Today, I visited one of your Forever 21 stores near me. I know, it was wishful thinking even hoping that there would be a plus size section inside those 3000+ square feet, as so often clothing sizes end at L in your stores. But my best friend had some (Forever 21 plus size) jeans to exchange, and as you can see I’m a plus size fashion blogger, so I thought maybe I’d pick something cute out for myself. I spent $100 ordering things from your store online just last week, like I do most months. It’s not easy to find affordable clothing for people my size, and though your size 3x is snug on me I can make it work, and 6 items for $100 ain’t bad.
After we show the cashier the jeans that need to be exchanged (because they got holes in the seams within minutes of putting them on), I asked where the plus size section was. “Over here” my best friend says as she starts walking into a corner of the store that I thought was being used as storage. Ok, that may be a bit dramatic. I didn’t think that part of the store was actually being used as storage, because I couldn’t see that part of the store. Not from the sprawling glass windows outside the store, not from the cashier’s station where perhaps there would be a sign that said “plus”, not from the center of the store as it hid back behind the lingerie section (which does not carry any plus sizes). I was excited that there was actually a space where my 3x sizes were being held, though. I was impressed! Actual plus sizes in a Forever 21 near me! Better yet, a store clerk helped us find my friends jeans so we could exchange them. No problem.
Then we were left to “shop”. It was, in a word, horrifying.
Your entire store is lit with beautiful cool white lighting, and the floors are shiny little tiles of white and gold. There’s accessories on walls, and little treasures to be found all over the place. So please, tell me why the sweet hell the tiny plus size corner is dimly lit with yellow lights, no mirrors, and zero accessories on the shelves. In the Forever 21 near me there were entire hanging racks with only hangers on them. No clothes. But of course there were no clothes hanging nicely on the walls… they were all collected into an even tinier corner of the itty bitty room, shoved onto racks that were haphazardly placed so close to one another that nobody could walk between them. I thought for a moment “maybe I’m over reacting. Let’s see… does the rest of the store look like this?”. No. Definitely not. Even the most crowded sections of the store were clean and tidied.
Now, I am grown. I can do all my shopping online from my incredibly comfy couch. I know where to shop and I have a lot of knowledge about plus size brands. I love the shit out of myself, and have spent a lot of years breaking down the crap that I’ve learned about my body to realize that I’m totally worthy of cute clothes, just like every other person. Even my, super secure, grown ass, could not help but feel ashamed while I was shopping in your store. I knew exactly what was happening the second I stepped into that Forever 21 plus size section. I knew I was being pushed aside. I knew I was an after thought.
I’m not your target market though, am I? No. Your target is a bit younger than me. I know this because your target market often asks me to review your clothing, asks what my favorites from your store are. Your target hasn’t had the time that I’ve had to learn what is so fucked up about society’s attitudes towards fat people. Your target customer may not even have the luxury of being able to shop online, so that they can completely skip over the entire in-store experience. They’re young women, who are just looking to feel pretty in some semi-trendy clothes that they can afford. That sounds pretty simple right? It sounds like something everyone should have access to, something anyone could find. It’s not. Because stores keep shoving us in tiny, dimly lit corners very similar to your store’s set up. So young women, your target audience, continue to feel forgotten, as if their existence isn’t even worth the sales dollars.
It’s not us, the consumer, who should be forced to feel ashamed when shopping in your stores. Your reckless disregard of fat people’s feelings is shameful. You have got to do better than this. We deserve better than this. Year after year, plus size clothing sales increase, and year after year we are relegated to a tiny corner in your massive expanse of sales floor. I watch your plus size swimwear sell out every summer, while you neglect to include plus size clothing in any of your sales.
This is my open letter to you. Asking you to take the time to treat us with the respect and dignity that you treat your other customers. I’m asking you to take the time to make the Forever 21 plus size section reflect the same shopping experience that you provide our smaller counter parts. I’m asking you to help break the cycle of young women that feel ashamed of their bodies, help us to make more girls feel connected and supported by their communities. Create spaces that make people proud to wear your clothing. Bring positivity into your stores, instead of alienation.
I’m over the nonsense, and I know plenty of other women are too. Get with it.
Edited to add: Forever 21 followed up about their attempts to make the Forever 21 plus size section more inclusive. I responded in this article.