As a size 14/XL fashion blogger, one of my top pet peeves is being denied the experience of brick and mortar shopping.
I would love to spend a Saturday out shopping with girlfriends, but I almost never do it. And here’s why: even though I represent the average size woman in this country, I can’t walk into most brick and mortar stores and fit clothing on my body.
Take J.Crew and Madewell for instance. Two brands that are steeped in Americana and accessibility, unless you wear above a Large in which case you are directed to shop online. Let me repeat, I wear the average size in this country, but I can’t walk into J.Crew and buy a sweater! Does anyone else think that is nuts? My bruised ego aside (and trust me, it is bruised), do these retailers know how much money they are leaving on the table? Jenna Lyons, I love you girl but what are you thinking?!
Looking at it objectively, it’s not hard to see how this came about. As the ultimate luxury good, fashion has always been an industry built on exclusivity. Unless you possess the required means, access and body type, high fashion simply is not available to most.
Maybe the problem is that for too long this high fashion “you can’t sit with us" mindset has trickled down to the retail level, creating a world where average women like myself can’t walk into an average store and shop.
But if the old model is a trickle down from fashion into retail, I think we are starting to see a new model: a trickle up from social media into retail.
Thanks to social media, body positive women like Ashley Graham, Iskra and their over 6 million combined followers have given a voice to an entire swath of previously ignored women. Women like me who spend on handbags because we can’t walk into a store and buy clothing, or who are too frustrated with shopping to enjoy it as an activity with friends.
Thanks to the influence of social media, we are seeing mass brands start to welcome more of us with open arms. This can only mean a win-win for everyone, retailers included (cha-ching!). Aerie has been at the forefront of this with their popular #unretouched campaign and commitment to inclusive sizing in their brick and mortar stores. At Ann Taylor there are rumblings of a plus line launching this year (yes please!). And while Kate Spade isn't exactly a mass clothing retailer, did you know they carry up to size 16 in store?
I think we all know there’s enough room for everyone in the retail world. And it’s refreshing to see brands starting to wake up! Here’s to hoping the day that I can walk into J.Crew and buy a sweater can’t be far off.
Katie Sturino is a size 12(ish) New Yorker who believes great style can look chic at any size. She started the12ishstyle.com to introduce girls like her who wear sizes 12-18 to fashion forward brands across extended and plus sizes. Click here to read her piece on Turning "Big" Into Business.