09 November 2013

thigh gaps and why chip wilson isn't wrong

This week, there were two very interesting stories in the news related to clothes and plus size shoppers.

First we start with Abercrombie, a brand (in)famous for being very vocal about not wanting plus size shoppers in their store as several months ago the CEO Mike Jeffries stated that he only wanted the cool kids wearing their label and he doesn't consider plus size women cool.

That is, not until the traditional cool kids suddenly decide they don't want to wear Abercrombie anymore. The popularity of the brand is declining among teenagers so now all of a sudden Abercrombie in what can only be described as an act of sheer desperation has suddenly realized there is an entire market of shoppers it has been ignoring.

Dear Abercromie: We are not a consolation prize. You don't get to tell us you don't want us and then change your mind when

It's like the a sorority (and I use this as an extreme example knowing most aren't like this) going after the niece of the famous actress and ignoring all of the other girls at the rush party. Then, when the sought-after niece chooses to join another sorority, turning to those other girls and saying "Oh, don't be silly! We wanted you all along!"

Yeah. No.

Then we have athletic brand lululemon whose founder Chip Wilson recently stated: "some women's bodies just actually don't work [with lululemon clothes]. It's about the rubbing through the thighs and how much pressure is there."

Wilson was referring to the debacle back in March where some of their pants were notoriously sheer. Like, bare it all in yoga class while in Down Dog sheer. At the time, lululemon stated some of the problem of the sheerness could be traced to shoppers buying sizes that were too small for their body.

Okay. Now. I'm about to make a rather controversial statement right now, but I'm going to own it:

Chip Wilson isn't exactly wrong. 

I know it's quick to jump on the soap box and get all mad at the man who is seemingly fat-shaming yoga practicing women everywhere. And perhaps his words could have been a bit more, well, diplomatic. But the fact remains that what he said is not incorrect.

And to prove my case I'm going to give you two personal examples from my own life:

If there is one thing you need to know about me it's that I have a flair for anything vintage but especially vintage fashion. In fact, just the other week I took a What Character from the Whovian Universe quiz are you and it came back a Weeping Angel, the description even mentioned "your unique, vintage-y style" so you know it has to be legit.

But I digress.

When it comes to vintage and/or retro clothes I absolutely adore and love full-skirt dresses. You know, very 1950s Betty Draper kind of things that flounce and bounce with layers of crinoline underneath.

Here's the thing: skirts like that look absolutely awful on me. They make a girl with full hips look even hippier. And I don't mean the Woodstock kind (though, well, I am a little crunchy granola but whatevs). The cut of those dresses truncates my torso and blech. I continue to try those dresses on because they are so adorable but I never come home with them. Instead I have a closet full of Joan Holloway-esque pencil skirts which look absolutely devoon on my figure.

Now. Am I going to blame the clothing companies, both vintage and contemporary, for producing a faulty dress? Am I really going to call up Ralph Lauren and bitch him out because the dress that looked absolutely fabulous on the hanger looked absolutely horrid on me? (And, seriously, that one dress really did look so cute.)

Of course not. Why?

Because, and I quote, my hips "just actually don't work" with that style of clothing.

It's not that there is something wrong with my body or that all of the full-skirt designing designers are out to get me. Same with skinny jeans: I just can't wear them because I end up with a bizarre inverted triangle look  but that doesn't mean the denim industry hates me. We're just two puzzle pieces that don't fit together.

That's my first story. For my second story I'm going to go back, way back, back to when I was in college and wearing Lane Bryant jeans. I don't know what it was about those stupid jeans, maybe it was the material or the quality or maybe it was my size 20 thighs, but I was constantly creating holes and patches in the inner thigh area. Constantly. The fabric would just get worn from the natural friction. Or, as Chip Wilson said, "It's about the rubbing through the thighs and how much pressure is there."

Ladies. Look. Let's all be honest with each other here, okay? Thighs touch. It happens. And if you have thighs that touch, and especially if you have large thighs that touch, there is probably going to be rubbing. I know it and you know it so let's just get that all out of the way. I didn't wear skirts or dresses for years because of this issue. It wasn't until I discovered the magic of Spanx and finally had an undergarment that acted as a sort of buffer that I felt comfortable.

While we would all like to believe that if you're spending $100 on yoga pants or $50 on a pair of jeans that they quality of material and construction would be enough to withstand that sort of thing, we all know that's not how the world works. The amount you pay for an article of clothing has absolutely nothing to do with the ultimate quality and you are kidding yourself if you think otherwise. Those $100 pants may very well be made with $5 quality fabric. So even though I was paying an arm and a leg for jeans coming from a clothing store that only sold to plus size women, the rubbing through the thighs was a very real issue that caused problems with the clothing regardless of who the brand marketed itself to. So, yes, businesses and brands DO have to take responsibility for using low quality material and basically extorting their customers just to turn a profit.

But in the instance of yoga pants, stretchy material can only stretch so far before the natural holes in the stitches of the fabric pull themselves apart. For instance, I am currently wearing a pair of fabulous Old Navy athletic pants that I adore. They are solid black, no sheerness.

However, if I take the leg cuff of the pant and pull it and stretch it, I can clearly see my hands and fingers underneath. These pants are solid black because I'm wearing the correct size, which in this case is an XL. But if I were to go back and pick up a L or a M, the stretchy material may allow me to get into the pants but there will be patches of sheerness. It's how it works with this type of fabric. I'm not saying that actually was what was happening with the lululemon yoga pants, I'm just saying it's possible. That the particular statement regarding women not wearing the correct size and ending up with sheer pants was not coming out of left field.

Was Chip Wilson calling women fat? Maybe. I can't speak for Chip Wilson and the rest of the lululemon brand. I don't know what the motivation or agenda was behind his comments and I can appreciate why it seems easy to accuse him of fat shaming his clientele. And I also know that he's made other very controversial comments in the past (after posting this someone alerted me to his comment about breast cancer) so he's not entirely innocent and I'm not defending every comment the man has ever made ever.

But what I am saying is that when I examine this specific comment with logic and a bit of personal perspective I can, clearly, think of multiple instances where what he has said has happened to me.

We have to pick and choose our battles and for me Chip Wilson's vague maybe he did maybe he didn't comments are not one of those battles while Abercrombie actually say we were not wanted and then trying to pretend it was some weird game of telephone miscommunication is worthy of whatever snark it has coming its way.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

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