Sunday, January 27, 2008
Catherine's Stout Shoppe, anyone?
Ok, I was going through my boxes of patterns last week, scanning them all so I can upload them to flickr and maybe sell some of them (or all of them, since none of them really fit me and I'm tired of altering patterns), and I found this newspaper clipping of an ad for Catherine's. Tells you how fucking old I am, I can actually remember when Catherine's was called Catherine's Stout Shoppe. I couldn't afford to shop there back then, but I remember going in and looking at the clothes and being so happy that there was a store that had clothes that would fit me, even though I couldn't afford them (and probably wouldn't have worn them, even if I could have afforded them, since they were more the styles that my grandmother would have worn). It's funny, but looking back at that, I don't even remember if I was offended that they called it Stout Shoppe. Granted, it's not what I would have called a store for fat women's clothing, but I never thought of "stout" as being a pejorative word for a woman's size (stout says to me sturdy, strong, capable).
A friend of mine (and she was not fat) and I were talking about opening a store for plus-size women in our town (this was in like, 1978 or 1979, I think). We had gone so far as researching suppliers, looking for a storefront, writing up a business proposal, thinking up a name (Large N' Lovely was the one we really liked), and going to the bank to see about financing. Neither of us had a lot of money to start up, we were hoping we could get bankrolled because we thought it was an idea whose time had come. Not according to the banks in our town. According to them, there weren't enough fat women with money to spend on clothes to make it a financially viable enterprise. I didn't understand their reasoning, not at all. After all, Catherine's was making money....right? Not to mention Lane Bryant and Roamann's.
A couple of years later, a lady I knew opened the store my friend and I had wanted to open. She called it BJ's (I had to get my mind out of the gutter every time I passed her store). Her grand opening was a fashion show, and I was one of the women she asked to model (I got to keep the dress I modeled too). It was fun, and she had a crowd of large women there that day. Her store was going strong when I moved out of town in 1983, but I don't know if her store is still in business today. It's been 10 years since I've been back to my home town, and I didn't have the time to drive through town and see what was still there and what had disappeared or changed.
Looking back at that ad, I think we've come a long way, as far as being able to find clothes that fit the majority of fat women. The styles, though, still leave a lot to be deisired in a lot of those stores. And we haven't come very far at all when you look at who is modeling the clothes for fat women. I don't know why Catherine's uses larger models now, they didn't back in the day, but I'm glad they do. I have a better idea how their clothes will look on me because they do use fat models.