So I was in the “woman’s department” at Target recently, looking for pants, when I saw this great pair of jeans with an expandable cotton insert in the front. I got all excited, thinking, “Finally. Thanksgiving pants!” I thought the new expandable feature was for those days when you’ve just got to have a second helping and don’t want your waistband digging into your liver.
That’s when I realized I’d crossed some imaginary line into the maternity department. What’s up with this, Target? Whose bright idea was it to put the plus-sized and pregnant gals together? I think I can safely say that neither party likes their end of the equation. Women of size find it mortifying to be mistaken for pregnant, and I’ve yet to meet a pregnant gal who wants to be called fat.
I’ve been mistaken for pregnant. Not flattering. I was 22 and riding a New York City bus in an empire-waist bohemian dress I borrowed from my friend, Jen. I’m sitting there, minding my own business, reading about Shirley MacLaine’s past lives as a Hebrew slave and Turkish harem girl, when the lady sitting next to me asks, “So when are you due?” I was so flabbergasted, I didn’t know how to respond. More concerned with this lady’s feelings than my own, I didn’t want to embarrass her by saying “I’m not with child, you imbecile,” so I just smiled and said, “Uh … July!”
Anyway, Target isn’t alone in grouping plus sizes with maternity. Lots of other department stores do it, too. I recently went to buy a few work items at Macy’s in South Tampa, only to discover that large women and pregnant women weren’t even on the same floor as everyone else. I had to go to the third floor, past the towels, linens and housewares to the farthest corner of the department store universe, where maternity appeared to stand alone. Then I had to walk through maternity to the plus sizes. It couldn’t have been any more remote if they’d had an Agatha Christie bookcase where you pull a copy of War and Peace and the wall slides opens to reveal a secret room.
Apparently, Macy’s is so ashamed that large people shop there, they have to keep me hidden behind the toaster ovens. I felt like I was playing hide and seek. (No one will find the big girl up here. Who’d think to look behind the frying pans?)
And while we’re on this topic, can someone please tell department stores that being a little meaty doesn’t mean I have a lower IQ? They’re always reminding me of my gender, in case I forget. While every other clothing department has a catchy name like “Savvy” and “Point of View,” plus sizes are always in a special zone called “Macy’s Woman” … “Dillard’s Woman.” Trust me when I say that, when I look in the mirror, I never mistake myself for a kangaroo. If they’re going to separate me, they can at least bolster my self-esteem with a name like “Macy’s Most Beautiful Woman.” Let it at least seem exclusive. Kudos to Nordstrom for calling their plus-sized department “Encore.” Applause is good.
Now, I will acknowledge that the fashion world has come a long way. There was a time when anyone over a size 16 had to shop in a completely separate store. You couldn’t even share the same air space as someone with protruding hip bones. I remember needing a dress for a wedding and having to shop at a NYC boutique called The Forgotten Woman. As if the name wasn’t humiliating enough, they had to plaster it across their shopping bags. I remember flipping the handles around so the logo would face my leg … only to discover that this clueless establishment had sprung for double-sided bags. I felt like I was carrying a neon sign that flashed “Hey, world! I bought this in a fat lady’s store!”
While age has granted me the wisdom to know that nobody on the street was looking at my bag, I do remember feeling separated out, when all I wanted to do was fit in. It seemed like everywhere I turned, society wanted to make sure I knew I wasn’t its “ideal.” Back in the eighties, if you went to buy a pair of pantyhose, the first size was size A, the second size was size B, and the third size was C. Then they jumped to Q for Queensize. I never asked to be royalty. All I wanted was a passing grade!
(Incidentally, that was the inspiration for the name of my blog. I figured if the garment district was going to label me a queen, I might as well embrace my royal title.)
For the longest time, clothing manufacturers thought plus-sized gals had an incurable love of muted colors and polyester. So I do want to thank the fashion world for small triumphs. At last they realize that not being a size 6 doesn’t mean you long for clothes that would melt to your skin in a flash fire. I do have one hip bone to pick, though. Why must big girl tops be BeDazzled? What designer thought “Hey, let’s throw glitter on the fat girl?” And why won’t this trend go away? I don’t want to show up at work looking like I’m ready to take the stage at the Bellagio.
But I guess I shouldn’t press my luck. At least department stores now carry large sizes. And that’s a win. Which is why I thought they were, at last, embracing me as a customer. But when I was searching for the plus sizes at Macy’s, I felt like I was being directed to the naughty corner – sent to time-out for having a Twinkie.
Is it asking too much for the large sizes to be stuck in there with everyone else? How about a rack that goes from 0 to 30? You don’t see anyone else being singled out. Okay, maybe the short people. I’m one of those, too. Which leads me to wonder why tall people have slipped under the radar. You never see extra tall mannequins hovering above the pack like those horrible cell phone towers that are decorated to look like genetically mutated trees.
It’s 2015. As a culture, we’ve embraced diversity. The department store catalogs and Sunday mailers now make sure to include blacks, whites, Asians, people in wheelchairs, children with Down Syndrome. Now I’d like to see fashionable big girls on the same page as fashionable thin girls.
Nobody should be sitting in the back of the bus!