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2005.03.24

Comments

Janet

I hated that post article - and loved your analysis - so wrote about it at snarkcake today. http://www.snarkcake.com/

Anne

I bought my spring coat at Target. $40 for a snappy pink peacoat, and I don't have to feel guilty if I don't like it next year.

[Chico's has a] crazy-loyal market base -- a scant 1 million of their "Passport customers" make up 70% of its sales

My mom! She loves Chico's. They send out a catalog every month, and we discuss the latest items when it comes. I shop there too - for lack of something better, and because it makes her so happy that I join her.

Anecdotally, your comments in the Gap thread support the idea that women in their 30s and 40s are looking for well-made, well-designed, reasonably-priced clothing.

Yes! I already said this here before, but there are outlets for teen/early-20s clothing and outlets for Boomer clothing and not much between. I look at both and often end up buying the Boomer clothes (Chico's, J. Jill, Territory Ahead, etc.), although I resent being manouvered into dressing just like my mother.

Erica

I usually shop at Mervyn's or Kohl's, depending on what is closer to me. This is primarily because they have a section for shrimpos like myself (aka Petites). Other stores seem to jack up the prices on petite-sized clothing or only offer it up to a size 6.

I'm able to find a mix of professional clothing and casual clothing that fits my taste (aka pants with a waist that falls between Mom-Jean-Above-the-Belly-Button and Britney-Let's-Everyone-Reveal-Our-Asscracks) that doesn't cost too much. I'm still figuring out what looks good on me, and I like that I can pick up a couple pairs of jeans and 3 new tops for $100 so like Anne, I don't feel guilty if I end up donating it to charity after realizing that it isn't for me.

Alexandra

From the article:

So now the retailer is opting for professional models to sell "our product story of white denim" for the summer season

Woah. Hold up. That might be the problem right there. For the past three spring seasons, I've heard about how white jeans are "making a comeback" and "more flattering than ever" and generally bursting with summer goodness. And for the past three Septembers, I've sorted through sale racks crammed with white jeans. Very few bodies naturally-occuring bodies will look their best in a "product story of white denim." I don't know why. I'm a huge fan of some white linen pants I've had for years - maybe it's because linen is, by its nature, not supposed to hug your curves, and therefore is more forgiving in white? I don't know. All I know is, I've never seen a woman wearing white jeans and thought to myself, "Damn, she looks good." Outside of fashion magazines and Gap ads, I mean - which we all know don't count.

ginger

I'm nobody's sought-after shopper, because I basically shop by the SWAT method - go in fast, stay on mission, and try to get out safely with what you went in for. But. I need clothes that make the fashion statement, "Hey, look, I'm an office drone." And that, to me, means "classic" lines, i.e. unornamented design, in basic colors, i.e. colors I can wear two or three summers running if I don't spill mocha all over myself on the bus.

Where are my clothes, damnit? Old Navy is too young. Gap has lost it completely (yeah, I haven't worn white pants since nursing school, where I learned that no one, NO ONE, looks good in them - and SJP, you can't scream "Ageism!" after accepting the "I enjoy being a GIRL" campaign. Girls? Are young. You should have asked whether you could sing "I Am Woman" instead.) Talbots, despite being everyone's grandma, is good enough, but $28 plus tax ON SALE for a plain cotton t-shirt? Whatever, Heather. On the other hand, Target's stuff is usually so poorly made that it's not wearable.

Department stores? Well, okay, until they ALL turned into Macy's and started carrying nothing but misses in various sizes.

This Chico's. Where did it start? Does it exist out here in WA? Is it online only? Because my legs are freakish and I cannot buy pants online.

I guess I'll be over here wrapped in a bedsheet if anyone needs me.

PG

Chico's is also wildly popular among the well-heeled mothers down here, and it's for their forgiving cuts, clean lines, and how well the stuff travels. I personally feel a bit frumpy inside a Chico's, but I know that my time is coming in 5 - 10 years.

I don't know anyone in my peer group (25 - 35) who "has stores." We're no longer loyal to stores. Five years ago, we'd religiously shop Ann Taylor, Harold Powell, Banana Republic... even the Gap (but only on occasion. I don't anyone who has remained "loyal" to Gap in the last 10 years). Now, the Nordstroms and Neimans are too expensive for everyday, the moderate department stores (Foley's, Dillard's) don't carry the quality we demand, the small stores don't carry the depth and classic pieces we need, and we're too impatient for online. So we shop designers and lines instead, sporadically and wherever we can get them -- and go to Old Navy when we need cheap/fast, and don't care when it falls apart in six months (although, to their credit, I like my jeans threadbare and worn and I can achieve that far faster with the Old Gravy denim than I can with Levis).

Texas is middle America as far as the fashion industry is concerned, so take my thoughts for what they're worth. But we no longer buy into the brand that the stores are selling. I don't need to be a "Gap girl," or a Harold's girl, or a J. Crew girl, any longer. I just need a lined black single-breasted blazer with three buttons for under $200.

Terri

I don't think it's just women in their 30s and 40s who are looking for well-made, well-designed, reasonably-priced clothing and having trouble finding it. I'm in my early 20s, but I've long outgrown chains like Le Chateau. To the delight of many of my friends' younger siblings, Abercrombie is finally coming to Canada, but I have a feeling I've outgrown it. I like American Eagle for casual clothing, but it doesn't quite work for the workplace. We have a chain called Jacob that I used to buy a lot of work clothing at, but it's gotten quite a bit pricier than it was just a few years ago. I can't afford Banana Republic. Old Navy is fine in a pinch, but often not tailored enough for work. We've discussed the Gap.

So now people my age -- who want casual clothing that won't fall apart in three weeks, fun clothing that will cover our boobs and butts at least marginally, and work clothes that won't look cheap and/or unprofessional -- are a bit stuck. I'm not store-loyal anymore either, as PG discussed. I look for deals, and I hunt for favoured brands at discount stores and on sale racks. There's a gap.

Anyabeth

I work for a major retailer and I have to tell you our price points have risen because that is what the customer demands. I don't get it at all but if we put the same item out with four different price points we inevitably sell out of the most expensive one first.

I think that is what is pushing stores into the more luxury market. That stuff sells so quickly. And because the cost is so high retailers rarely overbuy those goods and don't get stuck with it at the end of the season.

Beth

Yeah, I'm 27 and I work in a semi-casual industry in general and I have the hardest time finding things that fit right and won't fall apart that I can actually afford. If I can afford it, it's at Forever 21 and not only am I hanging out all over the place, but I look like I'm trying to be 16, no thanks. The other option is way to formal for my industry and look like how my mom should be dressing. Not to mention really bloody expensive. I can't be store loyal or even brand loyal because the store that had the cute pinstripe pants that fit over my butt last season is either no longer around or has become more expensive or has tried to grab a "younger" dynamic and now nothing fits. As for the brand of pants, I have no idea where to find them now. Also, I don't care how good Lucky jeans may make my butt look, I can't spend $150 on jeans. Gah. Can you tell I tried to find new clothes this weekend with no luck?

Gwen

Am I the only one here who's "plus-sized" or who lives near plus-sized people? Isn't something like one third to one half of America plus-sized now? You can't tell that by looking at the mall. The only choices for people over size 18 are Lane Bryant and Horrid, oops I mean Torrid. Or the department stores' "Woman's World" sections, which are full of unflattering muumuus.

Kate

At 28, I still occasionally go the Gap for t-shirts or jeans, but 95% of what they have doesn't appeal to me. I don't understand what market they're trying to appeal to. It's like they've mastered dowdy, ill-fitting clothing for teens. And half their stuff has lycra in it - "stretch" shirts or pants - which doesn't work for me at all, and really, in my mind, doesn't work for anyone who isn't super thin.

I shop more often at Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and the various department stores, including the relatively high-end department stores like Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdales. Since I more or less refuse to buy something unless it's on sale, I don't end up spending very much money, and the quality is so much better. Lord & Taylor's regularly has end of season sales where you can save 60-90% - the last time I was there I bought a silk blouse for $12 (down from $60), a beautiful cashmere sweater for $60 (down from $150) and a Jones New York blazer for $30 (down from $300). I just bought a nice wool suit at Ann Taylor for $75 (down from $300) - the suit was on sale, plus I had $75 worth of coupons. I hate Macy's, but combine one of their sales with the coupons you can get in the paper and you can save a ton of money. And you can get cute tshirts from Urban Outfitters on sale for, like, $8. Or I'll go to Syms (which might just be a New York area thing) where you can get stuff way below retail.

I hate paying full price, because it always feels like such a rip-off. And I don't like buying crappy clothing that falls apart after six months, because that feels like a rip-off too. Plus, the crappier the clothing, the younger and thinner you need to be to carry it off. H&M looks adorable on my 19 year old sister - it looks like complete crap on me. So I just shop at the end of the season and buy less (but nicer) stuff.

A.

I always have a list of things I want/need to buy but that does not mean that I will find it in my size or at my price point. So I am constaintly looking. The one place I can always find something is Winners. Winners is a discount chain (might only be found in Canada). They have high end brands at relatively low prices. And the shoe sizes start at 5. Love the store. I also love Smart set especially for basics but now their prices have increased. I will now have to look even more.

esme

Gwen, I'm "plus-sized" -- plus I'm short, and designers can't seem to grasp the idea that a size 14/16 woman can be shorter than 5'10". It's really quite frustrating.

I do shop at Lane Bryant fairly often, mainly for the pants, since that's the only place I can find pants and jeans in my size that aren't cut really narrow through the hips/thighs. For sweaters and blouses, though, I cherry-pick from lots of different stores -- Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor Loft, New York & Co., etc. -- trying to find clothes that (a) have enough room in the chest, (b) are work-appropriate (read: business-casual), (c) are affordable on my non-profit salary, and (d) don't look like Fat Girl Clothes. You can imagine how fun this is.

What strikes me in this whole "conversation" is how few of us seem to be shopping at department stores, like Hecht's, Dillard's, etc. I know I, for one, hate trying to find clothes in those places, and I rarely even try. Wouldn't you think their whole purpose is to cater to a wide range of shoppers? So why is it that all I can ever seem to see there are the aforementioned "unflattering muumuus" in Women's, twee embroidered cardigans in Petites, unattractive and ill-fitting suit-dresses, and a sea of "sportswear" (how many polo shirts and white capri pants can one woman wear, anyway)? Who exactly are the big department stores targeting?

Gwen

Esme, you and I do the same things, with the unfortunate exception of me being able to fit into Anne Taylor tops.

I've actually had good luck at higher-end dept stores, as Kate mentions, but I totally agree with your assessment of the majority of them.

I'm pretty good at guessing where other women shop just by looking at them. I guess I just want to be better dressed than any of the women I see? I mean, we all have to wear SOMETHING. I guess we buy what we can and then the retailers take that as a mandate to keep doing what they're doing?

Target used to have nothing for size 16 women, but now they have XXL in their Merona and Mossimo lines. So I can at least add those "5 wears, you're out" pieces to the rest of my cherry-picked line.

I've been following all Lisa's Gap talk and the subsequent commentary, feeling embarrassed that I *wished* I could fit into Gap clothes, just so I could have more options to bitch about. Then I went to a Gap outlet last weekend. It has my size. I tried on skirt that seemed cute until I noticed the "ethnic" print was literally printed on, not woven in. They wanted $39 for it.

Now if only Banana Republic would carry a couple of more sizes, my range of complaints would near completion...

PG

Gwen, like you and Esme, I'm on the cusp. Therefore, I cherry-pick. I can find corporate-casual pieces for work at Old Navy and Target, thanks to those stores' carrying the same pieces in more sizes, rather than creating a Women's Muu-Muu Dept for anyone over a 12... but still those items will only last one season. Stein Marts and Loehmanns and that ilk will have higher quality stuff, but it's an actual effort to hunt things down, since they don't carry consistent lines.

I'd like to believe that if I had more discretionary funds for clothing, I would have more options. But, I've seen what's out there and I just don't believe that to be so.

Em

I'm "plus-sized" and not in an "on-the-cusp" way. AND I'm short. I have a hard time buying clothing, and let me tell you, white denim? No.

On the other hand, I'm also a college student, so I'm not looking for business casual and I don't have a lot of money to spend. I do a lot of thrift-store shopping, I hit Target and Old Navy when they get new things in, and I keep my eye on Lane Bryant--it's at the top of my price range, and a lot of it is Fat Girl Clothing, but they've been challenged by a lot of the new competition (Torrid, for one, which I haven't bought from in a year or so, but whose influence I appreciate) and are picking it up a little.

I sometimes feel like an untapped niche market.

RRR

I guess I am the only one here who likes the Gap. I love the whole "pretty khaki" line. Those straight leg ones look great on me. I can always rely on the Gap for some great fitting pants. And yes I am plus sized - 14/16 on bottom 18 - 24 on top..depends on the store...and the bra.

I am just over the 30 hump, and Chicos is not for me...and probably never will be. I tend to like the J.Crew, Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor look. Chicos really seems like modern day hippie clothes. Or maybe it is better suited to life in the desert, and not New Jersey.

I shop all over too...you have to when you are as unevenly sized as I am. I go to Lane Bryant (which is trying to make a comeback after a few years of mega frump), Old Navy (good prices and I like their jeans), Gap (see above), Macy's (ok you have to find a Macy's that has a good womans department if you are plus sized..there is one near me that is large and has a nice mix of trendy/casual and work clothes), Torrid (has some cute stuff - especially good on the trends. I personally think they keep getting better), I like Express and Limited for pants too.

I guess my point will be that I will miss Sarah...she really prompted me to buy those pants. I love show tunes.

Lisa

I am large on top and medium on bottom and trying to get smaller both places. I'm also short but long torso.

I went to Chicho's to get basic stuff to build on that I could wear as I change sizes. I've worn those tanks with everything and they really look good and hold up. I even spilled salad dressing on one and it came out in the wash. I've worn one tank two years now pretty regularly and it's still in good shape.

I went into my kids high school to pick her up in one with my jeans and got stopped because they thought I was a student so I can't look too ancient in the stuff. My 18 year old daughter, who is much smaller than I, has borrowed some of the clothes to wear in a pinch and my size fits her as well though she looks much better in her own size.

I love the colors they have which I can't seem to find anywhere else. I walk through the other stores and feel like I'm in the movie Pleasantville at times. Lately the other stores have gone wild with peaches and lime green though, real hard colors to wear.

I have bought the tanks and matching pants and then go crazy in the consignment shops getting stuff to mix and match. I had to go elsewear for jeans though. It's so hard to get jeans that look nice when your short and have a round tummy.

Mary Pavlik

I need to vent. I am extremely frustrated with the quality of clothing available for sale. The so called clothes look like rags and fall apart after two washings. In fact I have rags in the basement that are in better shape than new clothes. The material is very thin, the workmanship is garbage and it all costs a fortune. I have been wearing things a few times and then throwing them in the garbage. They feel uncomfortable and actually feel like they will fall off my body because they are so shapeless. I won't buy new...I'll have to go naked..What can be done? Imported means cheap...inferior product. We need to start demanding better merchandise instead of accepting the junk. Is something going to be done or are we doomed to look like a bunch of slobs?

Lisa

Well, the cheap and imported clothes are in the stores because right now, shoppers clearly prefer inexpensive and disposable to more well-made and endurable. Unless shoppers consciously go out of their way to buy only that which is well-made and -- here's the key -- PAY for that quality, then they'll get what they're asking for.

Many of the people I interview for the day job note that for American shoppers, price usually trumps quality. That's not surprising, given that most people treat shopping like a regular hobby, and their possessions like temporary, disposable items.

For those of us who prefer to wear our clothes for years at a time, there's still good, quality merchandise out there. You just have to look a lot longer and be able to pay more upfront -- while taking comfort knowing that you're amortizing the cost in the long run.

I don't think import restrictions or legislation or regulation is an answer. The answer is in changing our shopping expectations and habits, and in persuading other people to do so as well. The cheap imported goods are here because we want them here. We'll have to be the ones who make them go away too.

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