Since middle school, I haven’t gone shopping in stores with a friend once. What I thought would be a pastime for me and my friends through adulthood—grabbing coffee and lunch, perusing the aisles, talking over trends, gawking at the hilarious graphic T-shirts that just won’t die—never was possible for me. Being plus-size, I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with the embarrassment and shame of having to tell my friend that I have to shop in a different part of the store, usually on an entirely different floor, to be able to look at clothes that will fit me.
No matter when I was a 14, 16, 18, or 20, the sentiment has stayed the same: Shopping in the store isn’t easy. I’ve avoided it at all costs the last few years. When I was in a bigger size, they simply never carried options for me. Then, they finally had my size, but I had to go to some tiny little corner to find it. Now at a 14, I can find my size, but when their 14 doesn’t fit, I have to do the embarrassing walk of shame out of the dressing room to avoid the attendant asking if I want them to grab me a bigger size and I have to say, “There isn’t one.”
This has culminated to horrible body image, a discomfort around talking about clothes with friends, and a closet full of items I hate because I was too self-conscious to be honest about the way something fit. Not having options to shop in store is hurting plus-size women, and I can’t possibly imagine how businesses haven’t noticed it yet either. Plus-size people will purchase your clothes if you give them the chance.
So you’ll see how elated I was when Old Navy announced they would no longer have a separate section of their store for plus sizes; all plus-size garments would live with straight sizes in order of size as they always have. All plus-size options will be carried in store, and when shopping online, you can shop your size through the same links rather than having to toggle over to a “plus-size” tab on the site. They will offer sizes 0-28 and XS-4X in stores and sizes 0-30 online. The brand will also showcase all garments on three models: size 4, 12, and 18. Mannequins in the stores will also represent those three sizes.
Along with Old Navy, other stores that keep all of their sizing together include Good American, Target online (and with their Who What Wear Collection in store), Madewell, J.Crew, and Skims. Other brands that offer models in different sizes include Madewell and Girlfriend Collective. Nike made news in 2019 for finally including a plus-size mannequin in their stores, but many other stores haven’t caught on yet.
As you can see, there is a lot of headway to be made in this area of the fashion industry, and it’s exciting to see a brand as big as Old Navy step to the plate. We hope to see other brands take similar ventures too. Shopping when you’re over a size 14 shouldn’t have to be so difficult, and while it might take some capital to get started, the response from the plus-size market will be well worth it.
It’s frustrating that it took this long for brands to see how uncomfortable it is to keep plus sizes in a different part of the store, but it excites me for a future where I can shop with all of my friends. I should have the same luxury to peruse a store with a Starbucks in hand as my size 8 friends—and finally, a big brand like Old Navy realizes that.