Plus size shopping experience: Where is it at?

For this new found lover of shopping it doesn’t take too much convincing to go out to my favorite stores. Unless it is extremely cold, torrential rains, or snow I’m usually down for a little retail therapy. Even if it is just to window shop and I don’t buy anything.

However this was not always the case. When I was a teenager, I’d go shopping with friends but I was pretty insecure about the whole process. Back when I was in high school stores that carried “regular” sized clothing hardly ever had anything that fit me. I’d have to buy my clothes from Lane Bryant, the Department stores, or online catalogs.

I always felt shame walking around these stores that didn’t carry my size; it was a paranoid inducing experience. Usually we’d go to the mall if someone was going out on a date, just wanted something new, or to window shop. You know… teenage stuff.  A lot of the time I would feel out of place and judged by others. I’d nose around mostly looking for clothes for my friends to try on.  Sometimes I’d skim the back of the racks in a futile effort to find something cute that would fit me. The one store that stood out in my mind was Forever 21. I disliked that place so much!

So what does the shopping situation look like for today’s teens?

I know things have improved since my younger days but by how much? What is the availability of clothes in my size in stores other than Torrid and Lane Bryant? To get a small picture a friend and I hit a local mall to check out the plus size clothing situation… not that I need an excuse to want to go shopping!

I say small picture because I can only judge the situation based off of a small sampling of stores. We had just the one day off so time did not permit traveling around to other malls and outlets. Our goals were simple.

  1. Did the store have a plus sized section?
  2. How big was it?
  3. Where was it located?
  4. Were they advertised?
  5. How did the in-store compare to the online presence
  6. Who is working towards inclusion and who treats us like the “side chick”
  7. What is the sizing like?

The mall that we went too had many of the stores that I wanted examine.

  1. Rainbow
  2. Forever 21
  3. Charlotte Russe
  4. Old Navy
  5. H&M
  6. New York & Company

The criteria was that the stores had to have an online section dedicated to “extended sizes.” The question being that if it is online… is it also in the stores?  If I am missing any please feel free to fill in my blanks.

Store showing inclusion 

Rainbow

I have a faint fuzzy memory of Rainbow carrying a plus section when I was in high school but I will add it to this post anyway. I suppose it could be a good bench marker.

rainbow1

The plus and regular sizes are split down the middle by an aisle leading to the register in the back. It is a pretty large section using about 35 % of the store space included two full walls of displays. They have a large ceiling sign identifying where the plus sections is and ALL of the plus racks (including clearance) had this sign on them….

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You know just in case you forget where you are or someone gets lost! I would say the in-store and online presence are both well represented. When you go to the website there is a link to the plus sized clothing on the top tool bar. Nice and convenient and visible. I didn’t need to go searching for it. The online selection is large and well organized.

rainbowwebpage

As for the sizing… the plus sized clothing in Rainbow are geared more towards juniors. They run about ten inches smaller than clothes in conventional plus sized stores such as Torrid. However I recommend trying stuff on. I am currently comfortably wearing a pair of microfiber leggings from Rainbow as I write this post… twelve bucks and they are still holding strong!

rainbowsizechart

 

Forever 21

My high school nemesis store! The many hours I have spent in there staring at clothing I could never buy! Oh the teenage angst of wanting to feel included and not left out….

Anywho… this particular Forever 21 was a two floor store. The 1st floor all regular and kids clothing and the 2nd floor was majority regular clothing with separate sections for their active wear, basics, and swimsuits; a small mens’ section; a small plus sized section; intimates, and accessories.

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The plus size section is in the back corner of the store behind the men’s and regular racks.

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Can you find it? I know I know … there is not a big sign waving you in the right direction like in Rainbow.  I’ll help you out… You see that purple wall way in the back? Yea that’s the room. The gray walls form the room for the men’s department.

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Picture of the room standing in the men’s department

 

The walls that make the room kind of conceal it and there are no predominate signs that point you to its location. There is a sign though when you get to it!

fe21act

Active wear comparison

The plus sized section had one rack dedicated to active wear while the regular sizes had their own room.

fe21swim

Bathing suits were also lacking in representation! Yup that is all they have.

As for the webpage, they are similar to Rainbow. They have an option for plus sizes on their front page. There is no clicking around until you find it. The selection is also pretty big. Much more than in the store.

fe21webpage

As for the sizes of the clothes they run slightly smaller than store dedicated to plus sizes. There is about a 2 to 4 inch difference.

fe21sizechart

I also did something I was never able to do when I was a teenager… I tried on clothes! As small as the section was this made me happy.

dress

No I did not buy this… too short for my taste!

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I sooo wanted this but there were 15 s and 1 m… no plus

Charlotte Russe

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Window display!

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Whole section in 1 picture!

Charlotte Ruuse did have a plus size section and it was advertised in their front window! The size of the section however was extremely small. You see that jetted out mini wall in the middle of the picture? That is where the plus sizes ended. Now much selection. It was kind of messy and unorganized. Nothing stood out for me to even want to try on.

Charlotteweb

The website like the previous ones has a link to plus sizes on their front page. The selection is bigger than in the store.

Charlottesize

The sizing is slightly smaller. Probably more geared towards juniors.  About 3 to 5 inches smaller. I could probably squeeze into a 3x but like I said before always try on you never know.

Old Navy

Old Navy is was a whole different animal than the other stores. There was no division of sizes in the store. Everything they carried was out on the floor together. Where you find a small you’ll find a 2x. Where you see a size 4 pants an 18 is not far away.

oldnavy1oldnavy

I liked this a lot. Clothing is clothing. Why should there be a divide? Let us shop together! I

Oldnavywebpage

What else is awesome about Old Navy? They apparently have a maternity line. Who know! I didn’t anyway… I have no children yet so no need to look for maternity clothes. Their plus link is also on the front page loud and proud along with a large selection.

Oldnavysize

The sizing at Old Navy is also right on par with those of Torrid and Lane Bryant. I never really have problems finding shirts that fit nicely from here. Although when I was a teen the only jeans I could purchase were from the men’s department… the shame…

“Side chick” treatment

So we looked at the clothing stores that are putting in some efforts of inclusion… now lets look at who gets the dubious honor of treating plus sizes like their “side chicks.” It was a tie!

This honor is bestowed upon both H&M and New York & Company!

H&M

No plus size clothes ANYWHERE to be found. They barely had XL.

But I heard that they had a plus size line. What does the website say…

hmweb

Nope… not there either. You need to click on ladies and look there the many options to find the H&M plus line.

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You see it now? Second row bottom…

I guess they just aren’t ready to come out as plus size supporters? I don’t know if this is the case for all H&M stores so if anyone out there has seen plus clothes in there store tell us about it! I was surprised to discover this especially after they did a spot back in the fall with Tess Holiday.  You can read about that here.

hmsizes

There sizes also run smaller than the stores dedicated to plus sizes.
New York & Company

Same treatment as H&M.  The website only shows the plus sizes when you click through it. The black screen in the middle popped up only after clicking on tops and then clicking on extended sizes.

NYCwebpageextended

Their extended sizes also seem to only go to an 18. At least that is an improvement for the inbetweeners. I certainly would have appreciated it when I was a teenager.

NYCsize

Conclusions

There were both good and bad to this store visit experience. It was uplifting to see that plus sized girls nowadays have so many more choices than we used to. Teens can go shopping together in most stores and have a chance to find something in their size. This is a start.  Rainbow and Old Navy seemed to do it best. They are also probably the ones that have been at it the longest. Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe seem to be heading in a positive direction but we want more than just a teaser!

I am not a fan of buying online because of the hassle to return if clothing doesn’t fit. I will religiously buy online from stores that I know how the clothes fit. This is the case with Torrid, Lane Bryant, and Ashley Stewart. This is why it is important to me that if you’re going to carry an online collection than there should be an in store presence.  Don’t get me started on Forever 21’s return policy… you only get store credit and within 21 days. There is no cash back if something doesn’t fit. That alone will prevent me from buying anything from them online.

H&M and New York & Company fared the worst. No in-store presence at all and the online collections are not prominently display like the other sites. New York & Company also only carries to size 18. While 18 is considered plus they are leaving out a large demographic of potential shoppers. There are people out there looking to buy cute plus sized clothing why would you not want to jump all in on that? It is okay to make larger clothes!

All in all there is hope. Let’s keep that ball rolling retailers!

What have your experiences with shopping been like? Did I miss any stores? Want me to look into other shops? Send me suggestions!

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10 thoughts on “Plus size shopping experience: Where is it at?

  1. Shopping is not fun. When I find a style or shape of jeans that works for me, if I can get the same pants in other colors I might get one or two. I live in colored t-shirts and jeans (my Mom uniform), so finding pretty, colorful t-shirts that have shape and aren’t too short, are just the ticket for me. I’d been wearing LL Bean t-shirts (I’m originally a New England girl), but lately, the plus sized shirts are just too short. So, I ordered a few basic T’s from Lands End online. I try to order when they have sales going, or when I can use an online coupon, so I got an assortment of colors, V-neck, regular neckline, and a scoop neck. Love the fabric and the length. And happy with the colors I bought (fuchsia, royal blue, coral, green, and a lovely rich purple- all jewel tones). And the most fun was when I selected my size, a message popped up telling me that it was not the size I usually select. I was ordering 2X, when for years I’ve been a 3X. I also have a heck of a time getting shoes to fit because I wear a 10 wide. Lands’ End carries shoes that I like in wide widths. So, living where I do, having a poor selection of stores with plus sizes (Lane Bryant is good but very expensive. I wear Walmart’s basic jeans at times. Once in a while I’ll find a t-shirt at K-mart that works. I discovered Catherine’s 2 summers ago when I was away on vacation, but their nearest store is over an hour away- and they’re very expensive.). I literally don’t own a skirt or dress that fits right now. Fortunately, I don’t need one.

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  2. I shop online all the time when there is an actual store close enough to me so I can return to store instead of the hassle of mailing stuff back. I’ve done this many times with Old Navy clothes for myself and my kids that didn’t work out. I prefer to shop online for Old Navy, too, because often, the sales are better! Last time I ordered from there, I think I got $150 worth of clothes (original prices) but only paid $80 with discounts and sales — more than 45% off… which is awesome because I can shop for my entire family there… and return to store if needed. 🙂

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  3. Torrid is my absolute favorite… and pretty much the only store I will frequent. They cater to my style and taste AND their clothes are very well made, if a tab pricey. There’s usually always a sale going on, though, which helps.

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  4. Great post!!! I’m more of a Torrid and Lane Bryant girl. Torrid for jeans and casual clothing and Lane Bryant for more formal/professional items and coats. I don’t see myself shopping at those stores who have just jumped on the plus size bandwagon because it’s profitable. I don’t feel comfortable in those stores and I’d rather go where my size is carried in abundance.

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  9. Interesting article. I’d say my experience is very different – mostly because I’m not looking for young, hip clothing. I grew up in an era where the only clothing for fat girls was matronly pantsuits or tents dresses. There was a period of time when you could get some decent pant or pastel cotton shirt – but those days are long gone and so I have shopped in men’s stores for years. Fortunately, I have pretty straight hips so there are men’s pants I can wear – not so true for my spouse who has the big hip then 10 inches of fabric around the waist problem with men’s pants.
    Here are the reasons I have trouble with plus-sized women’s … too much lace, and beading and “feminine” frilly things. Too many skirts and dresses — haven’t worn one of those since 1985 – and that was on a dare!! Tight pants. 3/4 length shirts and pants. Too much polyester or rayon or other what the heck fabric. Too many ugly prints (rarely anything a solid color). Too many frilly shirts that can’t possibly keep you warm in the winter. I prefer comfortable, simple clothing – more butch than feminine. I want simple – or dressing in a plain/professional way – and 100% cotton (haven’t seen that in a woman’s store in years – even the damn jeans have limited cotton)! And so – here I go back to the men’s store again – my preferred taste. Sometimes it’s more expensive (like DXL) but they have women there who are very supportive when I go in. King Size is catalog only – and sometimes not great quality. Occasionally I can find something at Target or K-Mart (men’s department). So – my quest continues.

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