Friday, August 6, 2010

life with Lane Bryant

Last Thursday Lane Bryant posted this on their Twitter feed:

The link was to this t-shirt design (below), by Australian artist and blogger Natalie Perkins, which, it appears, was supposed to leave us all appalled n stuff. The beauty thing about social media, though, is that companies find out right away when they screw up, which LB did in a barrage of Twitter messages and blog posts. The apology on was on their website the next day. Lane Bryant thought they were defending our (the customer's) honor, but they were, as ever--as always--out of it.

That's one big reason LB's mistake tapped into a well of frustration for me: not just because a bumbling company stepped on an independent (and fat-positive) artist, but because this is how Lane Bryant always is. LB has built a business out of finding ways to clothe and take money from the fat woman without ever using the word fat, showing fat women modeling their clothes, or admitting that their customers are fat. I wouldn't expect anything different from their corporate culture, to be honest. But it still was discouraging to see evidence in real time. It's like it wouldn't even occur to them to see the slogan in any way but negatively.

There are a lot of beautiful, supportive people slogging it out as Lane Bryant employees and customers, but there is still for me an element of shame in the LB experience, and it has a lot to do with how the company markets itself. They have long held the idea of not using fat or even particularly plus-size models for their clothes, using as their argument the fact that they sell more clothes that way, because they do--

--women don't really want to know what they look like. So the company holds up an unusually fake mirror that collides with reality and guarantees your inability to choose clothes well when you shop from their catalog, because who the hell knows what their clothing actually looks like on a fat body. Their models are basically the size of people who would never have to shop Lane Bryant--the exact opposite of who is actually in Lane Bryant at any given time, the exact opposite of who has to shop there. So you never see yourself there or on their website--

--and all this in turn continues to drive the world of imagery where fat peeps are not represented in the way and to the extent we do. And because LB makes money this way--people buy more clothes, plus they also buy the wrong clothes (that don't always get returned) without fat models to help make better purchasing choices and to help clothe our bodies as they are right now--the company doesn't take the initiative to change it. It sucks.

I'm thrilled LB got slapped on the wrist. I hope they think twice before ever lazily trafficking in that kind of shame disguised as we-got-yer-back-girl blah-blah again.

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Note: I happen to like this simpler (design-wise) version of a similar slogan from Ephemera, if you need a sticker!