From the title of this, you can probably guess what it is I am going to talk about today. I have been wanting to jot down my thoughts about my own experiences and what goes on when you work for retail companies who are not plus size friendly.
I have gone back and forth about this but I am going to only mention 2 places by name. I don’t want to spread hate on any place that I have worked for because I think that would be bashing them. I did have quite a few good memories and just in case I want to work for one of these other places in the future I will leave their names out.
That’s Too Revealing On Your Frame
I think straight size (layman’s terms, it means non-plus) stores know that they can’t refuse to hire people who can’t wear their clothes. Because obviously, that is discriminatory. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to tell you what you can and can’t wear just because it is “distasteful” in their eyes because you are not thin.
I used to work for the company Justice. You might remember them as Limited Too? Remember as a tween they had the happy rainbow music, every stuffed animal with BIG googly eyes, & clothes with every print imaginable but add sequins. I actually enjoyed this job when I wasn’t getting yelled at by moms who didn’t understand how our promotions worked. But then they implemented this new rule that restricted creativity. You could only wear leggings or jeans. They said no dresses or skirts or shorts. You couldn’t wear tanks or short sleeve shirts without layering. In fact, you had to have more than 3 pieces to layer with whether it be a flannel, a headband, a scarf, etc. I did have a manager tell me when we changed the policy that because of my frame I needed to wear baggy clothing because the leopard shorts (this was in 2015) and the black peplum top were too wild and revealing. A man actually became CEO of the company & started changing the rules, stating that he wanted everyone to be a role model for the little girls that were coming into the store.
If You Can Even Find Anything To Fit You
Another company I worked for, Forever 21, had a dress code policy of styling yourself similar to the store’s fashion plan, but you didn’t have to wear Forever 21’s brand, you just couldn’t wear name brands like Tory Burch, Abercrombie, etc that had their logo on the item. Now if you have ever shopped at Forever 21 before then you have seen some of the things the employees wear. Crop tops, distressed denim, mini skirts, tube tops, body-con dresses, big heels, etc etc. Now at this stage I never was comfortable enough to rock something so “daring” as a skinny strapped number or *GASP* a sleeveless top. But one day, I wore this pink chevron dress that was thin strapped. I had seen other girls wear FAR worse in my opinion. I had just clocked in & needed to be chatted in about the day with a manager. No one batted an eye about what I was wearing except for one person. She stopped me and told me it was against the dress code to wear a sleeveless dress. I apologized and told her I didn’t realize that was a rule. She asked me if I had a jacket or something, it is the middle of monsoon season in AZ and humid, I told her no and apologized again. I waited for her to be done and she pulled me aside to tell me that I needed to find something to cover myself up. Then she proceeded to say, “if you can even find something in here to fit you then wear it, otherwise next time I will send you home.” I had never been more humiliated in my life. To not only be ushered away like a child from the rest of my teammates all because I was wearing skinny straps. She emphasized that I wouldn’t have been able to find anything in the store to fit me. I was isolated from my teammates and given different punishment for a supposed dress code violation. Embarrassed for not only myself but for being put into a situation that made me feel like there was something wrong with me as a coworker for not fitting into the clothes we sold.
I Just Want You To Feel Comfortable With People Like You
The biggest challenge I have faced is probably discouragement as an associate employee and trying to sell to a customer. As a customer, when you see people who work for a retail store, you are probably looking for reassurance that you aren’t wasting your time. I know it sounds awful but as humans, we are looking for people who look similar to us. We need to know that something that is in the store is going to fit us. Otherwise, you’ll have people saying to you “Why am I wasting my time shopping here if you can’t even carry my size.” I can’t tell you how many times someone has come in and blamed me because we didn’t have what they were looking for or that nothing fit them.
I have had people ask me before why I work for someplace that I can’t even wear what we sell. That is a great question that I never know how to answer. The national average of a woman’s size in the USA is 16. If you want to read more about the statistics on that there is a great article here explaining how 68% of women are a size 14 or above.
Sometimes people, whether it be a manager or corporate, will say something that they think is helping you but in reality, it could actually be hurtful. Yes, this story is the most recent that happened to me. When I was working for a retail brand I was one of the only plus size associates for a while. The store didn’t sell anything above a Large which goes against my morals, as I believe that every size should be sold in stores. I had 2 more managers that were hired on that were also plus size. I began to notice that we were always scheduled together & never worked with any other managers, or associates. It wasn’t until after a few weeks I finally had the courage to mention it to one of my plus size employees. We had both become aware of it after we had MANY customers see us, come into the store, and ask if we had their size, anywhere from a 12-24. We were losing business because people were coming in thinking we could cater to them since all they see are a couple of plus size ladies. I mentioned all this to my head manager & explained my worry. Her explanation as to why she always scheduled me with these 2 ladies was “I just wanted you to feel comfortable with people who are like you. You know that have.. the same qualities as you.” I knew what she was talking about which put a pit in my stomach.
You may be thinking that “Oh well that isn’t a big deal” but honestly it is. Because as an employee, you should never be judged about what you look on the outside to do your job well. That should never, ever be a factor. She thought that I, as a curvy girl, couldn’t handle working with my other stick skinny co-workers because it would throw off my game and I would feel uncomfortable. Instead what made me uncomfortable was feeling like my manager didn’t feel confident in my ability to be confident in my skills to make sales.
I still continue to love working for retail. Something I have definitely learned after working for a range of companies is that you can either sit and watch as a manager, a co-worker, a brand, etc treats you different for looking different, or you can stand up for yourself. You can teach them the right and wrong way to come across as caring for your well being. Teach them to start an open conversation of non-judgment. And don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself even if it’s awkward.
None of this should ever discourage you if you feel you want to work for a retail brand. I have so many good feelings, and memories towards all the places I worked for, But these are the downs of working for places who are not inclusive towards everyone, especially the average women.
Thank you guys so much for reading. I was really nervous to put this out there but I wanted to talk about my own experiences I have dealt with in the non plus size retail world. I promise and fun and a lighthearted piece will be up on Friday! 🙂