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Oak Park Says No to Lane Bryant [Updated x2]

Updated 7.10.06: Please read the full entry.

The Chicago suburb of Oak Park is a favorite of mine. In fact, my wife and I are looking to eventually move there and settle there. It's a great village with wonderful architecture, superb culture, easy access to public transit and downtown Chicago, and delightful shops.

Oak Park has undergone a small construction boom lately and has been working on revitalizing its downtown district. The downtown area stretches 3 or 4 city blocks and includes a mix of old and new. A Gap and Borders stand at one intersection, and a local pancake house and restaurants dot Lake Street. There's always activity on this street.

Therefore, when a developer announced it had plans to open a Lane Bryant, one would think it would be welcomed. Like any chain store it has its pros and cons: it brings in money, but it also isn't locally owned. It was a stunner when the Village of Oak Park said no to Lane. Village President David Pope claims Lane is a "niche" retailer, and it doesn't fit the "kind and quality" of shops desired for the building.

The building's in a unique spot, as the city has the final say in what retailers can fill the space - a right it gave itself when it sold the building off to a developer.

As one can expect, there's now a lawsuit on the table. The developer has been given no official word on why Lane Bryant can't open there, and Village Trustee Martha Brock - a Lane Bryant shopper - claims the Village needs to "have a broader perspective" on the clientele in Oak Park and be less concerned about "image".

So what's the real issue here? If the argument is against a big chain coming in, it's a wash: there is a Gap across the street. A Talbot's up the street in River Forest. Thus there's a precedent showing that Oak Park is open to chains. In fact a large new condo building just north of the proposed Lane location will house a Trader Joe's. And that's just north of the Borders, too.

What makes Lane Bryant not part of Oak Park's ideal clientele? It's a store where women shop and spend money on clothes that aren't exactly cheap. How is that any different than the Gap? How is that any different than the Dress Barn, also just up the street? Or Spaulding's, a locally-owned clothing store also near by? Or Benetton?

When it comes down to it, it becomes clearer that it's an issue of size. As my wife put it, "Oak Park doesn't want a bunch of fat women shopping in its downtown." Village President Pope claims it's "ridiculous" to claim the issue is about size.

I say this to Mr. Pope: prove it. Oak Park is a great, great place and has been widely respected for its welcoming, diverse nature. Not allowing the Lane Bryant to open sends a very strong message: even if it isn't about fat, as you claim, it says that you don't want fat people patronizing your Village. Or, at least, not downtown. This is a time when Oak Park can put out a positive message; don't squander this opportunity.

Updated 7.6.06: Village President Pope is on damage control, per this article in the Wednesday Journal. Pope notes that the developer has been trying to get Lane Bryant in the space for two years, which spanned to a previous administration in the suburb.

The previous village board, as the current one, voted against the clothier in part because another women's store--Dress Barn--is nearby, and because it wouldn't have the same broad-based draw that other retailers on the village's accepted list would, Pope said.

Funny, but the Gap is half a block away from Old Navy. I mean, by that argument, shouldn't there be at least 5 blocks between them?

The "broad-based draw" argument doesn't wash, as well, as the ever-astute Cinnamon Cooper over at Gapers' Block points out: "Since the majority of women in this country wear the sizes Lane Bryant sells, I'm not sure how much more 'broad-based' you can get."

Pope claims the lawsuit brought forth is nothing but an effort to get the media worked up.

In the end, the best method of action for Pope - after answering calls from the national networks about this mess - is to come out with a statement other than casting off accusations of discrimination as "ridiculous". Again, Mr. Pope, prove it.

Update 7.10.06: The Tribune has an article on the brouhaha, and the lawsuits sound a lot like a "he said, he said" situation.

But here's something very interesting: the list of "approved" retailers for the space includes the Avenue. The Avenue, America's Other Plus Size Chain, is seen as less niche than Lane Bryant! Eh?

The developer figured that Lane Bryant would meet with the Village's request that retailers not on their approved list be of the same "kind and quality" of shop. I'm now really curious about this. Are Avenue's demographics that different than Lane Bryant? And this is weird:

[Village President David] Pope said the board felt the new retailers should strengthen surrounding retailers, not potentially undermine neighboring retailers, such as a Dress Barn next door.

Interesting. So Oak Park claims that Lane Bryant would undermine Dress Barn, but Avenue wouldn't.

At this point, the entire odyssey is starting to look less like Oak Park is anti-fat people, and more like they're just anti-Lane Bryant. If I were Avenue right now, I'd be pushing a street-level campaign in Oak Park to tell people what happened.

Believe | Follow-Up: Fat-Hating Doctor In the Clear

frykitty July 4th, 2006 | Link | To be fair, none of the
To be fair, none of the shops you mention are "niche" stores.  No comics shops, no petites shops, etc.  All pretty general-interest.  To make your case, I would find examples of other niche stores in the area.  
paul July 4th, 2006 | Link | Fair point. That would lead
Fair point. That would lead me to point out The Rocking Horse Boutique, E'Stylo (clothing boutique), Afri-Ware, Scratch 'n' Sniff, and Designs of the Interior. That's just a handful of niche shops.
pani113 July 4th, 2006 | Link | The "average" woman is a
The "average" woman is a size 14 or over. How is serving the average woman a niche?????? I like Oak Park too, but always get creepy vibrations when I visit. They will be hearing from me!!!! p.s. There is so much hidden racism in the Chicago area! I am sorry, but it is true, and they are very sneaky about it. I had a friend tell me one of the reasons apartment complexes charge hundreds of dollars in upfront, non refundable fees (which would be illegal in CA) is because they want to make sure tenants are of a certain social class and also to try and reduce the number of minorities applying. I wonder if in their pea brains they don't associate Lane Bryant more with women of color and poorer women!!!! I really wonder if part of it is that they want to keep their downtown not only thin, but as white and rich as possible.
pani113 July 4th, 2006 | Link | And please let me add to
And please let me add to that that I am sure the psuedo-progressives of Oak Park would be absolutely livid at that accusation. I am sure they feel they embrace diversity and would never discriminate outright. But maybe it is as long as diverse members can afford to shop at Whole Foods and high price speciality shops.
DeeLeigh July 4th, 2006 | Link | pani113 hit it on the head.
pani113 hit it on the head. Lane Bryant isn't a niche store any more than a store that carries sizes 2-14 is a niche store. Each serves around 50% of women. I'm reminded of the new Winners (TJMaxx) that just opened in Yorkville in Toronto, a few blocks from my apartment. It's a beautiful store with a larger and nicer than usual selection - in the standard sizes. Their plus section is a joke. It's smaller and more limited than the plus section in most other Winners stores. For some reason, they seem to think that there are no plus sized women living in or near Yorkville. Somehow, plus-sized automatically means "low end." I've found that when larger clothes are available in more expensive neighborhoods, they always seem aimed at older, apple-shaped ladies. I'm not going to spend the big bucks (or even the little ones) on something dowdy that doesn't fit properly. It's really annoying.
Joycelyn July 4th, 2006 | Link | The last time I was in a
The last time I was in a Lane Bryant (I live in Alaska, and we only have one town large enough to attract them) it seemed to me that they were catering to young shoppers. The kind with disposable income. Allowances or wages from after-school jobs, sometimes not much but all of it discretionary! Young women who would shop at Lane Bryant and then have money to spend in some of the other shops. If I were running a mall or shopping center, I would love to have that kind of an attraction. However, not only is this a very fatphobic society, where they may just not want to have to look at us, but building on pani113's comment, since minority women tend to be less fixated on their weight, hating fat people gives one a guilt free excuse to hate women of color. And Goodness knows, we can't have poor people in a rich neighborhood!
chouxheart July 4th, 2006 | Link | I don't know about the "poor
I don't know about the "poor women" argument, since nobody who's poor can afford to shop at Lane Bryant. And the minority women argument...well, perhaps. I'm none too familiar with that area of the country so I wouldn't know about any underlying racist attitudes. I would be very, very interested in hearing Mr. Pope's reason for not allowing the Lane Bryant to be built, because right now it DEFINITELY sounds like he's just trying to keep away the fatties....
Bilt4Cmfrt July 4th, 2006 | Link | Well, Trader Joe's could be
Well, Trader Joe's could be argued to be niche. Excellently stocked with hard to find goodies & treats, but niche none-the-less. Finding a few more examples would definitely go a long way towards killing the flimsy and patently ridiculous argument that they're trying to avoid a niche market though.
chouxheart July 4th, 2006 | Link | Oh, and in response to
Oh, and in response to panii113: The "average" woman may be anywhere from a size 12 to a size 16, but Lane Bryant caters specifically to women who are significantly larger. After all, a woman who wears a 14 or 16 can just as easily shop at the Gap - she's not "forced" into a store for bigger women such as Torrid or Lane Bryant.
DeeLeigh July 4th, 2006 | Link | The Gap has very few size
The Gap has very few size 16s in their stores. And, I don't know think I'd say that a woman who wears a 16W is "significantly larger" than a woman who wears a 16 misses. The plus stores start at only one size above average (average is a 14, a 14W is similar to a 16 misses). I wear a 16W right now, but I spent years in that 16 misses / 14W range, and it's very difficult to find clothes in "normal" stores when you're that size.
chouxheart July 4th, 2006 | Link | That's odd, DeeLeegh, how
That's odd, DeeLeegh, how two people of the same size can have such drastically different experiences. I could always find clothes in my size when I was a 14, 16, and even an 18, and I never shopped at stores that catered to fat women. But I'm only 5'2", so maybe it's easier for short fat women than taller ones?
DeeLeigh July 4th, 2006 | Link | Nope. I'm only 5'-4".
Nope. I'm only 5'-4". Maybe it's because I'm pear shaped.
sjbrodwall July 4th, 2006 | Link | Maybe, DeeLeigh.  My
Maybe, DeeLeigh.  My experience was the same as chouxheart's, and I'm apple-shaped.  I didn't start shopping in plus-sized stores 'til I got to be about a size 22.  Seems to me very few under a size 18 shop at stores targeted specifically at plus-sized women--there's always a ton of 14's and 16's left on the racks after all the other sizes are sold out!   Anyway, yeah, it's obvious this is a case of size bigotry.  The other stores in the area demonstrate that the neighborhood has no problem allowing either niche, non-fancy-ass, or chain stores.  
DeeLeigh July 4th, 2006 | Link | ...Or maybe it's because
...Or maybe it's because there was a better variety in the plus sized stores in a 14W than there was in the regular stores in a 16. Most regular stores only went up to a 14, and when they did carry 16s, they'd often fit me (or even be too big) in the waist, but be too small through the hips. Plus sized clothes are often cut for curvier women. Also, I'd been shopping in plus sized stores since I was 10 or 11, so it didn't carry much of a stigma for me. I'll shop wherever they have clothes that fit and look good. No one but me is going to see the tags. I think a lot of women who'd look better and get a better selection in plus sized clothes try to shop in normal stores anyway, because that's what they're used to and/or becuase they feel ashamed to shop in the plus sized stores.
pani113 July 4th, 2006 | Link | Chouxheart, in the Chicago
Chouxheart, in the Chicago area, there are many, many of us who are 16 plus. In So Ca, I always felt very large (5'7" size 18), here I feel almost normal. My point was that their argument that it would not attract as many customers as a "conventional" clothing store is just illogical. As DeeLeigh said, those kind of upscale clothing stores Oak Park wants to attract probably have a more limited size range. I suppose it is possible they don't realize that, but I can't believe Lane Bryant didn't inform them of the demographics.
chouxheart July 4th, 2006 | Link | Just to put it out there,
Just to put it out there, I'm certainly not ashamed of my size(s) and I have no issue with shopping in plus size stores, but if I can get my clothes cheaper at Old Navy, I'm not going to pay more just to have some psuedo fat-girl pride by shopping at Lane Bryant. My happiness is not related to the stores I frequent. I have before and would again buy clothes in a plus sized store, but not if I can find the same thing cheaper somewhere else. pani113, I live in Oklahoma, which is certainly no skinny-minny breeding ground  :) I can see your point, thanks for elaborating.
pani113 July 5th, 2006 | Link | Well the local CBS news (2)
Well the local CBS news (2) covered this, but I only caught the tail end. Drats!!!! I just saw them inteview average guy on the street who said something to the effect they had other chains there, why not Lane Bryant!
sjbrodwall July 5th, 2006 | Link | Aah, good point, DeeLeigh. 
Aah, good point, DeeLeigh.  And it's no surprise that smaller plus-sized women would be ashamed to shop in stores that cater to plus-sized women--shame is what this story is about.  Extremely frustrating. 
BLR July 5th, 2006 | Link | Is it possible that Oak Park
Is it possible that Oak Park is wanting upscale shops to move into that particular space, and isn't willing to make this look like they're gentrifying the area (although it's what they are certainly doing)? The retail areas I've been in that cater to upscale clientele have never had an LB or Avenue in them, but they're typically also short on stores like Old Navy, etc. They instead carry White House|Black Market or Abercrombie & Fitch along with a spattering of salons, art galleries and fine/art jewelry stores. It would not surprise me that this is what Oak Park is doing, although I'll also say it wouldn't surprise me if Oak Park was being discriminatory. We'd know the answer if there were actually an upscale plus sized clothing chain that tried as well. As far as I know, there is no upscale option for plus sizes -- those women who can afford designer wear but can't fit in typical designer sizes get to cannibalize from traditional upscale shops, hoping that something has been made large enough to squeeze into. I should get a fashion design degree. Rar.
vargas July 5th, 2006 | Link | You know sjbrodwall I've had
You know sjbrodwall I've had the opposite problem. I shop at the Gap once in a blue moon and usually all of the 12-16s are gone while there's a ton of 2,4, and 6s left on the racks. I've always found LB to be a nice store with classy looking clothes and rather spendy too. Sometimes I can shop there and sometimes I can't afford it. In my mind niche means individuality, locally-owned, unique. A&F is certainly not niche, nor is Gap or Talbots. Seems to me that they are trying to maintain some silly little image; they only want the so-called cool, pretty people walking the streets of Oak Park during daylight shopping hours. Kind of reminds me of the attitude of the president of Abercrombie & Fitch. A real piece of work.I'm interested in seeing how this situation plays out. Sounds like they've made an economic decision based on moral assumptions about fat women: people shouldn't be fat, we don't want those immoral fat people wandering around our upscale, beautiful gentrified establishments therefore we won't allow a fat women's clothing store here to encourage fat women to buy here because people shouldn't be fat. Of course I could be wrong. 
fatthought July 5th, 2006 | Link | I think we should all get
I think we should all get together and stroll around Oak Park, then go into any clothing stores they have and start trying on items. They'll recontact Lane Bryant in a hurry:P..
semantique July 5th, 2006 | Link | Heh, I was just thinking
Heh, I was just thinking that the Gap and Trader Joes are shops for an upmarket niche, so claims to avoiding niche markets are disingenuous. Would they refuse a Sharper Image or Brookstone, I wonder-- the Spencers for the wealthy. They are clearly defining their (desired) public according to retail development. Economic factors are playing in a big way, and that translates into issues of class, natch. Pani has an excellent point about the racial aspect of this decision. I'd muse more about these factors, but you're all pretty much vocing my thoughts here. One last one, though, and here I could get justifiable reamed by anyone (I acknowledge the snark): If they would claim that Lane Bryant wasn't welcome for the sales of those sweaters with the dickies and cuffs sewn in (offering a layered look in a single layer) I'd almost be tempted to agree with the decision-- or at least, I wouldn't argue. But with that thinking, I can assure you that numerous other stores would be out of business (including those who continue to cater to a market for Ugg Boots and Juicy Couture).
paul July 5th, 2006 | Link | This got play on the local
This got play on the local news last night. NBC5 - which had a spectacular trainwreck of technical difficulties last night - interviewed four people, two fat and two not, and everyone said Lane Bryant should be allowed to open. That was great to see and gave me more hope for the people of Oak Park. In addition, the Lane Bryant would be in a brand-new building. It's a five-story one with condos on the top levels and a health club on the second floor. I'd like to toss the idea out there that a health club and Lane Bryant in the same building is something Oak Park's higher-ups might have wanted to avoid, for all the stereotyped reasons.
sjbrodwall July 5th, 2006 | Link | You know sjbrodwall I've had
You know sjbrodwall I've had the opposite problem. I shop at the Gap once in a blue moon and usually all of the 12-16s are gone while there's a ton of 2,4, and 6s left on the racks.Yeah, that's my point.  Everone wants to shop in the "smallest" store possible.  All the women who wear 14's and 16's shop at the Gap, which doesn't cater to plus-sized ladies, rather than LB, which does, which is why there are tons of those sizes left at LB and none at the Gap.  As for the 2's, 4's, and 6's, well, there aren't many people who wear those sizes, I guess.  Or they're all shopping at some boutique which only carries sizes 0-6, where of course all the 6's will be sold out.Long live online shopping. 
Viola July 5th, 2006 | Link | > But the city may not
> But the city may not realize that. I think it could be a class issue, actually, with race, size and age thrown into the mix as they inevitably will be. The owners of this retail space may not understand Lane Bryant and what the store is like; the Lane Bryant I shopped at 20 years ago is far different than today's store. And a store in a mall setting can be slightly different than one in a more trendy shopping center. In my area, a new upscale shopping venue opened this past spring. It contains stores like Talbot's, Chico's, Ann Taylor Loft, White House Black Market, Coach among others. It also has a Lane Bryant/Cacique store. They are the same store, but each half has its own entrance and merchandising windows. The layout and displays in this store definitely seem "fancier" (more unique merchandising and a tighter control of displayed merchandise) than the store in the main mall. The weekend this new center opened, Lane Bryant had Kimberley Locke of American Idol make an appearance and hand out autographed copies of her album. It may be that this type of demographic is one that Oak Park wants to actively discourage. Charming Shoppes describes their various stores on their website, and Lane Bryant is the moderately priced store with the emphasis on new styles that is targeted to the 25-45 age range, but seems to attract a younger range pretty well too. Maybe Oak Park has visions of younger women of size and color coming to this place to shop, and they don't want to do anything to actively encourage that. Or maybe they think of any store that caters to larger sized women as not being upscale enough to attract the kind of visitors they want.
Viola July 5th, 2006 | Link | Oops, I was trying to quote
Oops, I was trying to quote this snippet from Chouxheart in my above response above: "I don't know about the "poor women" argument, since nobody who's poor can afford to shop at Lane Bryant."
paul July 5th, 2006 | Link | Just to clarify, Viola, the
Just to clarify, Viola, the retail building owners want the Lane Bryant; the Village does not. And the Village has special veto powers with this particular building's tenants. Maybe Oak Park has visions of younger women of size and color coming to this place to shop, and they don't want to do anything to actively encourage that. It's a sticky issue - I'm glad the race factor is being mentioned here - in part because Oak Park does promote itself as a racially diverse place that is also welcoming of gays and lesbians.
jlm July 5th, 2006 | Link | Well, if Oak Park is
Well, if Oak Park is advertising itself as welcoming of gays and lesbians, where do they think lesbians shop for clothes? According to the research, lesbians are another demographic that skews large, just like certain racial and socio-economic demographics other posters have mentioned. Its funny, too, that this debate is about women's clothing. While places like Old Navy or Target do carry some plus-size clothing, you'll find that many retailers carry an even greater spectrum of Big and Tall sizes than they do Plus Sizes. Must be why there are a lot more Lane Bryants out there than Casual Big and Talls. For those of us who wear a size 20 or above, this is a big double standard that affects women's pocketbooks more than men's. Sorry, that is off-topic, I know, but it would be interesting to compare the range of sizes offered in the stores already in Oak Park and see if there are more options for larger men.
pani113 July 5th, 2006 | Link | " Oak Park does promote
" Oak Park does promote itself as a racially diverse place that is also welcoming of gays and lesbians." Indeed, Oak Park is much more diverse than many other suburbs. But the reason I mentioned race/class is because Oak Park is next to neighborhoods that are statistically low-income, and almost exclusively African American. I go to Oak Park via Green line, which runs right through these neighborhoods. I have heard so many negative comments about people who live there (many who are really great folks btw), not only from middle and upper class white folk, but also a few negative comments from middle and upper class African Americans. That is why I expecially mentioned the class aspect. It would not surprise me if the powers that be stay up at night thinking of ways trying to prevent too many poor folk who are just a few L stops away from frequent visiting . Sometimes people who embrace diversity do so only if people are of the same mindset and social class as themselves. p.s. Lane Bryant does have things very cheap if one waits for sales. All the tops I have bought from them in the last few years have been under $7. It was always off season, and sometimes I went a size up or down what I usually wear, never in my first color choice. But bargains are there if you are willing to wait. p.p.s You know the first time I went to Oak Park to look around, no one was friendly to me. All the shop keepers just sort of glared and didn't even bother with a greeting. I wonder what that was about?
Euterpist July 5th, 2006 | Link | The DC area has a couple of
The DC area has a couple of Elisabeth stores (although they keep moving). They are the plus size step-child of Liz Claiborne, and could give Talbot's a run for their money in the price department, so there is at least one "upscale" plus-size store. Another, if it still exists, is August Max. Gays, lesbians, and other minorities joyfully welcomed to Oak Park, as long as they subscribe to the mindset that you can't be too rich or too skinny...
wallflower July 5th, 2006 | Link | I'd like to point out, poor
I'd like to point out, poor people do shop at Lane Bryant, they just make a bee line for the clearance section in the back. Would all you size 14's and 16's please come get the stuff left on the racks though, I'm tired of seeing something cute only to find out it's not in my size. I don't want to find myself defending LB, because their full priced stuff leaves me in total sticker shock and much of their goods aren't made in natural fibers. However, without LB around it would be very hard for plus sized women to find business attire that was age appropriate. I love Old Navy's tees, but their plus sized goods are primarily for the 16-25 age set. Catherines is jam packed with things for age 40 and up. If you don't want to dress too young or too old, where else do you shop? It's not just about denying fat people's presence, it's about denying that fat people want to dress well and look professional!
chouxheart July 6th, 2006 | Link | Would all you size 14's and
Would all you size 14's and 16's please come get the stuff left on the racks though, I'm tired of seeing something cute only to find out it's not in my size. I'd love to, except Lane Bryant is so far outside my budget, sales or no sales. I do see pretty clothes in there though, and am jealous of those who can easily afford them. $60 jeans...those can stay at LB.
LumpyLuv July 6th, 2006 | Link | All I know is that at my
All I know is that at my mall the LB sits between the Nordstroms and the Ann Taylor. I would not call those low-end stores. It is the only place that sells plus sized stuff except for the small sections at Nords and Lord and Taylor. It does burn my butt paying more for plus sized clothes and as mentioned before the styles are usually too old or sparkly for my taste. Its like you reach a certain size and they have to bedazzle everything. I guess the sparkle is supposed to distract people from my ugly fatness.
ordinaria July 6th, 2006 | Link | Any New York City
Any New York City residents?You should see what it takes to find plus-size clothes in Manhattan. I don't know if for the same reason as the Oak Park story...My dear friend has to have her pants shipped by her mom in Ohio because there are absolutely no stores in NYC that carry her size...  
rosenleaf July 6th, 2006 | Link | Heh, ordinaria, it reminds
Heh, ordinaria, it reminds me of coming to NYC on a business trip when I was living in the Czech Republic, where clothes for larger women didn't exist except in the guise of Marina Rinaldi, where I could choose to buy a shirt or pay my monthly rent... Anyway, I was all excited about the NYC trip because I figured I'd be able to do a ton of shopping while I was there. Yeah. Not so much. The only place I was able to find clothes was in Harlem, and even there The Avenue had been boarded up. It was not exactly the shopping paradise I had imagined, by a long shot! But I digress...
fatthought July 6th, 2006 | Link | Strange. We have Lane
Strange. We have Lane Bryant's, The Avenue, Loehmann's (which I don't particularly like), Daffy's, and the Plus departments of all the big stores (Lord & Taylor's, Macy's, Bloomingdale's), and even K-mart, if one likes them, all in midtown locations. I wonder where you all were trying to shop???
chartreuse July 6th, 2006 | Link | You should see what it takes
You should see what it takes to find plus-size clothes in Manhattan. I find that pretty surprising -- when I visit Manhattan I always buy tons of clothes, the plus-sized selections and options are MUCH better  in New York than they are here in Toronto.
EmilyH July 6th, 2006 | Link | In one particularly upscale
In one particularly upscale outdoor mall where I live, they have a Lane Bryant and other stores that carry plus sizes as well. Plus sized is average. If a shopping mall doesn't cater to average-sized people, they're going to be losing out on a whole lot of profits. But apparently that mall owner in Chicago doesn't care that they will be losing a lot of profits by not having at least one store that caters to average-sized women.
Bilt4Cmfrt July 7th, 2006 | Link | ordinaria, NY Boy living in
ordinaria, NY Boy living in MD here and whenever I'm headed north for my NYC fix, Wifey absolutely MUST stop in at Conway's to get, at least, two of their big pink bags FULL of cloths. She's in the 20 to 25 size range and she ALWAYS finds good stuff, I don't complain because the prices are much better than reasonable [I should know it's MY dough she's spending ; )] and she usually ends up looking fine, indeed . I've also never heard hear complain about the cuts or quality so that's probably a good thing too. Last time I was up , there was one Conway's in the Wall Street area and two really big stores on 33rd & 7 across from MSG. Down here in MD, she usually sticks to Dress Barn or Fashion Bug. Avenue is her preferred business attire shoppe but, since they seem to be few and far between down this way, Lane Bryant is her usual fall-back. Back On Topic; The more I think about it the more I'm convinced. Lane Bryant might- JUST might- be niche but it, definitely, isn't low rent. Which means that there could only be ONE reason that the Oak Park Trustee's would possibly want to ban this particular store. Specifically because they don't want a certain 'type' wandering their Oh-So-Trendy streets and ruining their image. Any guesses as to what that 'type' might be?
wonderboy7 July 7th, 2006 | Link | I emailed the Oak Park
I emailed the Oak Park website to voice my outrage and got a nasty reply from a lawyer. Seems that not only have their attempts to keep up their "sexy" image resulted in size discrimination, but they are also being quite unapologetic about it.
wonderboy7 July 7th, 2006 | Link | If you wish to express your
If you wish to express your views, the Oak Park Board Member's contact info is available here:
pani113 July 8th, 2006 | Link | Here is my letter. Sorry it
Here is my letter. Sorry it is so long. I wanted to make that nasty lawyer read alot!!!! p.s. I find it very ironic we are defending Lane Bryant given they don't even have the decency to use real sized models. Mr Pope, I am extremely disappointed in your decision to discriminate against full-figured women in your area by refusing a Lane Bryant. Be advised that if you decision stands, I plan on boycotting ALL businesses in the Oak Park area! I find you decision has serious sociological ramifications beyond a mere business deal: 1) It shows you are extremely out of touch with the reality of the U.S. female. The average woman in this country wears a size 14. It is a ridiculous assertion that Lane Bryant is a "niche" store. Carrying a wide range of sizes, it probably attracts more customers than those upscale boutiques you court who stop at size 12 (or less)! 2) It shows you have no sensitivity toward the feelings of the 1/2 the female population. How could you NOT be aware of the potential for umbrage?????? Catch a clue, we have been short changed, looked down upon, and emotionally abused for decades. Well, guess what? Times are changing. We are willing less and less to settle for second class treatment. More and more of us consider ourselves AS BEAUTIFUL, AS HEALTHY, and EVER BIT AS DESIRABLE AN ASSET to Main St as anyone else. And we are more than happy to take our money elsewhere for those who disagree. 3) There is a possibility for de facto discrimination that involves race and class, not just body size. In your gentrification efforts, I wonder about just all the kinds of people you plan on excluding. Sure Oak Park claims it accepts diversity. But some people have limits of what kind of diversity is acceptable. Sometimes people limit acceptance to those in their social class. Others find diversity fine as long as the dominate group is still in the majority. By close censorship on the kind of stores that go in downtown, you also have some control over what kind of shoppers you attract. Perhaps it is just a cold, calculated business decision that gentrification requires more thin, rich, white woman jetting about in sports cars be seen downtown than working class women hopping the "L." Discrimination is still discrimination! 4) Which leads me to my 4th and final point. Your refusal to accept body diversity makes your claims for other types of diversity ring hollow! It is socially acceptable to openly discriminate against large people in this country, but that does not make it right.! It is complete hypocrisy to be tolerant to only those groups we find it easier to accept and then rationalize why it is o.k. to marginalize those groups we find less palatable. In the end, it undermines diversity itself. Unless, of course, that has been the plan all along!
Buffpuff July 9th, 2006 | Link | Great letter, Pani! Let them
Great letter, Pani! Let them argue their way out of that. Some years ago a story hit our national press about a plus-sized American woman who wasrefused entry to Harrods department store because they have a dress code, (go figure), and she was wearing leggings, which they thought set the wrong tone. Her (thin) mother, who was accompanying her at the time, was also wearing leggings...but she was allowed into the store. The crowning irony is that the woman bought her leggings from the plus- sized department in Harrods in the first place. I think this Oak Park fiasco should be brought to the attention of the US press too.
Buffpuff July 9th, 2006 | Link | Great letter, Pani! Let them
Great letter, Pani! Let them argue their way out of that. Some years ago a story hit the UK national press about a plus-sized American woman who wasrefused entry to Harrods department store because they have a dress code, (go figure), and she was wearing leggings, which they thought set the wrong tone. Her (thin) mother, who was accompanying her at the time, was also wearing leggings...but she was allowed into the store. The crowning irony is that the woman bought her leggings from the plus- sized department in Harrods in the first place. I think this Oak Park fiasco should be brought to the attention of the US press too.
beakergirl July 9th, 2006 | Link | Going back to the "where do
Going back to the "where do the big people shop in Manhattan": a colleague and I were working on a project, and talking about stuff. He had been to NYC recently. And he said: you know, I didn't see any fat people there. Immediately my sensors went up. This is not someone who's typically healthist or paranoid about eating (in fact, he is the biggest food-mooch I've ever seen). And he's not typically one to make fat cracks. But here he was talking about "I didn't see any fat people." his suggestion: it's because everyone has to walk everywhere. (Implication: if you're fat, just walk more! Then you'll magically be thin. Feh. Doesn't work that way.) I - wanting to point out the ridiculousness of his remark, without really being offensive about it, replied that maybe there are trucks that come out early in the morning, round up the fat people, and take them somewhere else for the day. (Riffing on a cartoon I had seen of "Paris' secret shame" - gendarmes rounding up the fat ladies so the city would live up to its reputation of "French women don't get fat"). He totally missed my joke. I went further and said "Maybe it's like with sex offenders - you know how they don't let them live within 200 feet of a school? Well, maybe in New York, they don't let fat people live within 200 feet of a fashion district." I changed the subject after that because he was being obtuse about it. I presume he doesn't think of me as "fat" or else he wouldn't have said the things he did. But I was still kind of offended, and it's his sort of attitude that leads to things like a city council rejecting a Lane Bryant as "not the kind of shop they want." But that kind of thing happens lots of places - the town where my parents live rejected a midrange priced family restaurant chain that wanted to build in a new mall area because, get this, they wanted a "more upscale, white-tablecloth type restaurant." This is the town in the U.S. that at one time had the largest number of chain restaurants per capita. And my parents' friends who have children complain that there aren't too many places to take their kids any more - very little in the midrange between fast food/Chuk E. Cheese and places where they'd frown on young children being present. So it's not like there isn't a need, it's that the town council has a preconceived notion of who they 'want' at their precious shopping mall....
semantique July 9th, 2006 | Link | Two things to add to the
Two things to add to the ongoing conversations: 1)Buffpuff, it looks like the Oak Park kerfuffle is news outside of Chicago: the local fox affiliate in NYC ran a story on this. I didn't catch much of it, because I was occupied at the time of the screening, so I'm afraid I don't have much to comment on save for that the online poll they ran just asked people not how they felt about Lane Bryant, but that if they could keep any store out of their nabe, which would it be? 2) Beakergirl, chances are that your colleague, as a visitor to NYC only stopped by certain parts of town that are more likely to be frequented by the thin because they are wealthier parts of town, where lipo, botox, etc. are a way of life, as are anorexia and clubbing. Certain parts of town are model heavy too. It is true that we tend to walk more than the average american in NYC (average 5 miles/day); the setup is conducive to a life outside of cars-- people can live here without ever getting a driver's license and without ever missing out on anything. If it weren't for all the crud we breathed in, I could suggest that this did make us fitter regardless of weight. But that would also just start another argument, and it's just not that important.
mccbuddha July 10th, 2006 | Link | Apparently this was picked
Apparently this was picked up by network news. After I read about this here, I saw a piece, probably on NBC, within 2 days, and I'm here in New Orleans with its own issues to worry about.
pani113 July 10th, 2006 | Link | I wonder why they didn't
I wonder why they didn't mention that they preapproved Avenue before all the publicity came out to nip the plus sized bias accusation in the bud? I will be happy if there was no discrimination at all and it was just a technicality. But I have to say I am a bit suspicious. If I were them, that would have been the first thing I pointed out. I wonder if they knew Avenue was plus sized? I wonder if the Trib article could be counter spin? And most of all, I wonder why I didn't get a nasty e-mail back from the attorney like wonderboy7? (Kidding on the last one.) There is good to come out of this. I think enough people put up a fight to get the point across. Hopefully it will transfer over to other size related issues as well.
BLR July 11th, 2006 | Link | The Avenue is exceptionally
The Avenue is exceptionally career-oriented, with clothing designed (in my opinion) for older plus-sized shoppers. With Oak Park being so hip and everything, it absolutely shocks me that The Avenue is acceptable and LB is not.
wonderboy7 July 11th, 2006 | Link | pani113, maybe you were a
pani113, maybe you were a bit kinder than me? Or maybe by that time they had been bombarded with so many emails that they couldn't theaten all of them with legal action.

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