Outcry over lack of plus-sized clothing

Madison Reis

Target’s newest collaboration with designer Lilly Pulitzer has made a stir for a number of reasons. Tweets like, “I bet Lilly Pulitzer herself is rolling her eyes in her grave,” and “If you weren’t classy enough to have it before, you sure as hell aren’t classy enough now,” show that the brand’s usual buyers are having a social media meltdown. But there’s another demographic that is equally as upset for a much deeper reason.

In addition to announcing the collaboration, Target has announced they will be including plus sizes for the range, but only online. Target invited major plus-size fashion bloggers to the announcement of the collaboration, including Gabi Fresh, Nicolette Mason and Chastity Garner, showing that they had listened to their customers and were finally going to include plus sizes in their designer collaborations.  The community was thrilled to be able to partake in the popular collaborations. Much to their dismay, Target made no mention of not including of the plus sizes’ exclusion from stores, and indeed made no mention at all.  The only mention of plus sizes was through the @AskTarget twitter handle.

Angry shoppers can be found all over Twitter.  Sara Conley, plus size fashion blogger, tweeted, “They’re really saying we only want 40 percent of customers to be seen in store,” and Grown and Curvy Women, another plus-size blogger, tweeted, “It’s like Target is dating a fat girl but won’t take her out in public … that’s how I feel right now.” With Conley’s 21.2k followers on Twitter, the comments have made quite an impression.

Target spokesperson Joshua Thomas said, “We’re offering [plus sizes] on Target.com because Target.com gives us an opportunity to try different things. It affords us the opportunity to be flexible in terms of our assortment, and also, keeping in mind, the last time we [offered plus in a designer collaboration], it didn’t work.” He is referring to the inclusion of plus sizes on the Calypso St. Barth collab back in 2011. Target has faced other backlash regarding plus size; last fall’s Altuzarra collection featured a grey maxi dress that in standard size was labelled “Dark Heather Grey” but in plus size was changed to “Manatee Grey.”

With the average American woman at a size 14, many retailers are pushing a large percentage of shoppers out of stores and hiding them behind a computer. This could potentially have negative effects on younger consumers. A 2010 study showed that of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69 percent say the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape and 47 percent say the pictures make them want to lose weight. While Target has focused the controversy on the economic aspect of introducing plus size in stores, consumers have turned the conversation to body-shaming and its harmful repercussions.

A version of this article appeared in the Feb.4 print edition.  Email Madison Reis at [email protected] 

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