It’s widely known that, despite the average woman in America wearing a size 14/16, retailers and department stores use special terms — like “plus-size” and “curvy” — to differentiate these technically average sizes from others. To promote the name change, Kmart released a commercial in which a “fabulously sized” woman uses a mallet to smash the “t" at the end of the word “can’t,” turning it into “can.” After that, text reading “Anything is possible” pops up on screen. The subtext here seems to be that anything is possible…even at your size!
This kind of non-inclusive labeling is controversial and complicated — and that’s what bothers me about Kmart’s approach.
As a woman who swings between a size 12 and 16, I cringe when I hear the words “Fabulously Sized.” It feels unauthentic, awkward, and even patronizing. Is the self-worth of a woman above a size 12 perceived to be so low she needs a retailer to pat her on the back and assure her of her fabulousness? And to ask the obvious: Are size two women not fabulous as well? This packaging feels like the kind of special treatment reserved for someone who’s been dealt a tough hand in life. If anything, it only further divides the discussion around size. It continues the "us vs. them” mentality that hasn’t served women well in the past, and certainly won’t serve women well in the future.
Why do so many department stores and retailers think labeling needs to be so emotionally-charged? In my perfect world, sizes would be merchandized inclusively and we could all shop the same racks together. But in a world where different departments are still needed, I wish Kmart had stripped away the emotion (instead of supercharging it) by using clear, size-based nomenclature like “0 to 12” and “14-24.”
As misguided as the effort is, I do give Kmart credit for actually reaching out to its customer. I see brands get it wrong so often that I wonder if any of them are listening to what real women are saying. Kmart’s customers reportedly provided feedback that they wished the assortment was better and that it was called something different. And while Kmart is trying, in my opinion, it's failing to land on the right side of the debate.
At the end of the day, though, for me, it's about the clothing. I’ve loved fashion my entire life, but I didn’t always feel like fashion loved me back. That feeling, however, is starting to fade thanks to brands and retailers that are doing it right. Good American launched out the gate with sizes 00 - 24. Designers like Michael Kors and Prabal Gurung have started sending models of all sizes down the runway. And women sizes 14-28 are finally able to get their trend fix with places like Eloquii (which starting next week will be carrying a capsule collection I designed).
Somehow, I went from feeling like a fashion outsider to designing my own line. And while that may not be every woman’s path, I hope we soon reach the point where size and fashion become a non-issue and everyone can feel welcome. In the meantime, I’m for brands that make me feel fabulous with their clothing — not their labels.