Speaking of Underpants

Why yes, you can buy this shirt. Just click on the image!

I write about underpants a surprising amount on this blog.  Typically it’s the phrase “I am the boss of my underpants, you can be the boss of yours.”  By reader request I even designed a shirt about this, which is to say that I talk about it a lot.

As much as I talk about underpants I don’t think about them very often.  Until a couple of ddays ago when bought some panties at Ye Olde Fat Girl Store.  One pair of panties for 12.50.  They had a 3 for $29 deal going on but, as is typical for me, the panties I wanted didn’t qualify.  I’m not going to post a picture or anything because it’s not that kind of website but trust me they are cute panties and they seemed really expensive but I splurged  (And my sincere apologies to my work colleagues who are reading this and would probably rather not think about my  underpants.).

Anyway, later that day I was in the mall at a comparable store that doesn’t specialize in clothes for fatties and I saw a pair of panties that looked almost exactly like my most recent underwear acquisition.  And they were $3.33.  And they came up to an XL which, according to the chart, was one size smaller than my size.  My CEO brain kicked in and asked  – how does one size justify a 73% increase in price? I considered several options:

Extra Fabric

My panties just don’t use enough additional fabric to justify that kind of price increase.


Maybe they make more straight sizes than plus sizes?  Except that I can’t look at the health section on CNN without hearing that over 60% of people are big fat fatties so shouldn’t our clothes be cheaper since we make up the majority of clothing buyers? Or is that number grossly exaggerated?

Buying Power

I’ve heard that plus size clothing lines struggle because fat women don’t like to buy themselves nice clothes.  It’s been hypothesized that it’s because we have poor self-esteem or because we are always waiting to buy clothes until we lose weight.  Maybe that’s true but I have a hard time believing that we don’t all buy panties. Even the panties on sale in the fat girl store were $9.60 per pair.  Still a 66% increase.


So what’s the deal with my $12.50 undies? Because right now it’s looking like the stores that don’t want to stigmatize me want to price gouge me because they can. Because fat people need underpants. And if that’s what is happening, then it’s bullshit. If that’s not what’s happening – then I’m looking for an explanation.

36 thoughts on “Speaking of Underpants

  1. While researching something else I came upon a great piece in the LA Times which is related to this–my favorite lines were the one about how it’s easier to find fashionable clothes for a chihuahua than a fat woman, and the ones pointing out that fat people and the plus size fashion industry have sort of a feedback loop of mistrust going on. It’s archived here: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/01/image/ig-size1

  2. I’ve noticed that about panties (the cost thing). The other thing I noticed is that when you have one style that you like, that fits awesomely, and is only made by one brand, the company quits carrying it online and you can only find it in one store (JMS, I’m looking at you). I love the satin stretch hi-cut panties that Just My Size makes. I used to be able to buy them online and get a lot of different colors/prints when I ordered them. The last time I ordered them, all I got was black/beige – I ordered 2 pkgs, 2 pair per pkg, got 1 black, 1 beige in each pkg. When I wrote JMS to ask what was up with that, they said that they sent what they had on hand, depending on what their supplier sent them (these panties were 2 pair for 9.89).
    Now, Wal-Mart used to carry these same panties, but when they quit carrying a lot of products, these panties were one of the first things to go (it figures, fat women don’t need panties, right?). But since people complained, and WM is adding those products back, my panties are back. And guess what? I can get them in about 20 different colors/prints, 3 pair to a package, for $11.97 a pkg. Oh, and the icing on that cake? JMS doesn’t even carry them anymore, at all.
    So every time I go to WM, I go by the display of JMS panties, to see if they have any new colors/prints that I don’t have yet, and if they do, I buy them. So far, I have 18 pair and not a repeat of color/print in them yet. They even have the microfiber ones, in the same colors/prints, in the hi-cuts. I haven’t tried those yet, but I might, just to see if they fit as well as the stretch satin ones (same price, 3/$11.97). The nice thing about these is that they wear well too, meaning they last for a long time (I’d had my old ones for 5 years before I needed to start replacing them).

    1. I love the JMS panties, but I have to wear the cotton ones. I was upset when WM stopped carrying the size 14, but have since lost some weight (not intentional, just diagnosed diabetic) and the 13’s fit quite well. They also last very well for me. I will wear any of the styles as long as they are cotton. Hubby bought me some Hanes to try and they fit ok too.

  3. Here in UK Marks & Spencer, which is where many women, including apparently Margaret Thatcher, buy their knickers, they often only have white, beige or black in stock in bigger sizes. Last time I was very lucky because they had some white lacy ones in my size. However, the big sizes in M&S are the same price as the small sizes. Because there was a huge outcry about discrimination when they started variable pricing of bras, larger sizes and larger cups being more expensive.

  4. So true. I am so done with Lane Bryant’s “5 for $30” panties. (Or, as you point out, $12 each? How does that even work.) I just bought some that came in a pack of 6 for $8 (Hanes, I think) and they fit quite well and I am pleased with them.

    At least in the case of LB, the markup over straight-sized clothes is totally ridiculous.

    While we’re ranting about underthings, I am wildly jealous of people who can buy bras for less than $50 a pop…

    1. While we’re ranting about underthings, I am wildly jealous of people who can buy bras for less than $50 a pop…

      I am jealous of this too. Or even people who can walk into a store and expect that:

      1) The store will carry their size.
      2) The fitters will understand that their size actually exists (Victoria’s Secret people, I fart in your general direction!).

      1. I walked into a VS, and walked right back out again. I mistakenly thought that a store of just underthings would have a range of sizes. Not only that, but the staff didn’t seem to want me in the store.

        My bras are problematic, but I found Wacoal bras in Macy’s in a comfortable G cup, and they were lacy and pretty.

      2. As far as I know, Wacoal sizes run so that G is the equivalent of DDDD. I go further down the alphabet than that. 😉

        I have to admit, at this point, I am not afraid of calling my local VS on their shit. (They tend to station representatives in the mall outside their store to pitch to/accost passersby.) They always ask me to come in for a free fitting. I tell them, “Why should I, when you don’t carry my band size *or* my cup size?”

    2. Oh we will not discuss bras. I HATE buying bras which is why I pretty much only have a couple and I wear them until they literally fall apart. I really should look into new bras, it’s been a few years and they’re getting stretched out because I’ve been using them for nursing bras too. *sigh* Yeah, bras are bad enough to find when you’re a big girl like me but nursing bras? Forget it. I’m like a size 44/46 H/I/J, it’s impossible to find a regular bra that fits much less a nursing bra.

  5. This is awesome and SO true. While I can actually FIT into an XL of L pair of Underpants…(somehow while I was gaining the weight my underwear size didn’t change, weird that) But I can shop at the fancy little gal stores like Victoria’s Secret (which DOES make the larger panties a LITTLE more expensive then the regular sized ones I noticed that one day ) Or Target where the selection is great, but they are often OUT of my size because everyone is buying THAT size.
    Your points are very valid, and it;s so interesting that we don’t think about stuff like that. We want to be beautiful and have something satiny of frilly or lacy under our clothes sometimes (instead of plan boring cotton) every day. Hell there are even STYLES that are NOT geared towords Fat ladies. Like those “Boy shorts” Pssshhhh….there is no freaking way. I have tried. But everyone deserves to have a little something nice under their cloths to feel pretty no matter what size they are.

    1. I can pull off boy shorts but bikini? Nope. I can’t do the high cut stuff either. Just doesn’t feel right. And not all boyshorts feel right. I have a couple of pairs of lacy panties that fit fine and then a few pairs of cotton boyshorts that simply do not fit right at all and spend most of the time on me riding up places underwear should not ride up, if you get my drift!

      1. I actually wear string bikini cut underwear or bikini cut, because it is what I have always worn, so like my fat just grew around the shape/indentation on my hips that the panties made LOL. But because of that, most regular pairs of underpants don’t fit right. SO yeah I get what you are saying, and the pairs of different cut panties that I find that DI fit right tend to be a bit “cheeky” in that the expose more of the thigh/cheek and yes they ride up, but they’re cute, so tis the price we pay I suppose.

  6. I reached this conclusion about fat lady clothes in general recently. I start a new job at the end of the month, and felt the need to buy some new clothes that are a bit “nicer” than my usual t-shirts, so I ordered some sale items from ASOS Curve. I kept three of five dresses, all in the twenty dollar range, on sale from the fifty dollar range. The cuts were cute – but the fabrics were dreadful. Tissue-thin, wrinkle-prone, a bit scratchy. For twenty bucks I’ll cope – but if I’d spent full price? I’d have been furious. No way straight sized clothes would be so cheaply made but cost so much. I think companies do it because they know they can: fat women are so desperate for somewhat contemporary, stylish clothes that they know they have us over a barrel, and so they gouge us. Why can’t I get some sturdy damn cotton clothes, cut and made well? It’s infuriating.

    1. I am so with you on the fabrics. I have undies in similar styles from a straight-size brand XL and in a plus brand XL, and the plus brand’s fabrics are AWFUL (and were more expensive, and less well-constructed).

      And recently, I bought what I thought was the only rayon dress in the plus size department (all the other dresses were polyester, which I don’t like in any season, but REFUSE to wear in the summer). Turns out it was actually a maternity dress.

      Apparently pregnant women need clothes that breathe, but fat women should just get used to sweltering.

  7. They gouge because they can. (I just heard a snippet of a newscast – I am weak on the specifics, but the airline industry just got a reduction in the taxes the consumer has to pay. So they are all raising their prices to make up for the difference.) Ahhh capitalism!

    But also, I would love to know what the comparable costs are for men’s underthings? I admit that bras, especially big ones, can be elaborate constructions, but I think a pair of Y-fronts/briefs actually has more going on construction-wise than women’s panties do.

  8. I have no evidence at my fingertips to back this up, but from what I have heard, larger body size is correlated with lower income. So maybe even though there are more larger women, they make up a smaller share of the market in total dollars spent. This might particularly be true for ‘fancy’ underwear, a luxury item. Just thinking/typing out loud…?

  9. In my view the problem isn’t that the specialty store charges more, it’s that the discount stores don’t carry larger sizes.

    You could tell this same story about price differences and replace the specialty store for large women with Victoria Secret. You find cute panties. They’re expensive, you splurge, go to a cheaper store, and see almost the exact same pair.

    But then, you’d just buy the cheap ones in your size and return the expensive ones to VS. There’s no option for that if you are beyond the sizes at the cheap store.

    There will always be higher priced specialty stores–and that’s great. Now, if we can only convince the discount retailers to expand their size selection, this is a non-issue. There’s a big difference between paying more at a specialty store because you believe the quality/design/fashion/etc is better and paying more at a specialty store because you *have* to. The former is a perk of a capitalistic society, the latter is just unfair.

    1. Just to clarify – the store in the mall was a specialty store comparable to Lane Bryant – it wasn’t a discount store. I would think it was a totally unfair comparison if I was at Target or Walmart or something. I do agree that the main issue is a lack of options.


  10. Ok, this is so funny, because I just found the opposite of price gouging for plus sizes, at Old Navy. Yes, it pisses me off that they don’t carry plus sizes in stores anymore, but I hate driving anyway so I’d probably still order online even if they did. So yeah, they keep making dresses I like and I keep ordering from them. And today I saw the same dress in straight sizes for $44.94:

    And plus sizes for $39.94!

    AND, the plus version has two print options while the straight size only has one. I don’t know what’s going on here, it’s like I’m in opposite world.

    1. For me, it shows the same price of $44.94 for both dresses. Maybe it was a mistake. The print option thing is like you said, though.

  11. This drives me nuts. The difference between a size 12 and a size 18 is marketing, not cost of production. If that were true, then size 2s and size 8s would have to be a different price. BUT THEY AREN’T.

  12. Hmm, that pricing sounds terribly familiar…I used to work at LB, and I remember it all too well.

    Frankly, I hated the clothes there. They’re marked up obscenely far and are honestly shit quality. Which I actually think is a problem with Charming Shoppes, who acquired LB a few years ago. To my recollection, between the few “splurge” times I managed to shop there under previous management and my time of working there under CS management, things had gone seriously downhill in terms of value – the prices were about the same, but the product quality had gone to hell.

    Anyway, /rant. What I was intending to say was that the price-gouging on undies is some of the most ridiculous crap ever. I used to set aside my mom’s sizes and preferred patterns/colors when I worked there, then call her when we were having a good sale, so she could get them for a decent damn price. Which is stupid. Nobody should have to have a “woman on the inside” to just get some effing decent panties for less than $10 a pair.

    Hmmph. Maybe I’ll just learn to sew and start making my own damn panties. Can’t possibly be any more expensive and hey, who knows, they might actually fit right.

  13. Can we also address the fact that the panties and bras, despite being super expensive, fall apart very quickly? I’ve had Lane Bryant undies develop holes in the seams after 1 washing. I’ve had bras fall apart a day after their 60 day return window, only to have the store employees tell me there’s nothing they can do. I had to escalate to corporate to get any kind of resolution. This has happened twice this year! It makes me feel like a cranky bitch, when I am normally very reasonable and kindhearted. Could it be that they are the ones in the wrong? I think so :).

  14. They price gouge because they can. I have been very happy with Danskin and JMS for selling clothes in WalMart that I, at 5’9″ and 380 lbs can actually wear comfortably. White Stag has also started selling up to 4x shirts that I can comfortably wear. I am currently retired (not by choice) and have no need for “nice clothes”, but the items I have purchased can mostly be called business casual, with a couple of dressier items thrown in for a more business like look. I’m happy with my purchases and they are wearing very well. I just with someone would sell a bra in the mainstream that would fit me as well.

  15. As someone who worked retail for longer than I care to think about, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that this isn’t a size scam – it’s a women’s clothing in general scam. Sales associates were literally told to think of them as “french fries” to add on to any purchase, the same way that a restaurant server will suggestively sell appetizers, drinks, or desserts. Getting a bra that you need? Did you see these cute matching panties that you don’t need and weren’t planning on buying? Oh, you’re only getting one pair? Well, they’re $12 each, but they’re $29 for 3 – why don’t you see if you can find a couple more pair that you like? They’re positioned near the registers and the main aisle for the same reason that toys and candy are put near the registers in big box stores. The point was to get the customer to walk out of the store with more merchandise and less money, no matter if they wore an XS or an XXL. Of course, the department/specialty stores are depending on that impulse buy – who comparison shops for underwear?- and banking on their customers feeling a stigma about wearing clothes from a discount store. Often, the clothes are made in the same sweatshop with the same material by the same workers for the same price, but shipped with a different label.

  16. I would be curious to see whether underpants and boxers for big men are similarly overpriced. My guess is that they are not. I have been wearing men’s boxers and boxer briefs for the past several years, usually from J.C. Penneys or a discount store. A year or so ago I bought the biggest boxers I could find at a dept store in the small Korean town where I live. Does anyone know of a store that will ship large size underwear overseas?

    1. as the shopper for my household, I can tell you that my man’s boxers, size 4x or 5x, are usually at least 5 dollars more than the other boxers offered by the same speciality manufacturer. the manufacturers that offer a lower base-price just don’t make his size (or anything above a 1x)

      1. Just the other day, my dad was complaining about how much his underwear had gone up… something like 2 pairs for $20.

    2. Hey, where are you at in Korea? Used to live there. Finding clothes there was always such a challenge for me but for DH, it was heaven because while he’s smaller than the average American male, he fits right in with the average Korean male (and no, he’s not Korean). Finding shoes was even a challenge for me because they don’t go over a size 9 and I’m at least a size 10, if not 11. I had to buy either men’s shoes or get Crocs.

      I don’t recall a lot of stores shipping overseas but you might have some luck if you know someone over there who is military. I would check out some of the ex pat forums too. I just came home to do shopping instead of trying to have anything shipped, just easier that way especially with the weird Korean addresses.

      1. I am in Iksan in Jeollabukdo. Tomorrow I plan to check out an underwear store owned by a friend of a friend. They have linen boxer shorts in larger sizes, maybe even large enough for my waygook ass.

      2. That word waygooks brings back memories. lol We were way north of you though, near Seoul. I refused to be too far away from other foreigners (as it was, my dear daughter got a TON of attention for being an American child to the point it got rather uncomfortable) and wanted to be able to get around. The farthest south any of us ever were there was when my husband was there the first time and ended up down in Daejeon for over a year. We did go down there one time by high speed train but that was the farthest I ever went. We spent most of our time in Yongin, where Everland is (though we never actually went there).

  17. I quit buying underwear at Lane Bryant, Avenue, etc. because they were so darn high and the fact that I no longer have the disposable income that I had four years ago. The next time I need to buy underwear, it will be at a discount store or outlet. I just can’t afford right now to pay the ridiculous prices plus-size shops charge. If I don’t have a coupon or it’s not clearance, it’s not going in my closet.

  18. The tacking on two bucks for plus sizes really gets my hackles up. Seriously, it can’t cost that much more in materials to make larger sizes. Also, speaking of underpants, I don’t know about anyone else but I hate those bikini underpants with a passion. Maybe its because I had a c section (21 years ago, but the area still feels strange when something touches it–like bikini underpants!) At any rate I try to avoid these things but then freaking Wal Mart puts them in a package and calls them “modern briefs.” I get them home and there’s nothing either modern or briefish about them–they’re the same old freaking bikini underpants! Could they not call a spade a spade and save me the grief of seeing the word brief and thinking these will be comfortable skivvies? Ah well–sorry about the rant.

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