Update: Lane Bryant has apologized.
So! Earlier today, it seems someone at the Lane Bryant Marketing Gulag fell asleep at the switch. Maybe they were hungover following a raucous night of obnoxious-print-draped debauchery. Maybe they were delirious from the smell of the chemicals out of which their clothing is made. Whatever the reason, someone thought it was a good idea to tweet the following, which I have taken the liberty of screencapping:
Whence does the link go, my dears? It goes to the Cafe Press store of Natalie Perkins, also known as the fancy lady behind Definatalie.com. Specifically the link goes to a t-shirt on which one of Natalie’s designs is printed, a cheeky little talk-bubble asking “Does my fat arse look fat in this?” (Myself, I went for the gym bag emblazoned with “fat” on one side — it arrived today and I look forward to carrying it around my local L.A. Fitness with an obnoxious degree of self-importance.)
The sum total being that giant apparel-vomiting corporate manufacturer Lane Bryant — and let’s be straight here, Lane Bryant’s Twitter feed is representing the public face of the company, for better or worse — thought it was totally acceptable to rag on an independent plus-sized artist and blogger who lives in bloody buggery Australia for making a t-shirt that they deem “unnecessary”.
As a result of this misstep, Lane Bryant’s taken a pretty sound beating on Twitter today. They responded to a few at first, and then quickly developed selective hearing on the subject (HAY LOOK GUYS A DRESS WITH A ZIPPER!*). I am left to wonder if they’re listening.
Back in the day, the original Fatshionista LiveJournal Community — for which I was a member of the incredible and tireless mod team for nearly five years before taking a leave of absence a couple months ago — was a common outlet for folks looking to vent about lousy customer service or unfair company policies in the plus-size fashion world. What it could also do was act as a staging area for folks to mobilize and organize responses to these issues. Old Navy was yanking plus sizes out of stores, and the Fatshionista army was there to demand free return shipping (which was later taken away, but still). Torrid used really bizarre and ethnically-offensive item descriptions, and after many outraged emails, not only were the descriptions changed, but an apology was issued. The plus size tights at We Love Colors? Used to suck. Lo, did they suck mightily. The Fats LJ community was instrumental in helping them not to suck so much anymore. These are just a few examples off the top of my head.
I’m not personally real big into consumer advocacy. I respect and admire the folks who are motivated to do it, but it’s just not my bag. So I’ve always been amazed when the workings of a bunch of angry fat customers on a LiveJournal community could actually change things. It reminds me, as it should remind us all, that even though we may be fighting tremendous cultural forces, there are people who have our backs, maybe even people we don’t know, but who share our hopes for a world where all bodies are respected and appreciated.
I’m not going to suggest we boycott Lane Bryant. It’s a sad and sorry state of affairs, but for many people living in large swathes of the US, Lane Bryant is IT. You can’t tell folks to boycott the only store that carries clothing that fits them. Lane Bryant knows this, to an extent — and certainly, fat people who aren’t self-loathing may actually demand clothing from them that is of better quality and more, well, fashionable. But you know, it’s not such a radical idea that a plus-size clothing store should want to promote itself as a place where plus-size-wearing people can go to feel good about themselves. It’s not so unthinkable that such an environment would be good for business. And it seems to go without saying that dissing a prominent plus-size blogger and thereby alienating many of that store’s customers — hilariously, many of their most vocal customers at that! — is not the wisest way of going about it.
But you have a voice. As a customer, you have a right, if not a responsibility, to stand up and speak out when a company you patronize — in this case, because you may not have any other choice — does something wrong. I don’t know if Lane Bryant is listening — of my many experiences witnessing Mass Fatshionista Wrath, Lane Bryant has not been particularly responsive. But you can still speak up. Maybe they’ll hear. Maybe they’ll even listen. At minimum, maybe they’ll realize that if they can’t stomach the idea of body-positivity, then they should keep to quietly producing clothing and leave the politics to the rest of us.
*Extreme inside joke: one wonders if Aria is running their Twitter feed.
ETA: YOU MUST ALSO CONSULT THIS AMAZING OLD SPICE GUY / LANE BRYANT SPOOF BY POLIANA. So fucking brilliantly hilarious. I am dead.
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