Yours stores, representation and a positive start to 2017
I just want to start by thanking everyone who liked, retweeted and shared my various statuses and tweets on the Yours clothing #BeTheBlogger competition. It has meant a lot to me to be able to get this far. So here’s my blog post for the final stage of the competition. I hope you enjoy it.
I normally write about things that the plus size fashion industry is doing wrong and why it matters. However as this is my first post on plus size fashion for 2017 I thought I’d start with something a little different and write a positive piece on something good a brand does that I think has huge benefits.
I’m a digital fan in so many ways, I love being online, the internet has been one of the biggest forces for good in my life. Whether it’s because of a network of supportive plus size women or other spoonies, or as a way to access information and culture I could never have dreamt of pre-internet. I also adore online shopping, it’s great to be able to browse a larger range than a physical store might be able to hold. However I do wish there were more physical stores, specifically plus size stores.
Way back before I discovered plus size bloggers, I relied on the high street to find clothes that fit me. This is not ideal for a plus size woman, as the vast majority of stores out there are aimed at a much slimmer demographic. I’d spend my time wandering from store to store, first trying to find any that stocked my size at all, then finding out that many of those either had a tiny (and disappointing) range, or the larger sizes were cut in such an odd way that they needn’t have bothered. With every store I visited my mood would drop and drop, I’d start to feel real anger, not because of the lack of suitable clothes – I wasn’t that far in my journey then – but towards myself and my “freakish” body.
I returned from most of these trips empty handed and demoralised.
It didn’t even occur to me back then that brands would make plus size clothes that were exciting and fun to wear, because I’d been taught by the other retailers that I wasn’t worthy of that. So I bought clothes because they fit me, not because I particularly liked them, they were always just the least bad option. Growing up I’d been really into fashion, however as I gained weight and I started to struggle to buy clothes I stopped wearing clothes I loved, and instead just bought clothes that didn’t inspire me just because they fit.
Just to be clear here, I was only a UK 16-18 and already the majority of the high street had given up on providing clothes for my size.
And it wasn’t just in the clothing ranges that I felt this disappointment, it was in the images as I walked around. In shop windows and billboards you’d be hard pressed to find a model who wasn’t slim, and if you did you could almost guarantee any larger women would be used to promote gym memberships, weight loss aids and meal plans – always the before picture of course. Women like me didn’t get to appear smiling and confident.
I still remember the surprise when, during yet another uncomfortable shopping trip, I walked past the Yours clothing store in Watford for the first time and saw that the models on the posters in the windows not only looked like me, but also looked joyful and stylish. Up until this point the stores I’d seen that stocked plus sizes either hid that section away somewhere at the back in a corner, or were aimed at a market that was quite a bit older and wanted clothes that they could hide in.
We talk about how important representation is because it makes an enormous difference to how you view yourself and your role in the world. If you only ever see yourself as the Before photo then you never see yourself as complete, you are always an imperfect work in progress. So then we tell ourselves that we are not enough. And we are. No matter our size or shape, we are enough. We matter, and we deserve to see this in the media around us.
It’s not just about representation though, while that is hugely valuable, there are also so many advantages to having a physical store to walk into. Advantages that I took for granted when I was slimmer.
I knew back then that if I had a last minute event to attend I could just pop out to the local high street and find something to wear. I also knew that if there was a new trend that appealed but I wasn’t sure how it would look on me, I could nip into a changing room and give it a try. No worrying about ordering, waiting for it to arrive, and then arranging a return and waiting for a refund if it turned out I didn’t like it. The same goes for sizing, I could take two or three sizes in and try them all easily, online you can only do that if you can afford the initial expense. Then of course there’s no delivery charge.
Shopping is a very different experience when you are plus size, it feels so good knowing that it’s not completely closed off due to stores like Yours. I know there are other women living in areas where there are no plus size stores at all, and with so many other stores minimising or getting rid of their in store plus size selections, we need brands who are proud to be selling to us plus size women. And who are willing to back that pride up with bricks and mortar stores.
While I’m here I also wanted to give a little mention to the staff at Yours in Watford, who have always been utterly lovely and helpful. That’s the other thing that online retail just can’t match, a friendly face when you walk in the door can make so much difference when you’ve become accustomed to shopping being such a demoralising experience.
I love that Yours have stores on so many high streets, and in so many shopping centres, because we need to see this. We need to see positive imagery of women like us reflected in the world around us, and we deserve access to fashion in the same way slim women do. So I hope that Yours continue to expand and open more stores. In the meantime I definitely recommend taking a look at the Yours store locator, to see where your nearest store is.
Nb: I was going to take some photos in my local store to show how inviting it looks, and also show some of the pieces I’m most excited for. However I was thwarted by a migraine, so have included photos that I’ve taken when trying on clothes in the changing room, both recently and back when I first visited Yours. These are phone photos, so not the highest quality, but do illustrate how useful I’ve found having a physical store to walk into.