On thin privilege and online shopping

The perils of buying clothing and bras online: way too much stuff to return.

I’ve been reading through Already Pretty’s archive of link roundups, and there’s some really interesting stuff.

This is a response to one of the posts Sal linked to, although unfortunately I can’t find it.  It was an ode to buying clothing online, written by a straight sized woman.

I kind of hate when women who don’t wear plus sizes talk about how much they love shopping online, while we fats don’t have much other choice.

As someone who usually wears a size 18-22, I do have a few real-life options–which is more than many larger people have, especially if they don’t live in or near a major city. But there are very few stores near me that are exclusively plus size. The Boston area does have a few (Lane Bryant, Avenue, and Ashley Stewart), but none are particularly easy to get to from where I live. There’s also H&M+, which has awesome stuff, although a much smaller selection than H&M’s straight sizes.

But most of the stores where I sometimes find clothing–Target, Marshall’s, thrift stores, etc.–have only a few items in my size. And their plus size selection is usually a lot less interesting than their straight sizes. So most of the time it’s just not worth it.

I know that shopping online is sometimes necessary for specific items like tutus, petticoats, and My Little Pony t-shirts. And if I wore straight sizes, I’d totally buy online from Topshop and Modcloth.

Online shopping does have its place. But depending on it sucks for many reasons:

1.) You have to pay for shipping and wait for your package to arrive. Then, if it doesn’t fit, you have to return it and pay even more shipping. All the shipping charges, on top of the higher price of plus size clothing as it is, are like tax for being fat.

Sometimes, you can get free shipping for orders over a certain amount of money. And a few places, like ASOS Curve, offer free returns. But neither is very common.  And even if you can get free shipping for orders over $50 or $100, what if you really only want one item from that store?

2.) You don’t get to try things on before buying them.  Different brands’ sizing run differently, and rarely match up to their size charts. Two similar items by the same brand can fit completely differently. For example, this peplum lace top from Deb fits me perfectly, whereas their floral top is way too tight.

Sometimes, you have buy a lot of things before finding one that fits, which means more waiting and more shipping charges, plus the hassle of packing everything up and taking it to the post office. And some companies are really slow about processing returns, so it can be a month or more before you get your money back (I’m looking at you, eShakti).

3.) Not being able to try on clothing makes it harder to experiment with different styles. When there’s so much extra work involved, it’s easier to stick with familiar shapes and colors. In a store, it’s a lot easier to take chances. To try on something you wouldn’t normally wear, and maybe find out that it looks awesome on you.

I would love so much to be able to walk into a store and find more than a few items in my size. I would love to buy some of the amazing (and often cheap) clothing I’ve seen at the Garment District, the Great Eastern Trading Company, Buffalo Exchange*, or Hot Topic. Or even Goodwill. If I had a dollar for every time I went there and found fashionable, fun clothing with interesting details in straight sizes, while finding only basics in plus sizes, I’d have enough money to buy all the pony shirts.

I can understand why the original poster likes buying stuff online. I don’t hold it against her. But it bothers me that some people have the privilege to shop online only when they want to.

Can you even imagine how awesome it would be if there were a mall containing Domino Dollhouse, ASOS Curve, Torrid, Chic Star, Evans, Igigi, Kiyonna, Simply Be, and Sealed With A Kiss? Yeah, that’s what it’s like every day for thin people.**

Everyone should be able to walk into a store and find a reasonable selection of clothing in their size. Everyone.

*I’ve sold clothing and accessories to the Buffalo Exchange multiple times, and I’ve noticed that they prefer smaller sizes. Once the buyer was looking at a pair of my jeans and seemed to be thinking “yes”–but then she looked at the size tag, saw the 18, and tossed them into the “no” pile.  It’s possible I misread her expressions, and she just thought the jeans were insufficiently stylish, but….somehow I doubt it.

**This is not to say that shopping is always easy for people who wear straight sizes. There are people of all sizes who have disabilities that make shopping challenging, or can’t afford to buy clothing, or live in remote areas with few clothing stores. But all things held equal, thin people have more options.

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9 thoughts on “On thin privilege and online shopping

  1. The not being able to try things on is a deal-breaker for me (and I am lucky enough to fit into some straight sizes and the smaller plus sizes that big department stores carry) because I am apparently such an atypical shape. Almost nobody provides the information I need in their descriptions of their sizes — I don’t care how big the bust is, really, because if it will accommodate my massive shoulders it’s guaranteed to fit my relatively flat chest.

    Also, I am most often tempted to buy online from other people selling on Etsy, who seem mostly to be very small. I feel like I have to quiz the seller about 1) exactly how big their biggest-sized offering is, and also 2) whether they’re prepared to do alterations/custom-make a bigger, differently-proportioned version for me.

    Also, I COMPLETELY share your frustration with not being able to find the kind of unique, eye-catching pieces I want in the sizes I wear. Etsy is especially aggravating in that regard, because there is SO MUCH BEAUTIFUL STUFF (and, sometimes, really cheap too!) but it’s almost all tiny.

    • Ugh, I feel the same way about Etsy (and sometimes eBay too). The vintage stuff is so cheap but so small, and the custom-made stuff is so expensive. I can understand why it’s expensive, because making clothing takes a ton of time and effort, but it still sucks that the cheaper stuff is available in such a small range of shapes and sizes.

      And clothing manufacturers are terrible at understanding that not all women have the same shape. I’m somewhat lucky in that I can find shirts, dresses, and skirts fairly easily as long as they have a bit of stretch (pants are another story…they’re just not made for women with a 4-inch difference between their hips and waist).

      I would recommend eShakti to you, since they offer customization of many measurements beyond the traditional bust-waist-hips. But my experience with them has been really shitty, in that they take forever to respond to emails. Some of my friends swear by them, though, so maybe I was just unlucky….you might still want to check them out. But it sucks that they’re one of the few, maybe even the only, company that does such in-depth customization. I wish that were the norm.

  2. Some really good points about privilege here that I hadn’t thought of. It’s an extension of the jealousy I feel when people can just go into a shop, pick out something and buy it without queueing for the fitting room, unlike poor liddle me who has to take 3 of everything to the fitting room because the sizes seem so arbitrary! And I have thin-privilege aplenty, although I am not thin. I’m with Lindsay above – just a damn awkward shape.

  3. Man do I feel your pain! I dislike online shopping intensley and only tend to do it when a company offers free delivery and returns – or, at a pinch, if I’ve had an opportunity to try it on beforehand. It enrages me when a mainstream manufacturer makes clothes in my size but doesn’t stock them instore. I almost prefer shopping online to playing hunt-the-one-size-22-garment-in-the-entire shop but, either way, the company ends up making no sale.

    I had a particularly frustrating time this weekend on receiving an email from Evans tipping me off about their current brand sale. Following the link to their website I saw that one of the Clements Ribeiro dresses had been reduced to almost half price. I had tried it on a few weeks ago but suspected I might have needed the next size down. Since Evans weren’t even stocking the range in my local store, despite it being the only plus sized store in the largest mall in Europe, I had no choice but to schlepp myself to their flagship store, thus incurring extra expense. Having confirmed that I did indeed need the next size down, I then discovered that the dress was only discounted on the website. Even though neither the email nor the website said it was an online offer only. (Believe me, I checked). So, I had no choice but to order it online, incurring more expense. My heart momentarily leaped when I saw there was a cheap delivery-to-an-Evans-store option….but no, that wasn’t available at my local store, or indeed any store in London, despite it being the fucking capital city of the bastard UK. (Pardon my impassioned sweary French). Meanwhile the discounted trousers I’d also fancied, while also being available instore at full price, we’re sold out in my size on the website. Snarl.

  4. Pingback: The complex ethics of fa(t)shion blogging « Tutus And Tiny Hats

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