Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dear Urban Outfitters...

Dear Urban Outfitters,

We've got a problem, you and I. You might not be aware of it, distracted as you are by the armies of spendy hipsters that march through your doors each week, but our relationship has been deteriorating for years. If indeed, it was ever truly a relationship to begin with. I've hankered after your nostalgic blouses, your vampy skirts and your little strappy dresses for yonks now, while you remain coolly oblivious.

Not to toot my own trumpet, but I'd like to think that on paper, I'm the kind of customer you'd like. I'm 23, I live in London, I work in the media. I throw more of my income than is sensible at the high street, and I'm a sucker for a whimsical trend. If you wanted, you could probably have quite a lot of my money. You'd like that, wouldn't you?

So what's standing between you, me and this beautiful cash-splashing coupledom, then? Well, a zip. Or a few zips. The zips on your clothes that I can't do up, despite wriggling, wrenching, partially dislocating joints and inhaling till I turn puce.

You see, while most high street stores stick to the conventional 8, 10, 12 sizing, up to 16 and beyond, you prefer to keep things rustic with XS, S, M and L. Which might be fine, if my 12-14 figure could fit into the 'M' that I'd expect it to. But it doesn't. Often it doesn't fit an L. Now, I made my peace with not being Alexa Chung many years ago, but I'm still moderately confident that if you saw me walking down the street you wouldn't think 'Hark! There thunders an EXTRA-LARGE woman.'

Have you ever heard of breasts, Urban Outfitters? Of course you have, I'm sorry for being patronising. But did you know that we can't conveniently detach them, or reposition them under our armpits, each time we'd like to wear a garment that isn't made of stretch jersey? It's just that, sometimes, when I'm trying on your clothes, it seems like you're not very familiar with the concept.

Then there are hips. These are like breasts, but lower down, on the sides, and not as squishy. It would be nice if we could contain these in our clothes too, as an alternative to, y'know, carrying them in our handbags or wearing them as a decorative headpiece. A little arse-coverage would be good too, though I realise that might be stretching it (boom boom).

You're not the only ones, of course. I've rarely exited a Zara changing room without tears in my eyes (and bruises on my ribs), or had an encounter with American Apparel that didn't leave me reaching for the gin bottle. Up and down the high street, stores are playing fast and loose with sizes and our gymnastic capabilities. I've been stuck in more impossibly-designed garments than you've had hot dinners.

But before you dismiss this as yet another chubby girl rant, let me assure you that it isn't. It's a piece of sage business advice. You're making money, I'm sure, given that you sell ironic pendants for the price of a weekly travelcard, but you could be making more. Oh, you could be making SO much more - if you weren't alienating a massive portion of your potential customer base.

And yes, I'm wishing I hadn't just used the words 'massive portion'. It was between them and 'huge chunk'. Pass me a biscuit.

We're all here, you see, Urban Outfitters. Look, over here! The ladies with the swinging handbags and great hair. We're not that scary. In fact we're a lot like your other customers, just slightly better insulated against the cold. Our demands are simple - we want clothes that do up properly, don't brand us gargantuan humans when we're patently not, and look foxy.

Are you ready for this jelly, Urban Outfitters? Are you?


Lauren (or 'XL' to you)


  1. I can confirm that Urban Outfitters sizing is just as skewed for the XS portion of the world. I speak from having bought a lovely polka dot dress in my wardrobe which I got without trying on due to assuming that my size would, y'know, fit. Alas it is £50 of unworn material, as it doesn't zip up at the front. It's just odd. The sizing across the high street has absolutely no relevance to girls in the real world.

    Don't even get me started on jeans and leggings, where every size 8 girl is assumed to have skinny giraffe legs. Drives me bonkers.

  2. Maybe I'm cynical but I think this is a conscious decision by Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Topshop and the other stores that do the same. They don't want fat girls wearing their clothes. That's what it comes down to. They want their brands associated with the most chic, hip, stylish women - and in our culture that means thin. You're right, they could make a lot of money out of medium-to-large women, but at the cost of denigrating their brand (in their view). There's a reason why when I reached size 16 I was no longer able to shop at Topshop, previously my favourite store. A fat woman's money isn't worth it for them.

  3. Helen, then they are idiots. And in the case of Topshop and other brands owned by the same company, about to be out of work idiots.
    Given the obesity 'epidemic' and the increasing girth of the nation's women, not providing a great range of sizes (or worse making the sizing smaller - who wants to shop somewhere if you feel crap about not fitting into your usual size?) is a stupid marketing move.

    If companies don't go where the money is then their brand won't be their problem...

  4. Very well said! I totally agree. American apparel are the worst!