So Hanna and I spent a three-day weekend up in Maine visiting her parents, who live outside of Norridgewock in a lovely cabin they built themselves. It was beautiful weather on Friday and, as we often do, we stopped in Freeport on our drive north. Freeport, for those of you who don’t know, happens to be the town in which L.L. Bean has their flagship store. (More accurately, the store is the town … which has been ingulphed by destination shopping tourism … but that’s a story for another post.) What can we say: we’re a sucker for their stuffed animals.*
While we were at the store this time, we noticed that they’d done a bit of re-arranging, and one of the new sections of the store — where there used to be a coffee shop — is now women’s clothing. More specifically, it’s women’s clothing, sizes 18W-24W.
That’s right. If you’re looking for sizes over 18 Regular, then you get a whole separate section just to yourself.
I’ve noticed this recently in a couple of clothing stores, where the sizes above some cut-off (usually between size 16-18) are either not stocked in-store, meaning you have to order, in-store or online, the clothing you want rather than having the chance to try it on at the store. And while you can return items, usually, without penalty if they don’t fit there’s still the hassle of having to do an exchange, etc. Hassle that could be avoided if they stocked larger clothing sizes.
While I don’t have data on this, I find it difficult to believe that these stores are stocking sizes based exclusively on what sells the most. I’d buy that if, in addtion to the larger sizes, they also put the smaller sizes in a separate section. Which — at Bean’s at least — is not the case (though I realize “petite” sizes are a long-standing thing until themselves, as are “tall” sizes). You still find the smalls and the extra-smalls, the 2s and 4s, etc., in the regular women’s clothing. I find it hard to believe there are more 2s wandering around the world these days than there are 18s or 20s.
I’d love to have Harpy readers’ observations about clothing segregation (or inaccessibility) at clothing stores. Can you generally walk into a clothing store and find the sizes/shapes that you need? Can your partners? Friends? If you can’t, where do you end up shopping for clothes … and how does the experience of being forced online, to mail-order, or into a different section of the store (or a different store entirely) feel? Clothing availability is a powerful force in our culture helping to shape our assumptions about what “normal” bodies do (and should) look like. In what ways do you wish you could tell the clothing retailers “just stop it already!”
*this visit we came away with a plush owl we think might be named Mycroft.