Loud and Clear: Temporarily 21

Plus-size clothing is expensive and unreasonably difficult to shop for.

The Forever 21 store is seen on opening day at the Carousel Center, now known as Destiny USA. (TNS, Photo Courtesy)
The Forever 21 store is seen on opening day at the Carousel Center, now known as Destiny USA. (TNS, Photo Courtesy)

Elena Stidham is a senior journalism and telecommunications major and writes “Loud and Clear” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper.

When Forever 21 announced it was filing for bankruptcy, my immediate thought was, “Well, I guess they were only Temporarily 21.” After I laughed at my own joke, however, I realized just how hard it was going to be for me to buy clothes from here on out. 

The simple matter is I’m a plus-size girl. My average size is an XL, and most stores I’ve found don’t offer this size. Sure, it’ll say XL on the tag, but it fits me like a medium at best. This pushes me to look at plus-size stores such as Torrid to find things that fit me, but then I’m faced with having to pay $40 for a blouse.

Forever 21, on the other hand, is perfect. It has clothes that fit me, and the best part was it was cheap. I pay $10 for a cute shirt that fits over my chest and shoulders and I can rewear dozens of times. In almost every other clothing store, it either doesn’t fit, or it’s so expensive that I’m put into a permanent corner of “I can’t afford it.”

Losing Forever 21 means losing one of my main sources of clothing. Losing Forever 21 means thousands of other plus-size girls like me are going to be forced to scramble for a new store that offers affordable things in our sizes. 

Clothing is a basic need, and it should not be difficult to obtain. Plus-size girls like me everywhere are already having to hold their breath, hoping to find something that fits, much less be something that won’t break the bank. 

I used to work at Forever 21 in my hometown, and I remember finding a lot of cute clothes I wanted to wear that fit me and I could afford. However, I ran into a new problem: skinny girls buying clothes from the plus-size section for “baggy comfort.” 

Even now, this fills me with a rage I cannot properly express. The plus-size section was not made for skinny girls — it was never made for them. They have their own sections to shop in, and if you want something baggy that fits comfortably, go up one size, not three or four. 

Some clothing stores don’t even sell plus-size clothes. It’s more expensive to manufacture clothes above a size 16, so that’s why most clothing stores sell more — or only — smalls and mediums rather than a large and above. 

It doesn’t help that different stores size their clothes differently either. I may be a large in one location and a 3XL in another. 

To add insult to injury, different materials fit differently as well. In my experience, 90 to 100 percent cotton always shrinks a whole size in the washer and dryer, so I always have to buy a size up when I’m looking at T-shirts. 

Don’t even try to hit me with the “one size fits all” clothing either. We all know that never works. In my experience with "one size fits all" clothing, it is all still made to fit smaller girls. Even if I can get the clothing over my head and shoulders, it still doesn’t fit all the way — or it feels like I’m wearing a pillowcase. 

While I’m aware thin girls have their own problems with clothing and sizing, small girls need to understand that the fashion industry is literally catered to them. The fashion industry neglects girls of larger sizes. Many stores don’t even have plus size as an option, such as Brandy Melville. When I went to its website, it was literally all “fits small” or “fits extra small,” and when I searched the site for plus, literally nothing came up.

Small girls can walk into any store with any price range and find something that fits them. 

Girls like me cannot. 

Girls like me have to dig through piles and piles for even a remote chance of something that fits, much less something we can afford on top of that. Girls like me never get to have those cute little bras we always see while walking by Victoria’s Secret — we’re always stuck with the same, blandly-colored grandma bras. 

Girls like me have to practically fight to look cute. The thing is, we’re already cute. I had to teach myself this after years and years of self doubt and hatred. I had to teach myself that I’m pretty as I am and that my limitation on my clothes does not change that. I am still having to remind myself of this. So many other girls like me have to remind themselves the same. 

It shouldn’t have to be this hard — it’s 2019. There are so many girls like me out there, and there are so many girls in my position that just want the same thing, so just make this simple and accessible for all girls of all sizes. 

We’re cute, so let us dress cute. Let us be able to find things that fit and things that are cheap. Let us be able to live life without panicking the moment we hear about Forever 21 crumbling down and leaving us in scrambles. 

Contact Elena Stidham with comments at emstidham@bsu.edu or on Twitter @elenastidham.

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