February 18, 2020
"And all of those statements have made me realize that it’s time to share a little story with the outdoor community, who has blissfully been living under a rock for the past decade about what’s going on in the apparel world." - FemiGnarly
Last week, plus size social media influencer Marielle Williams penned a piece for The Cut, “Apparently, I’m Too Fat to Ski.” My response was, “homegirl, preach” since my work experience in women’s apparel has made it painfully obvious when brands are biased against plus size potential customers. (If you haven’t read the low down of the differences and slight challenges between straight sizes and plus sizes, hit it up here first). But the ski community’s take on the piece was a little less supportive – not outright mean, but served with a heavy-handed dismissiveness.
The most common comments centered around 3 narratives:
- What about (short people or tall people)? Poster proceeds to speak to the struggles of shopping as a 5’8” man.
- Poster notes that they know one plus size woman who was satisfied with one of the 4-5 options of snow pants on the market for larger women, makes do with something from the men’s department, or (my personal favorite) she doesn’t need anything more than a pair of jeans coated with Scotchgard.
- If it really made sense for the business financially, brands would do it. The fact that they’re not offering those products means it’s very likely that it would be a poor choice for their bottom line.
And all of those statements have made me realize that it’s time to share a little story with the outdoor community, who has blissfully been living under a rock for the past decade about what’s going on in the apparel world.
Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, plus size apparel was treated as a completely separate product group from “women’s,” with a design aesthetic centered on boring, high coverage basics that were hidden in the far corners of department stores. Then we were blessed with the internet, which did 2 things. First, it freed us from department store layouts that were built in the 1960s and were no longer optimized for the American woman. With an endless aisle, brands were able to test styles in ways that were less committing than filling racks across hundreds or thousands of stores. But more importantly, it created a platform to connect plus size women. Fat women were yearning for options that were more interesting options and were quick to build blogs and start Instagram pages dedicated to unique finds and creative pairings. Influencers racked up hundreds of thousands of followers, the plus size hashtags had hits in the millions and retailers suddenly had easily accessed data points that informed them exactly who their plus size customer was and what she wanted. (Spoiler, it lined up perfectly with what these women had been asking for for years).