Sunday, January 13, 2008

Notes to the Fashion Industry: Or, Why I love Sewing

I hate department stores.

I hope the corporate offices of the major ones are reading this, because I know I am not the only woman who is beginning to detest the monumental waste of time and energy that shopping for clothes is becoming.

Granted, we are part of the problem. We'll stay in those stores for two or three hours sometimes hoping against hope that we will find that particular shirt or that elusive pair of perfect jeans. Men (at least most of the ones that I know) do not generally do this. If they can't find the item they want within 20 minutes, they often leave the store. I think I actually see more women in the men's department than actual men. The fashion industry knows this, and so far has done nothing but made the hunt for female attire more and more difficult, thought it works so hard to give the appearance of the contrary.

Since when did the American Dream get twisted in to this exhausting chase after life, liberty, and the perfect little black dress?

This is why I now own a sewing machine. To decrease my dependence on a fashion industry gone berserk.

So here are a few suggestions I offer to the makers and sellers of ladies' clothing, should they wish to make their places of business more pleasant for their customers, in case they wish to win back the business of those who share my frustrations.

  1. Clearly labeled Sizing. When my husband needs jeans, undershirts, or anything else, he can match the size of his clothing to his (listen carefully now) ACTUAL MEASUREMENTS for his chest, waist, inseam, or whatever. We women, on the other hand, have to deal with obscure sizes like '2' and 'medium', with no reference whatsoever to the actual size and shape of our person. This leads to endless time spent trying on garments that do not fit.
  2. End Size Creep. To make matters worse, the actual size of a '2' or a '6' or whatever can vary from one brand to another, and even from one year to an other. When I was I was 12 , I wore a number size distinctly larger than what I am now, and despite the increase in my physical size, the number on my jeans has actually gone down. This could only be possible if there were size creep going on. Don't try to flatter my by telling me I'm smaller. My tape measure doesn't lie. But the label on my pants probably does.
  3. Petites are young people too. Why is it that most of the petite items look like they were made for someone's grandma? I hope to be one someday, but let's not get ahead of ourselves now.
  4. While we are on the subject of height, women come in a variety of height, width and shape combinations. There is, for instance, such a thing as a tall thin person. I don't happen to be tall myself, but I know a tall woman who has a really hard time finding tall pants in a size 6. .
  5. Speaking of shapes, curvy women come in all sizes too. (Jean designers should pay especially close attention to this. The back waist of a pair of jeans should not leave enough extra space for me to carry a sandwich. Ladies, you know what I mean.
  6. Spandex should be illegal. Especially in regions with hot, humid summers. Why on earth is is so hard to make 100% cotton jeans and tank tops?
  7. Quality. As a garment sewer I am learning what this looks like, and I hate to say that I am seeing cheap work in stores that should know better. Seams should hold. Fabrics should be pre-shrunk. Colors should stay. Period.
  8. Value. I should not have to pay $100 for a garment that fits me. That may work for fashion magazines and makeover shows, but it sure adds up fast out here in the real world. This kind of pricing becomes especially ridiculous to the person who knows she can custom make a similar item for herself for half the money, and a quarter of the frustration.
  9. Brand power does not mean as much as you'd like to think. I'll put it to you this way. If you think the chest of my shirt or the butt of my jeans are advertising space, you the company should be paying me for the use of it. That means you, Tommy Hillfiger, Abercrombie, Nike, and Hollister. (and Esprit, back in the 80's) I am certainly not paying you extra money for the privilege of giving you free marketing.

There it is, fashion marketing executives. Free of charge, though you are welcome to pay me if you like.

I must end this post, though with a call to women to stand up for themselves here. Nobody said you have to waste your life at the mall looking for something that isn't there, probably putting enough strain on your feet to require a visit to a podiatrist. If you can't find what you are looking for in 30-60 minutes, politely inform the manager that the store needs to be more friendly to the needs of its busy female customers, and leave with your hard-earned money still in your wallet.

Maybe you'll save enough for a sewing machine.


Amy said...

The back waist of a pair of jeans should not leave enough extra space for me to carry a sandwich.

Ha! You're absolutely right.

Likewise, plus-sized girls are young too. Many of them have to work jobs where professional (or at least business casual) clothing is required. Often, our only two options in clothing are dressing like a lady of negotiable affection or dressing like we're 80.

I don't want to dress like a grandma until I *am* a grandmother (and even then...not so much).

Thankfully, I *do* have Lane Bryant to fall back on...

Christina said...

Yes, fortunately in recent years plus sizes have become a little bit more accomodating. Petites and talls slightly so.

The great pity is that the selection is still lousy compared to what one finds in the Junior or Misses departments. The stores will carry maybe half of their designes in specialty sizes, so we still have to shop all over the store just to find an outfit that works.

Why do we need separate sections for all of these "special" sizes, anyway? Why not simplify and have all of the different sizes and cuts in one area?

The sewing machine is still way better. I can spend a quiet Saturday afternoon in my craft room and from cutting to hemming make myself a pair of slacks for work in less than 5 hours. A trip to the mall would take me at least that long, would be terribly tiring, and would probably yield nothing.

Michelle said...

I am so grateful that one of my mom's friends had the patience to teach me how to alter the majority of the clothes already in my closet.

While I've been losing the "spare tire", there are certain, ahem, features that aren't getting any smaller. Meaning, I still have to shop in the plus size for tops, but end up with boxy (not foxy) looking shirts. However, I can dart and shorten to an appropriate length.

I hear ya on the lack of variety in plus sizes, Amy. I just went to Macy's with my sisters this weekend. I saw lots of cute the misses. Roughly 25% of that was translated into plus sizes. The rest of the plus size tops look like they were designed by Omar the Tentmaker. They had no shape and were not flattering at all.

Christina said...

Macy's should know better than that.