2010 by sleepydumpling

As part of the + Plus-Size Plus + campaign I’m working on to improve the variety, quality and price of plus-sized clothing options from major chain retailers in Australia.  I’m focusing on the major chain retailers like Target, Big W, KMart, Myer, David Jones, City Chic, My Size, Autograph Fashion and the like because these are huge companies with a lot of buying power, and they’re the places the most plus-sized women go to first for their clothing needs.  Those retailers are the most prevalent, offer a range of price points that cover the broadest range of Australian women’s incomes, and in being the biggest companies, have the most room to give.  I believe they also have an obligation to their customers to offer ALL of their customers an equal range, prices and quality, not just the straight sized ones.

One thing I’ve been doing as I think about ways to go about this, is read the social media pages of these retailers.  Some of them don’t have any presence at all in a plus-sized clothing retailer capacity, but the specialists like City Chic, Autograph Fashion and MySize all have Facebook pages and I follow them all.  One thing I really notice is that every time one of them posts, most of the comment threads dissolve very quickly into a whole lot of body loathing.  It only takes one or two comments until the “flattering” concept comes up (usually a big old bun fight about whether plus-size retailers should bother selling sleeveless clothes) and then ends up with a mix of “We fat women shouldn’t wear *insert garment feature here*.” or “I really like that but I could never wear something that bares my *insert body part here*.”

This got me thinking about the marketing we see from plus-size retailers, the language they use about the bodies of their customers and how they could change their marketing to really encourage women to enjoy wearing clothes/fashion, which I believe would encourage women to BUY more clothes/fashion.

What I would really like to see, is one of these retailers be brave enough to come up with a truly body positive, empowering marketing campaign for their products.  Instead of playing on the whole “flattering” concept, and tiptoeing around the fact that their customers have fat bodies, how about a campaign that focuses on raising the self esteem of their customers?  Here’s what I’d like to see a plus-size clothing retailer do:

  • Get rid of the euphemisms.  No more crap about “real women” and curves/voluptuous and all of those things.  Just call themselves plus-size clothing retailers and focus on selling plus-sized clothing.  I know they can’t/won’t use the word “fat”, but let’s stop with the euphemisms that imply shame for being plus-sized.  Let’s stop pretending that your customers are not plus-sized/fat.
  • Focus on positive body messages.   Fabulous fashion for fabulous women.  Love your body, put our clothes on it.  Be confident in our fashion.  Gorgeous you, gorgeous clothes.  Messages like this.  No more talk of “flattering”.
  • Use models who actually look like the women who will be buying the product.  Let’s face it, most size 14 or 16 women, while they are catered for in these stores, don’t shop there.  You can get size 14 and 16 and sometimes 18 in quite a few straight size sections.  There are a lot of women in a size 14 and 16 who are not even going to go near a plus-size section.  The plus-size retailers are catering to those of us who cannot buy from the straight-sizes at all.  How about some models with bodies that look like ours?  Often the models they use are not even plus-sized at all.  UK blogger Lauren from Pocket Rocket Fashion has done posts this week on the topic (here and here).  I shared the first post on + Plus-sizes Plus + and the response I got back was that women want to see what clothes look like on bodies similar to their own.
  • Seeing women that look like we do is only going to make us feel better about ourselves in the long term.  Especially if these women are depicted as fashionable, happy, fun and glamorous.
  • Value your customers, understand what they want, treat them like they’re special (after all, they’re giving you their money and keeping you in business, that makes them VERY special) and understand that they have different needs to straight-sized customers, but want the same experiences.

Can you imagine how awesome, and how radical, a marketing campaign that promoted body love, self esteem and positive representations of their actual customers (rather than “aspirational” representations that would never actually purchase the stock) would be?  Particularly from a major chain retailer?  How many women would be empowered and inspired to enjoy dressing and fashion and shopping?

I know that’s a company I would want to give my money to.

Keeping it Positive if it Kills Me!

Published November 20, 2010 by sleepydumpling

It’s been a bit of a rough week for me.  A stressful time at work with two huge projects about to hit their critical points, coupled with the most debilitating allergies (don’t let anyone tell you that allergies don’t have a high impact on your quality of life – they’ve never experienced them fully if they think so) have left my tolerance levels very low.  Where I would often ignore someone’s ignorant behaviour/attitude, I’ve just had no tolerance for that kind of shit this past week or so.

It all culminated in me making some decisions on how I use tools like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, which blogs I read and follow, and what kind of approach I want to have for the world at large last night.

I vowed this blog would be positive this month, so I’m going to put a positive spin on this past shitty week and talk about some of the awesome people who’ve stood up to the ignorant, the insensitive, the bigoted, the narrow-minded and the downright rude over the past couple of weeks.  I want to celebrate those who with their passion, eloquence, strength of character and articulate writing make a difference to the world we live in.

There has been some drama within the Fatosphere/Fat Acceptance world over the past couple of weeks with one blogger (whom I won’t name, y’all have encountered it) who has made some folks uncomfortable, and instead of listening when people tried to respectfully point out how they were making others uncomfortable, they did one of their now famous rant “teardown” posts, which then grew into a big mess on Tumblr.  I personally have been the subject of one of these teardown posts and it still smarts to this day that instead of talking to me directly, I was torn to shreds publicly.  Oh the author apologised, and I accepted that apology, but it doesn’t mean that it was right to do it in the first place.

Anyway, there were three writers who really amazed me with their responses to the anger and arguments coming at them and others.  The first I saw was from Simone Lovelace, who with grace and a whole lot more dignity that I had to offer, laid out the points of her argument over and over with such clarity that I can’t tell you how impressed I was.  I am without doubt that so many who would read along would learn so much from Simone’s writing and hopefully take it away to think over a bit before continuing on.  I know I have.

The next one that knocked my socks off was the fabulous Jessica of Tangled Up in Lace.  Her response to a very angry post on Tumblr was nothing short of fucking brilliant.  For me, I nearly fell off my chair with this quote:

But seriously my fingers are too fat to play the tiny violin for you….

Not only does Jessica have the ability to make an amazing argument, and express herself beautifully, but she’s such an entertaining read as well.  Her sense of humour and creativity in her writing is the stuff that will have you spraying your Reese’s Puffs all over your computer screen with laughter and general cheering .  Or is that just me?  Go read her stuff, plus she’s all glamorous too, so you get even more value from her work.

However, the writer who really knocked my socks off in the whole brouhaha was Elizabeth of Spilt Milk, who posted a response on her Tumblr (read it here, I can’t leave this one un-linked) that touched on so many points that are so deeply important to me, and did so in a manner that was nothing short of brilliant, that I shed a few tears and needed a few days to process my own feelings around the topic before I talked about here.  To my mind, Elizabeth is one of the best writers in the Fatosphere and indeed beyond.  I am constantly learning from her and expanding my own thoughts thanks to her writing.

What all three of these women did so beautifully, that I’ve struggled with a bit over the past couple of weeks, is stood up and spoke up when someone was behaving in a way that bothered them.  To be honest, the circumstances behind it don’t really matter, it was the fact that they did so, and did so in an eloquent and articulate manner.

I realised over the past few days that I censor myself a lot of the time.  Particularly when I’m outside of my immediate circle of supportive friends and the fabulous Fatosphere.  For example I have a Twitter account that I use for work purposes (mostly library stuff and librarians) that I found myself tolerating some really ignorant behaviour, until this week, when I wasn’t feeling well, and I decided to challenge someone who has troubled me with their ignorance about health/weight before.  Of course, this guy had gone unchallenged before, so he really didn’t like me pointing out that something he posted and his assessment of weight loss being “simple really” was highly patronising.  The hostility he responded with opened up quite a shit storm.

Then of course, it being White Ribbon Day this coming week, and there being extra campaign activity in the media, the indignant choruses of “But men suffer violence too!!” have started up.  As a survivor of domestic abuse, this is a topic very close to my heart and one that I have spoken out about before.  So I found it particularly offensive that some of the people around me STILL don’t get it, and that I have to take up that message again.

And finally, the short lived Privilege Denying Dude (which has been closed down on Tumblr and pretty much taken over by privilege denying dudes on the meme generator – how meta!*) started out as a fantastic way to express just what the marginalised folk of the world are up against (and it’s ridiculous) but is now a neat little lesson in just how far those who wish to keep us marginalised will go to shut us up.  I believe there are threats of law suits against the creator/s of the meme who paid for and credited the image they used for the meme.  Yup, not even a silly internet meme is safe from the kind of person who thinks that nobody should speak out against the privilege denying dude!  I say keep making and sharing and reblogging the meme.

But what with all of the above things happening over the past week or so, I’ve seen a whole host of:

“You’re being too sensitive!”
“If you block or remove people who oppose your views, you’re just surrounding yourself with sycophants!”
“Feminists have no sense of humour.”
“Don’t be so paranoid!”
“You’re just censoring my freedom of speech.”

And my “favourite” of the week:

“Methinks somebody needs to take their meds.” (way to stigmatise mental illness and undermine other people’s realities hmm?)

What I want to get at with this post, the positive message I want you to take away, is that you don’t have to shut up and suffer through ignorance.  You are not censoring anyone, you’re not humourless, you’re not surrounding yourself with sycophants if you choose who you engage with, you are not too sensitive, and nobody ever has the right to question your fucking sanity or suggest anyone needs to be medicated.

These are all just tactics to shut us up when we speak up about ignorant attitudes and behaviour.  They’re passive-aggressive manoeuvres to put us on the back foot, to make us feel we have to explain why we are speaking up about their ignorance.

Keep speaking up.  Don’t let them undermine you by telling you that you’re too sensitive/paranoid/humourless.  Disengage whenever you need to, and cut them right out of your life if you want to and can.  Why should any of us waste our lives with people who treat us and others as though they are less than them?  Every minute you spend on someone who is disrespectful and wilfully ignorant, is one that you’re not able to spend with the wonderful people out there.  Every minute that I waste on trying to convince some patronising jerk on Twitter that he’s being ignorant is a minute that I could be spending talking to one of my awesome friends or reading the fantastic writing of people like those I have mentioned above.

Keep standing up.  Keep speaking out.  Disengage from those who would shut you up for calling out their ignorance and bigotry.

And in the words of Dr Seuss:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

*I just found out that Privilege Denying Dude was shut down on Tumblr, but has sprung up again on Blogger.  Linky linky!

+ Plus-Sizes Plus +: Tips and Tricks for Feedback

Published November 15, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Just a tiny bit of housekeeping before I get started.  I have made an Operation Baldy ticker, it’s over there on the right.  As you can see I’m up to $270 already!!  Woot!  Thank you again to those who have donated, and if you can help me to raise $1000 for the Australian Cancer Council, it would be most appreciated.  Plus you get to see me shave my head bald as an egg!

Now, I think it’s time we did some more work on getting our message across to those plus-size retail chains again, don’t you?

One of the most effective ways I’ve had of communicating with a lot of businesses, not just plus-size retail chains, is through writing to them via email (and snail mail too).  Many businesses have KPI’s (key performance indicators) that set a time frame around responding to written customer contact.  For example, they may set an initial contact within 1 working day, and then a follow up, more detailed contact within 5 working days.  Particularly when they are complaints and there is something to be resolved.  They may also have a formula for changing their business practices on the strength of the number of requests they get on a certain issue.  For example, one business I used to work for believed that for every letter they got asking for a change in their business practices, there were a hundred other people who also wanted the same change, but didn’t write to them for whatever reason.  Then if they got 10 written contact items, they considered that a thousand people wanted something changed, then it was worth the time and effort to do so.

So, how to approach them?  I have been writing feedback letters since I was a teenager, and I’ve learnt the hard way what not to do!  I’m not going to share how many times I’ve either pissed the business off or made an idiot of myself… it’s too embarrassing!

What I have learnt are the following rules.

  1. Be polite.  Ranting, swearing, calling them names and being nasty is not going to get you anywhere.
  2. Be clear.  Tell them exactly what it is you you are not happy with.  It’s no use saying you’re not happy and that you’re upset and so on without stating very clearly why.
  3. Be respectful.  Remember that it’s somebody’s job to deal with your complaints, and if you’re going to treat them like dirt, they’re not going to be interested in helping you.
  4. Give clear examples.  If it’s a product you are finding fault with, tell them the exact product.  If it is service, tell them as much as you know about the person who gave you bad service.  Go back to Rules 1 and 3, don’t call the person names, or swear about them.  If you know their name, say so.  If not, give the time and date it happened, the name of the store or branch, and respectful detail.  Do not say “that dumb blonde”, say “the staff member I spoke to was a blonde woman, wearing a green top.”
  5. Don’t be greedy.  Ask them to repair or replace an item, or refund your money, but demanding extra free stuff is rude and greedy.
  6. Tell them you will come back to them if they improve the issue you are complaining about.  Why would they bother helping someone they think they’ve totally lost as a customer?
  7. Mention word-of-mouth if you have talked to someone about their product/service.  Word-of-mouth is very, very important to businesses.
  8. Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but please, make it at least make sense.  Use a spell check function if you have to.  Ask someone else to read it if you’re feeling a bit unsure.
  9. Very important rule this one…. Praise them… and do it with honesty. You don’t have to get all “You’re awesome and I love you!” just praise something about the store/staff/product you like.  Don’t make it up, if it’s not genuine, don’t worry about it.  For example, you might say “I have always found your staff friendly and helpful, but I am really disappointed with the products you are currently offering.”
  10. At the end of your email/letter, thank them for their time, and say “I look forward to hearing from you soon on this matter.”
  11. Give proper contact details so that they can respond to you.  You wouldn’t believe the number of complaints that have to go unanswered because the sender hasn’t given their contact details clearly.

There you have it.  Basically, those are things that have got me through to a lot of businesses.  Not all of them really listen (Unilever, you suck!) but many of them do, and many will try to resolve the issue for you.

Now, how about I put one together as an example, and then if you want to use any bits of it, you are more than welcome to.

I’m going to focus on Target Australia with this one.  Mostly because I am really unhappy with how they shove their plus-size range down the back of the store like they are ashamed of their plus-sized customers!  Or are ashamed of the stock.  Either way, we deserve better than that.  So let’s see…

Dear Target Australia,

I am writing to you today to tell you how disappointed I am with the way your plus-size clothing range is laid out in your stores.  I am a frequent customer of the Myer Centre Target store, and I have noticed over the years that I have been shopping in your store that the plus-size clothing section has been worked further and further back in your store, to the point that it is now in the far back corner next to the fire exit, fitting room and employee access.  When I am in the suburbs, which is fairly frequently due to my work, I usually pop into the Target store for a look around, and I noticed that pushing the plus-size clothing to a back corner of the store seems to be the norm for all of your stores.

This makes me feel that you do not want either me, or the product you expect me to purchase, to be seen by anyone else in your store.  It means that when I once would have felt welcome and comfortable shopping in your store, I now feel like I am only catered for because you feel you have to, and that you don’t care what I, as a plus-sized woman who enjoys shopping for clothing, needs or feels when it comes to shopping in your store.

I understand the need to work the layout to fit things in to maximise your customer’s spending, but does this have to be done at the expense of one group of customers?  Could you not perhaps put shoes, or general accessories in this space, where everyone equally is affected, not just your plus-sized customers?

At the front of your stores, there is a statement that reads:

Every Australian has the right to look good and feel good about the way they dress and live.  At Target, we aim to make this achievable with stylish, fashionable clothing and homewares accessible to everyone.

Recently I wrote to you about the lack of plus-size options in your stores these days, and I feel the way that the plus-sized clothing is pushed to the back of the store in an unattractive location, and not displayed with the same styling and finesse as the straight sized clothing contradicts your statement that is clear for all to read as they enter your store.  Add to this the news that you are considering offering your Hot Options range to only a size 22, it makes me feel that as a Size 22 to 26 woman, you are not very interested in my custom in your stores.

I was actually shown the statement above by a friend of mine who I had mentioned the location of plus-size clothing to, when he snapped a picture of the sign in front of your store and sent it to me to ask if I had seen it.

I want to continue to shop at Target, your prices are very good, the service consistently polite and friendly, and your stock is usually of a good quality.  Value for money is really important to me, but so is being valued as a customer, regardless of my size or shape.

I hope that you will consider my complaint, and think about the message that you are sending to the customers you are catering to with your plus-sized clothing lines.  As the average Australian woman is a size 14, it is not a small minority of customers, but a significant portion of the Australian population.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Fat Heffalump

Of course I won’t sign it Fat Heffalump when I send it to Target!

A friend really did send me that picture of the statement outside one of their stores, if you wish to see it for yourself, click here.

I’ve actually just sent this one to Target Australia now.  If you wish to contact them yourself, here is their contacts page.  The feedback form is easy to use and they do respond.

Please feel free to use this letter to base your own on, but don’t send it exactly as I’ve written it, because businesses do disregard copied letters.

If you wish to contact other plus-size retail chains (including department/variety stores), here are a few links for you:

Autograph Fashion

City Chic

My Size

Myer

David Jones

Big W

Kmart

The most important advice I can give you is to take the time and contact them.  Unless you do, they don’t know that you’re not happy with what they offer.  And unless we all do, they don’t know how many of us are unhappy with what they offer.

I am also working on a comprehensive plus-size consumer survey (not one that is loaded to answer direct questions, but gives broad feedback) and more campaigns to communicate to plus-size retail chains of the level of service and product we want.

Until then, please feel free to join the Facebook group and offer suggestions and ask questions that we can collectively answer.

And if you’ve had any success stories with contacting companies with complains, please share in the comments below!

Operation Baldy!

Published November 13, 2010 by sleepydumpling
*note, I will be cross posting this across all of my blogs.

I just made a decision this morning.  It’s a pretty big decision, I think it might be a pretty radical decision.  And I’m going to need your support, friends, fatties and other readers.

Many of you know how vocal I am about my dislike for a lot of the marketing that goes with cancer campaigns, and a lot of the silly memes that pop up on Facebook and Twitter and the like.  I find it offensive that breast cancer is objectified with all of those “Save the Ta Tas” and “Feel Your Boobies” kind of campaigns, the bucket loads of ridiculous pink schlock you can buy to supposedly raise money.  I loathe that breast cancer is glamourised over any other kind of cancer, just because it’s to do with tits, which are deemed public property by our culture.

Cancer is not sexy, ever.  Nor is it a game or a meme, or some pretty merchandise.

It’s devastating, frightening and rage inspiring.  I have lost dear friends to cancer.  I would give all the pink crap in the world back to have them here with us.  I have other friends who have battled cancer and survived.  I wish that they never had to bear the burdens that they have had to bear.

I want to do something that really does help, and the only thing I can see to do that will really make a difference is to pump as much money into cancer research as possible.  For ALL cancer types, not just the ones that are seen as glamorous and sexy.

So… I want to put my money where my  mouth is.  Only I don’t have much money.  So I’m going to put my hair where my mouth is, and ask you folk to help me with the money.

I have decided that on January 26th (Australia Day) I am going to shave my head.  I’m going to do something that really frightens me, and challenges me and I’m asking all of you, to help me reach a fund raising goal of AU$1000 for the Australian Cancer Council in doing so.  It would be great if we could raise more than a grand, but let’s start there.

I have chosen the Australian Cancer Council for two reasons.  One, they cover all forms of cancer, not just one or two.  And secondly because my home country of Australia has some of the leading cancer research in the world.  In fact, we have some of the leading medical research in the world.  The vaccine for HPV, which is what causes most cervical cancer, was developed right here in my home city of Brisbane.

When I say shave my head, I mean all the way.  No hair, bald as an egg, right down to the skin with a razor.  Surely that’s worth a thousand bucks right?

I’ll be honest, it scares the shit out of me.  I have been thinking about shaving my head as a bit of an act of defiance against the notion that my femininity is tied up in my long hair, but when I really thought about it, that wasn’t enough.  I want to do something to challenge myself into really pushing my boundaries to raise awareness and money for cancer research, because just playing some silly meme on Facebook is not enough.

For women, long hair is a symbol of femininity.  I’ve clung to that symbol because being a fat woman robs me of my femininity (add to that the fact that I also have PCOS, which also robs women of their femininity).  My hair has been long (about down to my bra-strap, give or take a couple of inches) now for about 6 or 7 years, and as many of you know, I dye it hot pink these days.  Pink is no accident – it’s another symbol of femininity .  Of course, long hair and pink are both completely arbitrary symbols of femininity, they’re no more feminine than short hair or the colour blue, but you all know how hard it is to resist cultural norms right?

Cancer robs men and women of so many things.  Their independence, their health, their social lives, their savings/income, their friendships, their enjoyment of things in life, and ultimately for some, it robs them of their lives.

The least I can do is give up my hair for awhile.

I’ve chosen Australia Day so that a) it will be a public holiday and locals can come along to a head shaving party to encourage me (*cough* push me *cough*) into following through with it.  The weather should be warm on my bare head, and it’s the beginning of my vacation, so I have time to organise an event and follow up with the fund raising afterwards.  I have already asked my friends Nadia and Kylie to be the hairdressers on the day, and I’d like to organise a picnic lunch or something for people to come along to.

But for now, I’m asking all of you to help.  Help me get to $1000, shave my head and let’s make a difference.  I’ve made a donate button and posted it below, and on the right of the page, but it’s not showing up yet. I’ll keep working on getting it visible!

I’ve set up a project account there in my name (Codename: Operation Baldy!) to stash any funds raised until the end of the project and I can donate it to the Australian Cancer Council.

Anything you can donate is welcome.  A dollar.  Five dollars.  A hundred dollars!  Anything is welcome, as it all adds up.  We have just over two months to get to this goal of $1000, and I am SURE we can do it.  Hey, you’re not even the ones losing your hair!!

Update: let’s try this link:

Donate here!

Autograph Fashion Respond

Published November 3, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Well as per my previous post, I’m only going to concentrate on positive topics this month here on Fat Heffalump, because I really do think I need a break from the negative stuff, and probably many of you are feeling the same way.

As you may remember from my earlier posts (here, here and here) regarding the campaign I have started to improve plus-sized clothing from major retailers (Facebook group here), my original contact with a plus-size retailer was with Autograph Fashion, which is a purely plus-size clothing retailer here in Australia.  They are owned by a parent company who also own City Chic, Millers, Crossroads and several other chain retailers.  In my first post on the topic, I voiced a strong, but constructive criticism of the road they were taking their “fashion” lines.  I posted a link to my blog post on their Facebook page, and invited them to comment.

The positive news is that they did contact me, via a comment on the post.  I haven’t published it because a) I wanted to give them time to follow through and b) it contained personal contact details that I’m sure they don’t really want published all over the internets.  But here is the comment with the contact details removed:

Thanks for sending through the link to your blog. We really appreciate the open and honest feedback you have expressed on our Facebook page and your blog, as we are always looking for feedback that can help us improve our product offering.

We are sorry to hear that we have not been catering for your needs. We do cater for a wide range of customers and not everything is suitable for every person. We do really value your insight and value your recent positive comments, we would love to send you some product for you to review and help assist us in delivering what you want. Please jump on our website and email me through any pieces that you would like to review or think you can style up, we would love your input if you are interested.

Warm regards,

Elissa

I’m impressed with their initial contact, it’s personal and professional, and shows that they did listen.

Of course I leapt on the chance to review some clothes for them, and we’ve had some correspondence while we’ve made that happen, and I will say at every step of the way I have been impressed with both Elissa, and another representative I’ve had contact with.

So last Friday a rather substantial parcel arrived from Autograph, with six garments for me to review.  I will be reviewing each piece individually, because as well as how they look, and how they fit, I also want to see how they wear for a full day (or at least an event out) and how they wash as well.

There is also one garment that is not my cup of tea style-wise, so to make sure it goes somewhere it will be appreciated, I’m going to set up a competition here on my blog to give it away.

So, keep your eye out here for the first review piece for the items Autograph have sent me, and my first ever competition really soon.

Response from Target Australia

Published October 18, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Well, colour me impressed.  I emailed Target Australia (via their contact form) on Thursday night, basically a summary of my post about my experience in Target on Thursday.

I just got an email back from them today, which is quite impressive, considering they only let one business day go past before responding.  Here is the email:

Good Afternoon Kath,

Thank you for taking the time to write to us recently.

At Target, we are committed to ranging quality value for money merchandise, therefore we were concerned to read your comments regarding our range of our Moda Apparel.

Our ladies’ apparel range of merchandise is the culmination of research, monitoring trends and past sales history. Our Buyers work very closely with our Suppliers to develop a product range that will appeal to our core customer. Feedback such as yours also plays a part in getting our product mix right.

We are pleased to advise that the buying department will be a placing greater emphasis on fashionable apparel as well as continuing to provide core apparel lines. There is also a strong focus on providing the Moda customer with similar types of fashionable lines that are available in the regular size departments.

Thank you once again for contacting us and appreciate your valid feedback. We appreciate having the opportunity to provide this information, and we look forward to you continuing as a valued Target Customer.

Yours sincerely,

Christina
Customer Relations Department

Not a bad response hey?  It’s prompt, polite, acknowledges and thanks me for my feedback and explains their buying practice, while informing me that there is focus on providing similar fashion lines for plus-sized customers that they do for straight sizes.

I have responded almost immediately to make them aware of +Plus-Sizes Plus+ and my plans to blog the campaign here, and suggested that if they wished to know what plus-sized customers wanted from them, here’s their chance to listen.

I’ll keep you all posted as to what happens from here.

It’s really important that we promote good customer service and a willingness to provide what we are asking for as well as calling out those who aren’t up to scratch.

Here’s hoping that Target take this on board and we start to see some more plus-sized options that we like.

I’m Listening: What You Want

Published October 17, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Well, I’m so thrilled with the response I have got to + Plus-Size Plus +!  I’ve already had 60 people sign up to the page on Facebook in just a few days.   On Friday, after seeing some people had already done so, I asked people to post the top 3 things they’d like to see improved in plus-sized clothing retail in Australia.  I’ve got some great responses which I’d like to share with you here, and invite you to add any more you might have.

I will condense those together who have asked for the same thing so that we’ll keep this post as concise as possible.  I know you’re all very patient with my long posts!

1.  Better fabrics.  More natural fabrics.  Better quality fabrics.  Most folks are sick of polyester and it’s cousins nylon and rayon.  Thicker fabrics.  Especially around knits – some available now are so thin that you can push your finger through them, and they’re so thin they cling to your undergarments or body in just the most irritating way.  Fabrics that don’t pill or snag.

2.  Options with sleeves.  Some folks like baring their arms.  Others wish to feel the comfort/warmth of having sleeves.  Most plus-sized fashion seems to be either sleeveless or have 3/4 sleeves.  How about  full length sleeves, or elbow length, or cap sleeves as options.  And for the sleeveless tops and dresses – make those armholes the proper size.  Not huge gaping holes that expose the bra, ribs and sides of bodies.

3.  Colour.  Black, navy, white, chocolate and beige are all well and good as “anchor” pieces for an outfit, but how about some colour?  ALL colour, not just one or two.  Bright colours, pastels, nudes, neons, the works.

4. Palatable prints.  Not “jolly fat lady” big florals.  Not Nanna prints.  Not “let’s camouflage the wobbly bits” big bands of dark colour.  Prints that are pretty, striking, fun, iconic, feminine, mod, stylish and so on.

5.  Tailoring/shape.  No more mu-mus.  Clothes with waists, busts, hips, style shaped into them.  No more boxy or baggy “hide the body” shapes.  But shape that actually fits a body, not random sticky-out bits added for “interest”.  When stretch knits are used, they need shape too, so they’re not saggy baggy or so tight that they look forced on.

6. Bust lines that fit large breasts.  Straps/bodices that fit a bra that a plus-sized and large breasted woman needs to wear to support her breasts.

7.  Accessories that fit and are attractive.  Belts made to fit a larger waist.  Bangles that go over larger hands, necklaces that are the right length and don’t choke larger necks.  Rings that fit larger fingers.  Tights, stockings, thigh highs and fishnets that fit larger sizes properly (and aren’t assuming that fat women are amazon tall women).

8.  Attractive underwear.  Bras that are practical, comfortable AND pretty.  Knickers that are cute, pretty, sexy, fun, modern.  Fat women don’t all want to wear beige cottontails.

9.  For those retailers that are department stores, how about some more floorspace, and some more prominent floorspace.  We’re sick of a tiny percentage of the overall clothing space down the back near the fire escape or the elevator or the staff entrance being our zone.  How about expanding the amount of stock, the space it’s displayed in (no more stacking it all in sideways so that you have to pull it out to look at it, because fat lady clothes shouldn’t be displayed outwardly like the straight sizes) and the location to somewhere more inclusive.

And the final one for today, the one that I find the most important and that was repeated by several people:

10.  The same things that are offered in straight sized ranges.  Yep, we want all the variety and the fashion of the straight sizes, just made to fit bigger bodies.

So that’s what some of you have left on the Facebook page as what you want from plus-sized retailers.  Can you think of any others?  Either leave them in the comments below, or pop on over to the Facebook page.

And may I ask you to please share http://www.facebook.com/PlusSizesPlus with any other plus-sized ladies you know.  Collectively we will make a change!

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