Pluses and Minuses

It's pretty nice to spend my Fourth of July with my family, and I especially appreciate some quality Mother-Daughter time with my mom. We lunched, discussed plans for the upcoming trip (i.e. what to bring, what to wear, what to gift), and did a bit of shopping for things that my mom needed. Unfortunately, we came away empty-handed and quite disappointed for a couple of reasons.

Murphy's Law is always applicable when we're shopping for something--the perfect item is available when we're not searching for it, but suddenly becomes elusive during the moment of need. There were a couple of things that we were trying to find. One is a pair of shoes--it had to be comfortable for lots of walking, it can't be too flat or too high-heeled, and it should look stylish. Unfortunately, the "comfort" options yielded shoes that were chunky and fugly, and shoes that had the right height tended to be thong sandals (which my mom didn't like). We'll give it another go at DSW on another day.

Another disappointment came in the form of dresses. I had a pretty good eye for what would look good for my mom's body type, and she tended to agree with the styles that I picked out for her. There were some very cute dresses at Macy's. Sadly, it is unsurprisingly difficult to find anything beyond a Size 10, and quite a few shoppers around us were having the same problem. I was pleasantly surprised that J.C. Penney had a wider range of sizes than Macy's did, and some of the designs are really cute, but the quality and array of styles are far more limited than the better department stores.

I've read a number of articles and blog posts about retailers cutting back or cutting out their plus-size offerings in stores, or limiting their plus-size options to the online stores. Some of those retailers rationalize their decisions by citing high production costs for plus-size clothing, or lack of demand, or some other excuses, but they are really just shooting themselves in the foot. The demand is certainly there, and woefully underserved; there really has to be something more out there than Lane Bryant or Torrid. The customers are stylish women with discerning tastes. They are willing to spend the money, but the options are just not there. My mom is by no means a frumpy woman--she knows what looks good. I was willing to spend a pretty penny for a nice dress at the store, but apparently the store doesn't want my money. That's fine--I'll go someplace that does.

In order to survive and thrive in an economic downturn, businesses with their backs against the wall should try out new ideas. The plus-size market is a ticket out of the minus-sign territory. Forever 21 is getting into the act, and Topshop is too (but only after Beth Ditto took a stand). Hopefully producers of quality clothing will follow suit.

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