Thursday, October 25, 2007

Youth say it's possible to live large and look young

Yeah, it's possible to live large and look young if you can afford it. Places like Making It Big, Big on Batik, Love Your Peaches, and The Big, The Bad, and The Beautiful are making clothing to fit fat, younger women, but their prices are way out of my range (and yes, I like some of the younger fashions). Being almost 54, I suppose I shouldn't mind the "matronly" plus-size fashions, but I don't see myself as matronly. I don't feel matronly, I don't think I look matronly, and I certainly don't want to dress that way. So I can relate to younger women who don't want to dress that way either, just because they are fat. I don't know how many times I've seen clothes in stores and thought "I wish that came in my size, I really like it". I've also looked at clothes in those same stores and no way in hell would I be caught dead in some of the clothes they carry.
I also resent the fact that most of the places that are finally carrying clothes to fit fat women are charging so much. I can't afford $80 for a top or $90 for jeans/slacks, let alone $150 or more for a dress. I truly don't understand why those clothes are so expensive. Being a seamstress (and having worked in a garment factory in my youth), I know that patterns and fabric and notions aren't that costly. Once I have paid the $15 that a pattern costs now (damn, I can remember when they were only a couple of bucks), I can use it innumerable times, and make all kinds of changes to it so that it's not the same garment every time I make it. Even good fabrics aren't all that expensive (and when you buy in bulk, wholesale, they're even cheaper, like manufacturers can do), same for notions. So why is a top that costs maybe $15 to make marked up 5 or 6 times that in the store? I don't mind companies making a profit, but they won't make any profit if women can't afford to buy their clothes.
I buy most of my tops from Catherine's, but very seldom do I pay full price. I shop the clearance racks when they have deep discounts (I've gotten $40 tops for less than $10 that way). I can afford to buy more when it's on sale. I'll admit I'm cheap, it hurts to spend $50 on a top that I can maybe wear for a year or two before it's shot. I have tops in my closet that I made 15 years ago and I'm still wearing them, but I don't have any tops I bought ready-made that are more than a couple of years old.
If I make it myself, I can change things like sleeves, necklines, hems, and collars, and details such as embroidery, appliques, or top-stitching. I get to pick the style, the type of fabric, the color of the fabric, and the pattern of the print on the fabric. This gives me something that no one else will ever have in their wardrobe (I hate going somewhere and seeing someone wearing the same top/outfit as I am).
So, while our clothing options are expanding, I do wish they were more affordable for those of us who don't have a lot of money to spend on clothes (I take care of the necessities of books and internet, then the luxuries of food, shelter, and utilities, and last of all are clothes).


  1. Maybe it's because the sizing is all different - the better quality places are realizing they can't just blow up a pattern meant for a size 2 because the proportions change. More cynically, it's probably because they're charging what the market will bear. I'd bet that there are lots of plus-size professionals out there who are willing to pay inflated prices to not look like a walking rag bag.

  2. Yeah, good thing I'm not a professional and I know how to sew. At least I don't have to pay inflated prices to look nice. And I have the time if I'm sew

  3. I buy my clothes at Addition-Elle, a Canadian plus-size women's clothing chain that caters to the 18-35-yo with business wear, activewear, youthwear (especially through the MXM line), sexywear and clubbing wear. It's still limited compared to what I wanna see (they need more funky socks and tights! and the punks and goths are forgotten, even though MXM does have some rocking stuff) but it's a huge improvement over Zellers' (which is like Target) plus-size department.

    What I like with company that owns Addition-Elle, is that they also have 2 other women's plus-size sister chains: Pennington's (which carries more matronly styles and also caters to the supersized) and Cassis (which caters to the middle-aged professional crowd). Neither chain is my style, so I don't shop there, but Reitman's have understood that there's a market for variety of styles within the plus-size community.

    However, I can never buy too many pieces at once because it adds up fast. Not that the pieces are THAT expensive (especially once the season is ongoing -- just avoid the new arrivals) but it's still not cheap. At least, little by little it's accumulate -- my wardrobe is now 90-to-95% from there, except for shoes, which they don't sell.

  4. Vesta, I think the reason for the price is just that that's what it costs to pay women a living wage to sew clothes in the US. The cost of the materials may not be that much, but when you factor in hourly salaries, insurance benefits, etc. etc., the price rises significantly. You have to realize that the clothes that are available in big box stores are cheap because they're based on exploiting the labor of girls and young women in "developing" countries, who work sewing clothes for pennies a day. When we buy from companies like Making It Big or Plus Woman, we are paying the REAL cost of someone having a decent job making our clothing. It's hard for me too, because I have a clerical job and I don't make much money, but I would much rather wait for MIB's sales and get one or two things I know aren't made with slave labor--rather than buying 10 things from Lane Bryant which, as you say, will be worn out and yucky in a year or so.

    Of course, the fact that you can sew is great, and as I said in a previous comment I am thinking very much about emulating that!

  5. Amy, I'm not sure that women working in garment factories in the US today make much more than minimum wage. When I started out doing that, back in 1972, I was making $1.65 an hour (minimum wage) and after a year, I was making $1.85 an hour, which raise I lost, so to speak, when the minimum wage went up to $1.85 that same year. So there I was, with a year's experience, making the same as new hires. When the employees decided to unionize (I had left for another job making more money), they got 7 cents an hour raise and had to pay union dues of $3 a week (wiped out their pay raise and cost them an additional 20 cents a week from their paychecks for union representation). Their benefits didn't improve, working conditions didn't improve. The only thing that happened was that if you had seniority, it was harder than hell to get fired, even if you goofed off (I heard all about it from friends who stayed, thinking the union was going to be their friend and improve their lot). This was in Washington state, and things weren't any better when I moved back to Illinois and worked at a garment factory there (still making minimum wage, paying union dues, etc). The company ended up going out of business because they couldn't compete with out-sourced clothing (and this was in 1976). So, while I prefer to support US-made clothing, I can't afford to buy it unless it's on clearance. I know that the cost of my fabric and notions is way less than what I would pay for something ready-made, even if the cost of my time is factored in (and I don't factor time cost in because I have nothing but time since I can't work anymore). That's why I have a problem paying $40 for a knit top when I can make the same thing in a couple of hours for less than $10 (yeah, I'm fast, and I'd be even faster if I had an industrial machine, mine doesn't run fast enough for me, even running flat out all the time).


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