Abercrombie and Fitch’s policy of not stocking women’s pants larger than a size ten, or women’s sizes XL and XXL—though it stocks those sizes for men, because while men can be big because they’re muscular and athletic, there’s no way women could possibly be larger than a size ten without being hideously heavy or freakishly tall, apparently—is a long-standing one. But it’s been back in the news of late, and I kind of love this Ellen DeGeneres monologue about the company’s choice, which is of course Abercrombie and Fitch’s to make:
I was particularly struck by this line, when DeGeneres asks “What are we aspiring to? ‘Honey, do these jeans make my butt look invisible?’” It’s a crack that gets at the two options for women in mass-market fashion. If you’re heavier than a size ten, companies like Abercrombie and Fitch, and plenty of actual individuals would like you to disappear so they’re spared the sight of you wearing their clothes in a way inconsistent with their brand, or so they’re spared the sight of you at all. And if you do fit in the acceptable range of sizes, it means you’re within striking distance of shrinking into a different kind of invisibility.
You’d think a mass-market clothing retailer would be proud of its ability to make any consumers look attractive, rather than being very clear that it has no idea what to do with consumers who wear anything larger than a size ten. And you might also think that a retailer that wants to be an aspirational brand might consider whether it’s positioning itself out of the reach of its potential customers it wants to capture.