The Bewildering Experience That Is Plus Size Shopping

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Plus size clothing shopping can be difficult and confusing. You know who can really help plus size women shop? The retail clothing industry. Here is how.

plus size clothing shopping

Dear Retail Stores, We're Looking At You

Plus size clothing shopping has been recently outed as an utterly frustrating experience. Sizes aren't consistent across stores and brands and the retail clothing industry hasn't caught up with tailoring their clothes and styles to the plus size woman. There's a lot of work to be done here. On VProud there is a wonderfully eye-opening video and conversation about what shopping is like for plus size women. The video focuses on the issue of inconsistent fit and sizing. Below, writer and mother Shaun Strohmer reflects on the video and puts the onus to do better on the retail clothing industry and on stores that sell women's clothing. We think that she is onto something. Take a look at Shaun's essay about the seemingly obvious and simple ways stores can do better for plus size women.

—The VProud Team

shopping for plus sizes

How Plus Size Shopping Can And Should Be A Better Experience

By Shaun Strohmer for VProud

When my husband inherited a fantastic custom-made suit, he needed a shirt to go with it. We hit the men’s department at Macy’s, where the shirts were organized by neck size, sleeve length, and fit —regular or slim. Find your numbers, pick a color, and done.

We were in a hurry, so I didn’t shop for myself. It’s no news to anyone that women’s clothing – plus size or not – comes in a bewildering array of sizes. The numbers correspond to no actual measurement, they aren’t consistent among brands, and they change over time. There’s no quick trip through the plus-size department.

For everyday clothing, I shop online. I have my uniform: the same scoop-neck tee, cardigan, and jeans, easy and comfortable. All it took was several years of trial and error – sigh – and I go about my business not even thinking about my clothes.

But what if I want to think about my clothes? What if I’m going to a wedding, a play, or a party? Double sigh. We’ve all seen the proof that plus-size women can look gorgeous, but I’m talking about women with no stylist, no trust fund, and limited time. What are the choices? You could shop online, fill up the credit card, and then spend a few hours boxing most of it back up and standing in line at the post office. Or you could spend those hours under the florescent hum of the mall lights, trying on at least three sizes of anything that looks acceptable. Nope, I think I’ll go back to not thinking.

Stores could make it easier. In fact, they already do in some departments! Consistent, meaningful sizing would help, yes, but what about logical organizing? When I shopped with my husband we went to the shirt section and then the tie section—dress shirts weren’t spread throughout the store by designer or size.

While I’m making a wish list, how about meaningful descriptions? What are Girlfriend Jeans, anyway? Throw in some mannequins who can wear the clothes with out safety pinning the garments beyond recognition, too. We could really dream big and mix the plus-size clothes right in there with the regulars, so that average size-14 woman can find a more fun way to exercise than running from one side of the store – or mall – to the other.

Plus-size shopping challenges aren’t going away. Weight is distributed differently, and some people will want to flaunt what others cover up. But it could be less stressful, and maybe even a little fun, if retailers entrusted women of all sizes with the same basic information they give men, and put it somewhere we could find it.

shaun strohmer vproud
Shaun Strohmer writes online content for businesses, for educators and students, and for fun. She is passionate about all the nerdy stuff — history, literature, philosophy, science — but she also loves watching inappropriate comedies with her husband and teen daughters. Her personal writing about education and trying to walk a road less traveled appears sporadically at Join Shaun's honest conversations on VProud.

Join This Honest Conversation

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