Plus Size Shopping is Hard: I Tried 6 Stores and Here’s What I Thought
A few years back, plus-blogger Gabi Gregg (aka GabiFresh) said one of my favourite quotes about dressing while being fat:
And you know, as a self-identified fat gal, that tweet really resonates with me. I have always been highly self-conscious of what I wear, how I present myself and how I look to others – largely due in part to the fact that I am a fat, plus size woman. Currently, I stand at 5 foot 2 inches and wear between a size 18 to 20 – depending on the day, the brand, the make, and the fabric.
When I was younger, I felt resigned to the fact that I would have to wear matronly as f*ck clothes, that didn’t look or feel proper on me, bunched in weird places, and basically made me feel I should be hiding my body and my visibility as a fat person to the world.
But if it wasn’t for the Internet telling me that I could dress however the f*ck I wanted being a fly as f*ck fat lady, I don’t know where I would be. But make no mistake, dressing fashionable and being fat is hard. To demonstrate, I decided to visit my local Dufferin Mall and visit six different retailers. Most, if not, all have advertised the following:
- Catering to specifically plus-size folks
- Having a plus-size section in their store
- Were suggested to me as a place to check out from the Curvy Bunz Clothing Swap group
This location had a huge plus-size selection, which was great. The problem: it’s in the basement. Of course, fat folks need to go to the basement to buy clothes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve large had a problem with Forever 21 and their fast fashion selections. With Forever21, I always have to size up with everything, so I knew this ahead of time and got everything one size larger than I normally do. Most of their designs seem poorly fitted for the consumer in mind.
Case in point, look #1. I tried on a beautiful lace nude dress in 1X. I tried it on and from the front it’s great, but the back is bunched up and you can fully see my back and bra. What the hell? At this point, a friend came in to help me out (was it the size? Was it poor design? Who knows.) but I just gave up.
For look #2, I tried on a pink criss-cross tank top and black tutu which fit well, but I noticed that in order to wear the shirt – I probably couldn’t wear a bra. While I’m comfortable with this, I think a lot of fat women aren’t.
But the outfit I loved most was look #3; my Yeezy Season knockoff outfit with a camo green skirt, purple bodysuit, and pink bomber jacket. Getting into the bodysuit was difficult and I could barely move in the jacket – but fashion, right?
Immediately walking into the store, I could tell that the Dufferin Mall location did not have any plus-size, so I tried looking for XL’s. I couldn’t find anything. I asked a store clerk which H&M locations had plus-size and she mentioned that their Yorkdale location and perhaps Vaughan Mills.
Regardless I tried on all the 14’s I could find that seemed “oversized” and had stretch to them, to see if I could potentially fit – I did not. You should see how some of this stuff fit, but hey – I tried, right?
The one XL that I could find in the store was a grey wool oversized bag of a sweater dress, because obviously. Dear H&M Canada: you should do better and carry plus-size in ALL OF YOUR locations.
Shopping at Marshalls and Winners’ is the same in that the selection is very dependent on the location that you go to and well, this one was not great. I ended up walking by the plus-size section two or three times because it was literally two racks, the selection wasn’t amazing. I walked over to the straight sized section and grabbed a dress in XL that was over-sized to see how that would fit too.
For look #1, I tried on was a really cute jacket with a floral print, a total steal for $29.99.
For look #2, I tried on a pair of black jeans, which are so difficult to find and oh man. They bunched in the crotch giving me camel toe and then made these weird pleats on my legs. I could not with that.
Finally, I tried on the XL dress from the straight-sized section for look #3. And while it fit me, it hung on my body like a Snuggie. No bueno.
The company that owns Reitmans also owns Addition Elle and Penningtons. While those two stores cater specifically to plus-women, I wanted to see how their sister store stacked up as it still carries plus-size.
All of the plus-items were in the back of the store beside the clearance items, which I found an interesting layout choice as it’s essentially saying we’re not worthy. When my friend and I visited, none of the sales associates bothered to say hello or hi to us or even bothered to help us out as we made our way to the change room. I found that especially interesting as almost immediately after we went to try things on, a straight-sized woman was brought in. Were we being ignored on purpose? Who knows. But it left a bad taste in my mouth.
The clothes here are more on the dressy side and I tried on a cute dress shirt, that would be perfect for the office. I grabbed a shirt in a 2x for my first look and while it fit, I felt that if I did the arms test (move them in front and behind me) – it was still tight.
For look #2, I tried on a plain black dress and again, it was tight in the chest area. Everywhere else fit fine – weird.
I’m so incredibly disappointed with Reitmans considering they own two plus-size companies. Like, shouldn’t you have the sizing game on lock?
In 2015, I heard that Suzy Shier had launched a plus-size collection. My own personal bias told me that the clothes there would be not up to my own personal taste level, so I figured this was the best opportunity to go check it out.
All of the plus-items were in the back of the store beside the clearance items, which I found an interesting layout choice because, again, it’s essentially saying we’re not worthy. And then, most of the clothes were black, with some pops of colour here and there. Where is the excitement?
With that being said, I was actually pretty shocked at what I found and really liked the few items I did try on including a pair of faux-leather jeggings.
As per usual, tops fit smaller because, boobs.
I tried on a dress here that I thought would be great for an event but it was a bit short (hit just above my knee) and I’m 5 foot 2.
Best part: I figured for fast fashion the prices vs. what they were offering was pretty on point, plus I loved that by shopping at Suzy Shier you would be supporting a Canadian retailer.
I have never really thought of Wal-Mart as a destination for clothes, but so many people I know swear by it. The George Plus line section was fairly small and I think I walked around this area at least three or four times trying to find at least 2-3 things I could try on. I don’t know if it’s picked over or they just don’t have anything. It wasn’t great.
The prices are INCREDIBLE though, ranging from $8 to $25 and I mean, I can’t be mad at those prices especially if you’re looking for basic workwear.
For my first look, I tried on another pair of black jeans in a size 18 which wouldn’t even get on me. I would have to say that it was one part embarrassing and one part kind of funny.
I tried on a 1x in another pair of jeggings and they went on but I felt like I had been piped into a sausage casing – it was not a good experience. The grey plain t-shirt there was awesome and it fit snug and hit all the right places. To be honest, that was the fashion WIN from Walmart.
Where do you go for plus size shopping? Let us know in the comment section below.
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Amanda (Ama) Scriver is a passionate storyteller, community builder and a loud and proud feminist and body image activist. She freelances for several publications including Foodism, Paste Magazine, and BizBash. In her off time, she lives for coffee, trashy reality television, hip hop and all things drag. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram via @amascriver on at her website AmaScriver.com