Designer Collaborations & The Plea Of The Plus-Sized

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liz-blackPhotographed by Kristina Wilson.
Growing up in New Jersey, I spent a lot of time at the mall with my friends. If we weren't picking at disco fries at the local diner, we were aimlessly window shopping and pretend-spending money we didn't have. My frequent partner on these all-day excursions was my best friend Ally, a statuesque, lithe, perky girl who could shop at any store, including the aptly and painfully named 5-7-9 (which literally only carried those three sizes). Chubby, awkward, and bustily endowed, I was often sized out of the shops she wanted to visit. She'd try on adorable baby tees that I knew would barely cover my chest, and trendy jeans that I could never squeeze my thighs into. I was jealous, and I turned that envy into a grave dislike of my own body.

I wanted to find fashion that spoke to my inner style, but there was nothing within all the Contempo Casuals and Delia's of the world that would fit my womanly curves. I felt ostracized by a community I so longed to be part of, so I smashed my size 13 self into too-small jeans — a literal attempt at fitting in. But then, I found Target.

It was a place that catered to my developed figure and didn't make me feel bad about my body. Sure, I was shopping in the women's department, but the jeans buttoned; the tops were structured as if they were meant to enclose a pair of breasts. Here, I could pick up the latest Green Day CD, and I could shop alongside my skinny friend; I was hooked.

Mall trips transformed to Target runs on which my meager babysitting earnings scored me more than I could ever afford (or fit into) at Abercrombie & Fitch. When Target launched its Go International collection, I honestly thought life couldn't get much better. Starting with its first collaboration with Fiorucci, I'd wait — like a rabid Backstreet Boys fan outside stage doors — for the stores to open on launch day. Still, fitting was an issue. I could sometimes stretch the knits to their extremes to bring something home with me, or I’d load up on accessories. Either way, I was getting in on that designer action and it felt good.

I thinned out some as I grew up, and by college I was shopping the straight-size stores more and Target less. But, around 24, I found myself in between jobs, struggling to break into the fashion industry, and having put weight back on that precluded me from relying on the stores I'd grown to love. So, I found my way back to the bullseye.

Entering the store, it was like nothing had changed. I beelined for the designer collab section with that same 14-year-old glee, which quickly faded to a much worse feeling. I was too big. As I looked longingly at the diaphanous Rodarte cardigans and marked-down Anna Sui pieces, I accepted my fate and trudged to the plus section, a lone rack sandwiched between the rows of clearance and the maternity muumuus, and stared at my paltry selection.
PlusSizeSilo3_IsabelleRancierIllustrated by Isabelle Rancier.
Now, practically a lifetime from when I first strode through Target's doors, I'm reminded of that sad day — the many sad days in which I've shuffled past the clothes I love, to pick through the clothes that are available in my size. I came across Chastity Garner Valentine's #BoycottTarget post, a well-penned, thought-provoking piece in which she ceremoniously dumped the store like a bad boyfriend. And, I just kept wondering why.

Why hadn't Target stepped up its plus-size selection over the years? Why had it removed almost every shred of a plus section in most locations? Why had it promised a new plus-size assortment at the beginning of 2014 that still hadn't shown up in a single store? Why had it teased us, offering a limited plus selection from Webster for Target (during The Shops at Target campaign), causing us to assume that future collections would follow suit? Why did the designer collaborations top out at a missy size 16, excluding the majority of plus-size women?

This wasn't the first time a plus blogger had issued an ultimatum to Target; Marie Denee of The Curvy Fashionista launched a petition with two other plus bloggers back in 2010, pleading with Target to stop excluding full-figured women from its collaborations and clothes. Almost four years later, nothing is different.

I chatted with the chain's chipper and apologetic spokesperson, Joshua Thomas, and he explained how sorry Target was for letting down its guests. I got the sense that, though it surely has taken longer than it should, that the plus community's message had finally been heard. It seemed as if the powers that be at Target may have actually read Chastity's ultimatum and all the articles that covered her boycott.

Thomas explained that the phantom plus line was still on its way for early 2015, having been sadly delayed from its expected February 2014 launch. Target wanted to fill the “white space” in the plus market, he told me, their goal was to offer great style for everyone. In hopes of further righting these wrongs, he said that they “intend to bring a few notable plus bloggers to get an early read on the line and help us think about how we continue to evolve it.” There was even potential for those bloggers to design, a move that would really resonate within the plus community. He added, “As for designer partnerships, offering plus is definitely on our radar and something we’re planning to explore.” Call me naïve, but maybe they've really heard us this time?

Joshua claims that people at Target are listening; that they value the importance of guest feedback, which is why I propose we let them know exactly how we feel. Email them, call them, tell them in store, plaster your requests all over their social media channels. Make sure that the brand's decision-makers know exactly how ignored and excluded we feel. Let them know that you want to vote with your dollars, that you'd happily spend money in their retail Meccas, if only they offered their coolest clothing in your size. Make a ruckus, a loud one, so they know that all 100 million of us plus-size women deserve more than a pushed-aside rack of basics, and we have hundreds of millions of dollars with which we'll support their decision to stock their shelves more inclusively.