For the past few days I’ve been in a hotel in Boston for the MEDA Conference. Right outside the elevator on my floor the entire time I was there was a “trunk show.” It was a couple of women selling clothes and accessories. As I waited for the elevator I would hear them talking to potential customers. They were working hard, on their feet all day every day. Finally yesterday I had some time and I decided I wanted to check out their clothes.
I walked in and, unlike the numerous women I had personally witnessed go inside the room and be greeted immediately and warmly and asked what they were looking for, they completely ignored me. They talked to each other, never even acknowledging my presence. So I took a lap around the room and it didn’t look like there were any plus sizes, but I wanted to ask to make sure. I walked up to the two women who kept talking as if I wasn’t there. I waited patiently for them to wrap up their conversation, they completely ignored me. I finally said “Excuse me…”
They continued talking for a few more seconds, then one of them turned and asked curtly “Yes?” I asked “Do you have any plus size items?” She squinched up her face like she just bit a lemon, shook her head, and said “No. No. We wouldn’t have anything like that.” in a tone that might have made someone think that I asked her if I could get a dress made entirely of cat poo. I decided that it wasn’t worth my energy to continue so I just said “What a shame.” At that point I was just going to walk out and get on with my day.
But no. All of a sudden the other salesperson re-animated and said “Wait, we have beautiful scarves.” Beautiful Sca…I know she didn’t say… Beautiful scarv…fuck that. I turned around sharply (all that dance training still paying off!) met her gaze and asked, slowly “Why in the world would I buy an accessory from a clothing company that didn’t bother to make clothes that fit me?”
She just stared at me and said “oh.” So I repeated “No, seriously, I’m asking. Why would I support a clothing company that doesn’t want to clothe me?” She paused, looking a bit panicked, and then said “Well, they are really lovely scarves.” Not even a fauxpologetic “I’m so sorry we don’t have your size.” Just “Of course we don’t make clothes for you, or treat you like – you know – a person, but please buy a scarf.” Remaining calm, though I was well and truly over this shit, I just said “No Ma’am, I don’t want your scarf.” and walked away.
I’m fully aware that the dollars I spend on clothes are my votes for the kind of clothes I want to have available, and the designers and companies that I want to succeed. So if I’m buying a scarf that’s part of a clothing line, that clothing line is going to, at the very least, include my size. (And if they don’t include sizes larger than mine then that’s something we’re going to talk about.) But if your company doesn’t sell my size and you treat me like a pariah, then rest assured that you can keep your damn scarf.
Like this blog? Here’s more cool stuff:
Like my work? Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. Click here for details
Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!
Book Me! I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com
If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.
29 thoughts on “I Don’t Want Your Scarf”
When I start my clothing line, the only “straight sized” garments I will sell are cat poo dresses in sizes 0-8. ;D
Thanks for that laugh! I needed it, after reading this infuriating story.
Oh, Ragen, the way you deal with graceless people and their fuckery is an inspiration to the rest of us.
I remember going to a vintage fair a couple of years ago and chatting to the woman in the stall while my husband tried on a tweed jacket. She asked if it was for an event, I said a steampunk weekend, and asked if she had anything in my size.
This woman had been perfectly pleasant up to this point but it was like I had accidentally flipped a switch in her head. She went bright pink in the face, rushed over to the rails and started muttering ‘Steampunk! Steampunk!’ and flapping tiny clothes at me without looking me in the eye, saying ‘Of course that’s not for you… of course that’s not for you’ while waving Seventies polyester boleros and Eighties lacy blouses at me and assuring me she had more steampunk clothes on her website. It was such a weird experience that I didn’t actually feel angry or hurt at the time, I was just standing there thinking ‘Well, this is happening. This is a thing’.
It was like she was faced with one of those trick pictures that is a duck or a rabbit depending on how she looked at it, and she was seeing a steampunk woman whose custom she wanted and a fat woman whose custom she did not want both occupying the same space and she couldn’t handle the cognitive dissonance.
I was holding a Hawaiian shirt (ironically in an XL) that I was planning to buy from her as a present for my brother at the time, and looking back I can’t believe it, but after all that I actually bought it. I wish I’d told her to keep her damn scarf.
Wow, that’s a painful shopping experience! Sorry you had to go through that.
I do wonder, though. She did carry clothes in other styles that were in your size? And went into panic mode? But was polite to you before?
Just how truly “vintage” were these clothes? Real Victorian clothes would be very hard to find in plus sizes. If this was a store full of actually old clothes, it’s possible you picked the one fashion she didn’t carry in your size. Her panic did seem oddly specific to Steampunk.
Victorian fashions depended on wasp-waist tight-lacing, and are, by nature, problematic to the modern female figure, even for a thin woman. Even if the bust and hips fit, the waist would be a problem. A modern woman wearing Victorian clothes would have to be very thin, and stuff her bra. Or else tight-lace, and although some people do that today, it’s very rare. 70’s or 80’s clothes, however, seemed to be readily available in larger sizes, which makes me want to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Doesn’t make her reaction any better, of course. She was really unprofessional.
If you really had chosen the only line in which she had no plus sizes, she should have said so. “I’m sorry. We have a wide range of sizes in all the other styles, but the Steampunk fashion is specifically small, due to the corsetry of the era. We may have something to suit you on the website, though. Let’s bring it up right now, and check.”
Her embarrassment and panic caused you pain, though, and that is NOT right. Even if she felt no fat-hatred toward you, she made you feel fat-hated, due to her panic, and that is so wrong!
One thing, though – if they were truly vintage Victorian, then you dodged a bullet, because the Victorians made clothes with highly toxic arsenic dyes (at least for green dyes). For Steampunk, your best bet is to get newly-made clothes that won’t try to kill you.
No, she had nothing in my size in other styles, unfortunately – I have successfully made steampunk costumes by re-tailoring and accessorising everything from 1990s work wear to mens overalls, so I was open to looking at anything she had that even somewhat fit. I admire the ladies, gentlemen and others who wear gorgeous authentic Victoriana, but I’ve always been more make do and mend myself. 🙂
I’m glad I dodged the arsenic dyes, though!
Nothing in the other styles? I must have misunderstood. She was showing you the other styles, so I thought she had them in your size. I guess I just REALLY wanted it to be so, and read into it because of my desire. And that really stinks, because there were plenty of fat people wearing 70’s polyester and 80’s lace, so why the heck didn’t she have them? And why bother showing them to you, in the first place, when they were neither your size, nor what you were asking for, anyway?
Wow, that really is messed up. That goes beyond unprofessional panic.
I’m glad you’re able to tailor clothes to make your own costumes, though. In my experience, even if it’s “in my size,” it’s never quite a proper fit, anyway, so the ability to make alterations if wonderful.
Also, you can make a corset to fit you, that gives fantastic support without compromising your ability to move or breathe.
As for vintage clothes, though, avoid Victorian (green), and Edwardian (anything including plastic, which was highly flammable celluloid, at the time). 70’s polyester will melt, but it won’t catch fire or explode.
No worries, I wasn’t as clear as I could have been – she was basically bringing out anything with lace or ruffles on it, and unfortunately none of it was in a size above a 14.
I wouldn’t have minded if she’d said ‘it’s hard sourcing plus sized clothes in acceptable condition’ or ‘I specialise in menswear, I don’t have a big selection of women’s clothes’ or whatever, it was the sheer weirdness factor of having things waved frantically at me while she told me they weren’t for me that made me think ‘… did that really happen?’ and remember it years later.
I guess maybe she thought I could recommend the stall to any smaller steampunk fans I knew?
The information about vintage clothes and their dangers is fascinating – thank you so much! I definitely don’t want to catch fire or explode. 🙂
You’re welcome. I just saw the documentary two days ago, so it was fresh in my mind.
Actually, plus sizes would have been quite common in Victorian times. This was before the fashion industry had convinced everyone that women were supposed to be anorexic stick figures. Back in the 19th century, men liked women with meat on their bones. Just look at the art made at the time!
The Victorian era lasted over half a century, and is frequently confused (for some odd reason) with Regency and post-Regency (George IV’s reign doesn’t really correspond to “Georgian,” which is Geoge III’s reign). It’s all confusing.
George IV certainly did like large women.
Victorian styles didn’t start out with the wasp waist, but it did end with it. At some point, it became a “thing,” that women who didn’t wear tight-laced corsets were actually considered “loose,” and immoral.
As if your underwear can actually be an indicator of your morality. But yeah, it was during Victoria’s reign that the fat-hatred really got traction.
Ironic, since by that time, Queen Victoria, herself, was fat.
History is so weird.
Very interesting. Thank you for the info. It doesn’t surprise me that Queen Victoria started fatophobia. So many horrible things happened under her reign. I see that in Portland they have opened a new restaurant called “Saffron Colonial” which is all about glorifying the British Empire. I will never set foot in that place, no matter how much I love Deviled Kidneys!
Oh, glorifying colonialism, is it? So it’s not all bubble and squeak, I guess, but also includes foods from across the “empire”? Yuck.
They could celebrate a variety of cuisines, without celebrating colonialism. Too bad.
Go you. That was a minor feat of heroism. If more of us did this, firmly and politely as you did, maybe a few clothing companies (and haughty salesfolk) would get a clue.
Your hater sites are having a field day with this one so expect a ton of hate mail and trolling. As for me I’m finding it absolutely hilarious that they actually have an issue with YOU EXPECTING TO GET SOMETHING YOU WANT! LIKE ALL OTHER HUMAN BEINGS DO. That the expectation that you walk into a store that offers PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION should –oh I don’t know– ACCOMMODATE THE PUBLIC!
Sometimes, I get a laugh out of the hilarious foolishness of the haters, but lately, I can’t go look.
I think my “favorite” argument, though, is that fat people don’t deserve clothes, at all, and that yes, we should simply be naked until we get small enough to be socially acceptable. And, of course, we should keep our nakedness hidden in our homes, because “nobody wants to see that,” especially while we’re working out to get small, because “Gross! Fatties exercising!” and how we’re all so wrong for it taking so long to get socially acceptable, when all we really have to do is put down the fork and go for a walk, and the fat will magically fall off our bodies in chunks.
I vote we just get rid of clothing, entirely, and become a nude society. In inclement weather, we can all wrap up in blankets.
Even aside from them no carrying your size, I was gobsmacked by the fact that they were that rude to you (not surprised, really, but still gobsmacked by the rudeness). Yet, the most mind-boggling thing of all was that they set themselves up for their exclusionary sale right at a conference about eating disorders.
I’d be tempted to ask if they were in favor of them, or something.
This must have been so triggering to a lot of attendees, presenters, and organizers.
Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that the one who actually moved herself to try to sell you something, at all, was behind on her sales quota, because she showed earlier that she had absolutely no actual desire to sell something to you.
Way to go for standing up for yourself, and others, Regan!
“they set themselves up for their exclusionary sale right at a conference about eating disorders.”
Michelle, you are so right! I hadn’t thought about that. I wonder if a lawsuit is a possiblity here. There is a chance that they could have seriously harmed somebody! If somebody got triggered by their hateful sale and died, it would have been their fault.
Good luck winning such a lawsuit. Even if you could prove that the triggering happened then and there, too many people would still say “It’s your own fault for being triggered. You’re responsible for your own reactions.”
I’ve known plenty of people who have absolutely no problem supporting the bullies, and telling the victims that they should just suck it up, and if they cry or otherwise react, it’s their own fault for “being too sensitive.”
Odds are, you’d have at least one of those jerks on a jury.
That is the sad truth. Fatophobia is so completely omnipresent in our society that it’s very difficult for a fat person to get a fair trial!
I once went into a junior’s shop because they had such cool earrings. The 2 sales girls didn’t interrupt their conversation as they looked me up and down, then one of them sneered, “I’m sorry, ma’am. we don’t carry your size.” Snarky voice. Now, aside from the probability I might have been after a gift, that was just rude. In an equally snarky voice I replied, “Oh, earrings come in sizes now?” turned on my heel and walked out.
The probability that you might have been after a gift – I’d say it’s pretty darned high, if you’re a fully-grown woman in a junior’s shop. Lots of mothers, aunts, mentors, and the like buy gifts of clothes for girls and teens. Very high probability, I’d say. I didn’t even get to choose my own clothes for school until I was in junior high. Mom just got my wardrobe for me. She was probably afraid of what I’d choose, if left to my own devices.
Anyway, it’s one thing for a store not to carry your size. A thin woman can’t find a proper fit at Lane Bryant. But a professional salesperson ALWAYS greets the customer politely, and asks, “How may I help you?”
If the customer says, “I want a dress in ___ size,” and they don’t carry it, THEN the salesperson can say, “I’m sorry, we don’t have a dress in that size.” Then, and not before!
You always treat all customers with respect, regardless of their size, or the size of stuff you have to sell.
I love that scene from “Pretty Woman.” It doesn’t matter if they’re snarky to a customer because “It’s very expensive,” or because “we don’t carry your size.” Anyone who’s been treated that way wants that little bit of vengeance.
You are my new hero for that inspired comeback.
Thank you! I surprised myself that day. Usually I think of those 2 days later.
I’m glad someone finally pointed out how bigger people get totally ignored. I feel that happens to me all the time and was starting to think it was all in my head!
Nope- not in your head.
Do they think that we bite or something?
If so, I’m willing to accommodate!
In the 80s and early 90s I worked as a mystery shopper. I delighted in getting ignored because then I got to write it up and it actually got read. Doesn’t mean anything changed, but it did get read!
This is definitely a problem in haute couture; the designer/boutique that doesn’t want their thin customers to see Your Sort (TM) shopping in their store and getting your fat cooties all over everything you touch, doesn’t want people on the street to see Your Sort (TM) wearing their label and associating your pariah status with their brand, wants to market Your Sort (TM) as the dirty, uncouth, unwashed, lower-class loser their customers can avoid being by buying their products…
…but damn if they aren’t still hunting for ways to get your money when nobody’s looking. And they wonder why you aren’t grateful for the “opportunity.”
Nah, designers/boutiques, you don’t get to have it both ways. You don’t get to fly the No Fat Chicks flag out front and expect me to buy your handbags and jewelry in the back room.
Ugh! So disgusting…and so familiar, at that.
I’m tall (5’10”) and wide (400lbs), so I can NEVER find clothes in normal stores. I don’t even bother, anymore. So great of you to stand up to them!
You are such a bad ass for this! Bravo!