An open letter to Lane Bryant

Dear Lane Bryant:

Leave my tummy alone.

This weekend, when Aaron was out of town and the kids were with my in-laws, I had the all-too-rare opportunity to do some clothes shopping all by myself. There aren’t a lot of stores around here where I can actually walk inside and try things on in my size, and for all your other faults, Lane Bryant, I love that I can go into your fitting rooms and play dress-up, so that’s where I went.

I was wandering past an aisle of pants, in search of a black pencil skirt, when your first sales associate pounced. “Have you seen our new Tummy Tightening pants? They’re fabulous – they really help minimize that problem area.” She continued: “Our store is one of the test stores that gets to preview them and give them feedback so they know whether to introduce them in all of the stores, so I hope you’ll try some on and let us know what you think!”

Well, she did ask for feedback. “No thanks,” I said, “I’m pretty okay with my tummy the way it is.”

She looked startled. “Ah—oh,” she said, and left me alone.

I gathered an armload of clothes to try on – including this cute sundress, which wasn’t in on the rack in my usual size 24 but I decided to try in a 22, just for kicks — and headed back to the fitting room (although I never did find a black pencil skirt that didn’t have Tummy Tightening Technology).

The sundress didn’t fit, of course. I asked the sales associate (a different one) if they had it in the next size up; the 22 was almost perfect, but just a bit too tight in the waist and hips. “Oh, that’s easy!” said Sales Associate #2. “Just throw on some Spanx under there and it’ll fit perfect!”

“I’m not big on Spanx,” I replied. “They’re so uncomfortable.”

“Oh, who cares if you’re uncomfortable,” said SA#2, “when you look fabulous!”

Here’s the thing, Lane Bryant, that you and your sales associates don’t seem to be understanding: I already look fabulous. I’m not interested in magically squeezing myself into a dress that’s a size smaller if it means I’m itchy and sweaty and I can’t breathe. I don’t know what your fixation is with my midsection these days, but it’s just fine. I don’t need you to sell me fake self-esteem packaged as Tummy Tightening – I have plenty of real self-esteem of my own. All I want is to find clothes in my size that fit my body the way it is.

And since it seems that’s too much to ask, I’m afraid I’m leaving you for a retailer who respects me the way I am, instead of one whose corporate culture is to tell me my body is flawed. My areas don’t have any problems, Lane Bryant, is what I’m saying; so we’re through. It’s not me, it’s you.

Sincerely,

A formerly loyal customer

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9 thoughts on “An open letter to Lane Bryant

  1. Having just quit another Charming Shoppes company (Fashion Bug), I applaud your comments. I find the way this company wants to change their customers horrifying. Tummy cinching on everything is too much! (They even do it on size 4s for the record.) They need to change their ways!

  2. Hi. I’m pushing 250 and don’t really diet anymore. Four kids have given me my body. I’m active and love to eat. So, I get where you are coming from. But you really sound like you have a chip on your shoulder about the whole thing. Neither one of those salespeople said anything wrong to you. Of course you startled the one with the comment about your stomach. It had to sound totally bizarre to her, so you can’t fault her for just saying “Oh”. I suppose she could have added “great” to her comment, but she didn’t think quick enough on her feet. You have to know that making these kind of comments, no matter how fabulous you are, or how much you love your body, you sound like you’re looking for an issue with these people. They just wanted to tell you about a great new product. She wasn’t talking about YOUR stomach. She was talking about THE stomach and if you wanted yours to not bulge as much, these might be something of interest to you. Please keep in mind that 99.99% of the shoppers in their store would like to look a little slimmer when they try on their clothes. The other girl was trying to help you out with her suggestion. She didn’t have the size you needed, but instead of saying you were just out of luck, she tried to solve the problem. Just because what she suggested didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it was an offensive suggestion.
    You have given up a great place to shop for nothing. Your attitude about yourself is commendable, but how you handle it with others isn’t going to work for you. And…the pencil skirt is called that for a reason. I strongly advise against it, from personal experiences.
    Good luck on future shopping experiences.

    1. Here’s the context for the conversation with the second sales associate, which I’d edited out for brevity — I see now that was a poor writing choice: The conversation came about when she offered to order the dress online, which I said I was interested in doing; then I mentioned conversationally, since we were chatting, that the 22 was a bit too snug in the midsection. When she suggested Spanx and I replied that they were uncomfortable, she could’ve simply offered to place the order for the dress in the larger size; but instead she belittled my feelings and repeated the trope that looking slimmer is more important than physical comfort. So at that point she wasn’t trying to solve a problem — she’d already given me a solution that I’d accepted.

      As for the first associate I spoke with — actually the store manager, which I failed to mention in this post — there are many ways she could’ve introduced the new line of pants to me, and she chose to go with pointing out my “problem areas.” I didn’t then, and don’t now, feel like she was indicating my body in particular; rather, that her sales pitch relied on the assumption that all of LB’s customers think of their tummies as problem areas. She could’ve chosen to frame it in a positive way, something like — “you have great curves; these pants will help emphasize them,” but instead she went with body-criticism as her sales technique (probably per corporate script, since I know from experience that test stores are expected to stick pretty close to the party line).

      My problem isn’t with these two specific store employees; they were both very friendly and polite. My issue is that their comments (not to mention the scarcity of non-tummy-tightening pants) are reflective of a broader corporate culture that’s designed to capitalize on women’s unhappiness with their bodies.

      Whether 99.99% of Lane Bryant’s (and I mean the corporate whole, not just this particular store) customers wish to wear pants that slim their waists isn’t the point — the point is that by repeatedly telling customers that their tummies are problem areas that ought to be slimmed, they help perpetuate the body-shame that drives a demand for stomach-slimming pants. And so I’m choosing not to continue to spend my money to support a business that relies heavily on body-shaming techniques to drive business.

  3. Thanks for clarifying some of the comments. Again, good luck on finding a store that has clothes you like, and people that approach the subject in the way you want to be approached. I will tell you right now tho, if a sales associate told me (at 250lbs) that an article of clothing would “emphasize my great curves”, I would first think that she was using a sales pitch that corporate trained her to use and then I would hi-tail it out of there. My curves are well emphasized on their own, and do not need further encouragement, unless of course, I wanted them to be of even greater prominance than I have already made them by choosing the life-style that I have. My main issue with my weight is I know I would be a more active Mom with my 4 young ones if I was more fit, but I manage somehow to eat enough to ensure my “curves” remain in place. Unfortunely, I haven’t seen an actual “curve” on this morbidly obese frame since the late 90’s.

  4. “My problem isn’t with these two specific store employees; they were both very friendly and polite. My issue is that their comments (not to mention the scarcity of non-tummy-tightening pants) are reflective of a broader corporate culture that’s designed to capitalize on women’s unhappiness with their bodies.”

    YES!

  5. I hate when that happens! And it almost ALWAYS happens in plus-size clothing shops. The ladies at my local Autograph (my most frequented plus-size clothing shop) are starting to realise that I am NOT to be body policed in any fashion!

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