Let’s take a poll: how many people have heard or seen comments along the lines of “so-and-so is fat and can’t a) find nice clothes b) get a boyfriend c) anything else? Lose weight!” Besides the ignorance, shaming, and stupidity of said statement, it might not be so easy for plus size women to exercise, and it might not be the reason you think.
Everyone with Internet access has heard about the Abercrombie CEO who was quoted saying that they don’t carry larger sizes because fat people aren’t the “cool kids” A&F wants as their clientele. Besides the pathetic-ness of an adult seeking the approval of the popular kids, this statement brought up many issues surrounding fat shaming as well as shedding some light (though perhaps unintentionally) on the limited plus size retailers out there. Though the average American woman’s dress size is a 14, there are only a handful of plus size stores and even fewer big brands that carry both straight sizes and plus sizes.
So this brings us back to the idea of plus size women exercising. How many plus size exercise clothing companies can you think of off the top of your head? If you’re coming up short, you’re not alone. Though the women’s athletic wear market is a lucrative one (women are expected to spend $322 million a year) and the plus size fashion industry is profitable (estimated to be about $14 billion) many companies will not extend sizes beyond a 12, and some, such as Lululemon, “hide” the fact that they even sell up to a 12 in order to protect their image. The reason companies like Lululemon (a trendy yoga apparel company) can charge 98 dollars for a pair of yoga pants is because people buy into the image they are selling. Having fat people shop there would obviously ruin their cool, duh.
Employees of Lululemon have stated that they had to put all 2 digit sizes in the back room, thrown under tables, or hidden in piles. In a piece by the Huffington Post, ex-employees stated that “this treatment of larger clothes and customers reflects the culture that Lululemon represents -- one that falsely suggests skinniness is the paramount feature of health.”
Cult of CA's plus-size workout gear
Though one of Lululemon’s major competitors does carry “extended” sizes, Lululemon refuses to extend their own sizes. It’s true that they have a right to design, market, and sell any products they want. No company must sell to any certain demographic. But the way they approach their marketing and hide their “large” sizes shows a clear dismissal of plus size shoppers at their brand in order to maintain their image. Policies such as these continue to enforce the idea that only thin people are healthy, beautiful, and deserve expensive, trendy clothes.
Perhaps Lululemon should look at other companies who have extended their sizes and have seen a boost in profits. In fact, ModCloth found that "new plus-size customers spend 25% more per order, [and] buy 17% more items per order than regular-sized shoppers" which sounds pretty lucrative to me.
Do you know of any other workout wear companies that sell plus sizes? Do you think that companies that refuse to extend their sizes are fat shaming, or just selling to a specific target audience (where no one happens to be fat)?