Monday, September 3rd, 2012
Earlier today I watched a segment on the Today show about the current effort by retailers to provide plus sizing for girls at most ages (including toddlerhood). The question: is this labeling the wrong way to go?
Look, it’s clear that there are a variety of body types at all ages for girls. There is, also, the current obesity epidemic in this country that is requiring that more and more girls need larger sizes. So providing size choices at all ages – in stores and online – makes sense. Retailers are there to sell clothes, and kids (and parents) don’t want to be restricted in terms of what styles they can choose from.
But from my vantage point, do we need to use the phrase “Plus Sizes”? To me, it sounds like the fashion equivalent of doing a bad job of “mainstreaming” – you’re just like all of the ”normal” girls, except that you are a “plus size.” Do we need a “Too Skinny” section too?
I get that the retailers want to be sure that parents know that there is a concerted effort going on to be sure any girl can select from any style in most stores. But couldn’t a marketing campaign simply state that there is a full range of sizes available? I think most parents are comfortable sorting through either numeric sizing or abbreviations. I wonder if retailers like Sears consulted with developmental experts – rather than just marketing professionals – who might have helped them craft a better message. Yes, I’m guessing that retailers don’t really think through the deeper issues for kids, and focus myopically on target audiences and sales potential, even though a more suitable balance could be achieved.
If you saw the segment on the Today show, you heard an articulate 11-year-old (who purchases “plus size” clothes) who seems much wiser than the retailers these days. (If you didn’t catch it, check the Today show website and see if it is posted there). She said that she likes being able to go to the mainstream stores and be able to buy what all the other girls can buy (which wasn’t always the case). She also suggested that stores can simply rely on sizing and not the “plus size” labeling. And she plans to launch her own line of fashion someday that avoids unnecessary, and potentially undermining, labeling. I hope she does!