Lane Bryant

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Bemoaning Bras

Published January 10, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve been poorly over the past 24 hours.  A headache, then nausea, and what I think is an earache.  This morning I woke up with a bit of a cough.  I think just a summer head-cold, not surprising in all the damp we’re dealing with here in Queensland at the moment.

Today I stayed home from work, and spent up until about 3pm either trying to sleep off the ick, or just watching DVD’s and resting, trying to make myself better.   Mostly I was doing ok, but for some reason my chest was really, really hurting.  Around my ribs, like someone was pressing in against my sides.

Now of course, as much as I can talk about not listening to the concern trolls, be they anonymous commenters, friends/family/colleagues or just the bloody media, sometimes when one isn’t feeling well, and is a bit tired and emotional, the bullshit seeps into one’s brain.  So by about 4pm, I was having panic attacks (being prone to anxiety, these are my usual response to worry and stress) about these pains around my chest.

At some point, I had the thought that my bra was bothering me, it was feeling really uncomfortable, so I went and took it off and swapped it over for one of the better quality new ones I have.

Lo and behold, within half an hour… no more bloody chest pains!  The cheap, dodgy old bra I was wearing at home on my sick day was HURTING me!

So it’s particularly serendipitous that just this morning I was reading this post from The Rotund, aka the delightful Marianne Kirby about the lack of accessibility to decent bras for fat women.  What follows below started out as a comment to Marianne’s post, but considering the coincidence, I think it’s worth a blog post on it’s own.

Bras, oh bras!  This is the one area of clothing for plus-sizes gets me REALLY riled up.

Particularly as every time I bemoan the unavailability of bras that fit, look good and most importantly, hold my tits up, someone refers me to the ONE plus-size bra specialist in my city of over a million people.  ONE.

I want to scream at them that I’m well aware of the store, I’ve been there and even bought from there.  Yes, they have large cup size bras.  But the majority of the stock is in straight sizes, not plus sizes, with large cups.  And the plus sizes tend to stop at size 20 or 22.  Then the tiny few that do go over that size (generally to stop at a size 26, which I am lucky to fit into) don’t actually structurally support me very well.  Which left me with ONE bra that fit me, and supported my breasts.

And it is as ugly as a bucket full of smashed crabs AND cost me $90. (8 years ago, I imagine it’s well up over the $100 mark now).  This meant, at $90+ per bra, I could only buy one at a time, and could really only afford it once or twice per year.  I won’t name the store, most Brisbane plus-size shoppers know it.  I will also say that they had shitty customer service, the women working there grunted and pointed to the ugliest corner of the store, and when I asked for a fitting treated me like a piece of meat.

The only place that has a bra that a) fits b) supports me and c) I can afford to buy more than one every now and again, is Target.  It only goes to a 26E, but I am one of the lucky ones that fits that last size.  And of course it’s as ugly as a dropped pie.  But it works in holding my tits up without causing me major back pain, so I buy it.  I’m so very lucky that it comes in beige, AND white, AND black.

One bra.  One.  In a state capital city of an affluent, western country.  In a city of over a million people.  There is one bra that just suits my needs, available for me to buy.  In fact, a few years ago, Target were charging double the price they do now for bras.  The one they had that fit me then (which they have discontinued now) was $56.  The one they have now fluctuates usually between $25 and $30, depending on what promotions they have on.

Yet how many itty bitty bras are out there?  Or even moderate sized bras?  THOUSANDS.  There are whole stores devoted to them.  Big sales on at the convention centre, tossing them away for a few dollars, clearing stock.  Acres and acres of floorspace in department stores with fancy sexy styles in designer brands.  Target, Kmart, Big W, Myer all have great big floor spaces devoted to pretty bras at the moment, but all straight or tiny sizes.

Do you know what’s the real irony?  People, including advertisers, media and marketing, make fun of very large breasted fat women, playing on the saggy tits “joke” and yet nobody will actually provide adequate bras to prevent this.  Surprise surprise, most very large breasted women don’t want their breasts to be dragged down by gravity, it HURTS if nothing else, but because there is practically fuck all available for them to do so, they settle on ill fitting bras that simply don’t do the work they need to hold their breasts into place comfortably.

When I was in the US in late 2007/early 2008, and I went to Lane Bryant, I found several bras that fit, were comfortable and structurally did their job, even a couple that were cute, at a mere $24 – $28, so knowing that $56 price tag back home, I bought a dozen bras and brought them home with me.  I spent more on bras than I did on accomodation in a lot of places over there!

I am very lucky, I can afford to buy several of the Target bras (particularly when they had them on mega mega sale like last week, got them marked right down to $12 ea… almost unheard of!) so that I don’t have to rotate two or three the whole week.

I used to have to do that though.  I used to only be able to afford three or four bras per year, even the ones under $50, and since I have to wear a bra every single day, because of my rack of doom, it meant I would be constantly washing them and wearing them three or more times per week.  Which meant they wore out REALLY quickly.  I was forever mending them, taking wires out of old ones and sewing them back into less old ones, re-stitching seams and so on.  This is the first time in my life I’ve been able to afford to just go and buy another one (so long as Target don’t discontinue this one or jack the price back up) if one tears or an underwire breaks.  It’s the first time I’ve had enough to go a whole week before having to wash them so I had enough clean ones to wear.   I can’t tell you how liberating it is to know that so long as I do laundry on a weekend as per usual, there are enough bras to get me through the week.  How liberating it is to know that if I need another bra, I can afford to go and get one and have somewhere local to me that I can get one?

I’m one of the lucky ones.  How many plus-sized women don’t have another bra to change into when the one they are wearing breaks, or is hurting them?  How many of them don’t at least have one affordable bra that they know is almost always in stock at a store easy for them to get to, that they can go and pick up when they need to?  How many of them simply can’t afford to buy the one bra that fits them because it’s ridiculously priced?  How many of them are outside the sizing range, in a cup size bigger than an E, or a band size bigger than a 26, or heaven forbid, outside both sizings?

So how about some of those plus-size retailers out there start taking their customer service seriously and providing us with bras that tick all the boxes.  That are affordable.  That fit.  That hold our breasts comfortably and for the whole day.  And for fuck’s sake PLEASE make them PRETTY!

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.