A monumentous thing happened while I was in far away Providence land. A news story of particular interest to me hit the 'Most Emailed' list (and, as of this moment, is still #1) for the New York Times on Saturday. "Where's the Petite Department? Going the Way of the Petticoat
" details the fazing out of petite clothing lines from high-end department stores. It was one of those "HAH! I told you so
" moments when the article came sailing into my consciousness. I mean, if the New York Times is covering this particular snippet of fashion/business news, it's not exactly a tiny trend here. (find the full text here
if above link doesn't work)
High-end department stores blame petite women for having such an "older, unfashionable and undesirable" image. And yet, it's hardly the fault of the short consumer to resign herself to this stuff if it's the only game in town. I've totally checked out the goods myself and find them...old, unfashionable, and undesireable. Hell, I'm sure even the older women that they're trying to target with such frumpy goods are going for the look either. Petite women who dress themselves from the petite selection can't help it - they don't really have alternatives besides going into the juniors department or spending horrendous amounts getting everything altered.
In Bloomingdale's at 59th and Lexington, I was in fact, directed to check out the selection in Tahari (definitely pricey, and definitely too long/tall). I guess they thought a young woman should know better than to be shopping in Petite's
for God's sake! When I mentioned that things there were too long/tall/big/etc, the salespeople just kinda gave a shrug and said I can just get things altered. Just. As if it was completely beneath them to consider the hassle, cost, and general aggravation such a procedure would entail. Before moving to NYC, I figured that I'll find plenty of stuff that fits me in these expensive shops. Surely, if the clientele is most clearly willing to pay, they'd have stuff, I thought.Wrong
. Designer's in fact, do not "care about the little people." They want them, and apparently their fat wallets, to go to a land far far away. My brother (who is 5'5") and I (a stately 4'10") used to half-joke constantly about height discrimination. Being male, he certainly has it worse. Sure, everyone knows that Presidents and C-level executives are "supposed" to be tall and imposing. Ok, you can even posit that there's some slight edge to being taller there, but other components are also weighed in, so it's not completely
about height. But it's a whole other thing when we're talking about selling clothes.
It's nothing short of discrimination (no, the pun was completely unintended). The most obvious sign is that the decision to slash the smaller sized departments is completely based on faulty irrational train of thought. The sales figures are in. Petite sales are growing
, and high-end stores like Bloomingdale's do not want to service them! They do not want us rushing to their registers with willing dollars in hand. They do not want to revamp the 'image issue' that they themselves helped to create. They do not want us gushing to our friends and give them free advertising and loyalty just because they made us feel like everyone else. No, they don't want any of these things because in their minds, the decision has already been made. Because what good is our tenacious loyalty (albeit, we make up a smaller share) when customers like us make them cringe?
That's right, these stores have concluded that all petite women are old, frumpy and have no taste. Yes, disregard that petite just means short, for any age, income level, or any other socioeconomic index. Yes, disregard the fact that we're willing to pay more
for the same thing if it fits because we know it's going to be produced in smaller batches and it's a pain in the ass to carry. Yes, disregard that you are educating your stores to redirect them to the "fashionable" sections of the store that they spend dollars in (and at their tailors). This judgement is hardly fair, as their sense of what we are is completely based on the clothing that they themselves decided to carry in the first place! And because they need to maintain a stylish and youthful image, these short rejects must be swiftly ejected from their stores before their presence taints the stores' name irredeemably.
These stores certainly have the clout and the volume to go back to their designers and distibutors and tell them to get their act together and to supply nicer and stylish clothes for the shorter set. It's certainly not a problem with short clients' unwillingness to spend. They've more than proven that since they are willing to shell out probably 20-50% more to get the regular-sized stuff altered. But, in the mind's of the decision makers, the decision has already been made.
At a very basic level, clothing is meant to make you feel safe and comfortable - both physically and emotionally. The trend-setters of the clothing industry has been doing a very shoddy job at both of these functions. I myself know that I would pay a lot more and be incredibly devoted to a company that would make me feel good about how I dress and how I shop. Instead, I quietly (well, not so quietly) suffer the indignities forced upon me by the way things are done. I am directed to children's departments. I am given the "sorry, but we really don't have a thing for you at all" talk from salespeople who are most definitely not sorry about it. I am told that I can pay a lot more to have the hems taken up, the seat yoke taken in, the darting move up, and the sleeves shortened for a shirt that will probably still look unflattering on me when it's done being dissected.
Indeed, the issue is not about indulgence or even convenience. It is completely about parity.
Labels: department stores, New York Times, news