Confessions from a Fat Anthropologie Manager: What We Want from Anthro’s New Plus Size Line

Anthropologie recently confirmed they are releasing a plus size line. After working for the company at different times spanning the last decade, I started to consider what this meant to me, a fat woman.

 

Anthropologie and I have had a long relationship. My first job as a high school student, I applied to be a sales associate my senior year of high school in 2007.  I was delighted to become part of the staff at Northpark Mall in Dallas, Texas. I can’t tell you how sophisticated I felt. My peers were spending their evenings scooping ice cream and tearing ticket stubs. I got to walk around on distressed wooden floors, smell richly perfumed candles, and assist chic, artistic women. I remember gazing at the window displays, curiously wondering how coffee filters could become a vivid English garden.  I was definitely the greenest staff member – I got caught sitting down in the fitting rooms more than a few times. Regardless of my teenage malaise, I was in heaven.

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After work, wearing a tunic top my mother found . I didn’t get the memo on workplace appropriate cleavage 

At a size 18, I didn’t fit in any of the clothing I loved so dearly.  My resourceful mother put together outfits which received compliments from the most seasoned of Anthro customers. Women even asked where they could find my clothes in the store.  I remember a fabulous black and cream elephant printed skirt with tan pom-poms along the hemline my mother found at Ross for ten dollars. I wore it with a wrap style black jersey top. Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album was being sold at the cash register, and I remember proudly sauntering around, taking clothes from the dressing room to the floor while Tears Dry On Their Own warbled over our sound system. I fit in here.

But, I didn’t. I couldn’t wear a single item of clothing that my generous discount and new paycheck ($300 every two weeks!) could afford. I bought a bunch of candles, cookbooks, and a few headbands. Eventually I left the job to go to college, I kept all my little trinkets and saved an unburned Capri Blue Volcano candle (the signature scent of all Anthropologie stores) in my bathroom cupboard.

“I couldn’t wear a single item of clothing that my generous discount and new paycheck”

A few years later, I found myself living in Los Angeles. Auditioning for film and television by morning, spending two to four hours in the gym by mid afternoon, and partying in West Hollywood by 9pm. The elliptical, mandatory west-coast veganism, some cocaine, and self-induced starvation (500 calories a day, and a little bit more if I felt sick) all helped me whittle myself down to a size 14 (I will never be a thin person – it’s okay).  I still could not fit into the denim.

While looking for a job I recalled the generous Anthropologie discount, and applied to work as a part time sales associate again. This time, I took up residence at the Westfield Topanga Mall. Kourtney Kardashian was a regular, Britney Spears’ children had used our bathroom one time, and I met the female cast of Community while they were having a girls’ day out.

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Drunk after work. Proudly wearing an entire Anthropologie wardrobe (well, torso up) for the first time.

After all my dieting, pill-popping, cigarette smoking, green juice drinking and tireless hours running up and down stairs, I could still only fit into the tops at Anthropologie.

Despite longing for the gorgeous clothes, and loving the Anthro atmosphere, I didn’t respect the job as much as I did as a teenager. I haven’t told anyone this, but this is the absolute garbage way  I quit:

At 2:30 in the morning on Black Friday, while in bed with a house-sitting personal assistant to a big movie producer, I decided to quit Anthropologie.  I emailed my store saying that I had finally gotten my big break and would begin shooting in the AM. I was scheduled to open  with the Store Manager at 5:00 AM. Instead, I spent my morning stepping over a living room full of snoring, half-dressed bodies, and driving down the PCH blasting Lana Del Rey. Come on, kid. Get it together. 

One can only enjoy a life of hard living, unchecked mental health, and minimal caloric intake so long. Eventually I crashed, and crashed hard. I moved home to Texas to live with my parents.

I had gained back all my weight, and then some. I was out of work, out of my mind and in need of some r&r. I walked into an Anthropologie one day to smell candles, as I am still often inspired to do, and saw a beautiful plus-sized woman at the front of the store carrying refreshments to what looked like a group interview. I asked her if I could have an application, she smiled and said they were available online – but I could jump into the group interview if I liked.

Looking down at my sweatshirt and leggings, I politely declined – but came back the next day.

The interview was so much fun. I gabbed and listened with my full heart. This was the same location I had worked in as a teenager, and it felt like I was back home. I was asked to style a date-night outfit with my favorite song in mind. I chose “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys and was hired as a part-timer.

I left out my brief experience with the company in Los Angeles. I was determined to work my way up through the company this time. I was also determined to lose weight to truly, once and for all fit into all the store’s offerings.

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Just outside the store during a photo session for the store’s instagram. (Just my blouse is Anthropologie – I have it tied at my waist because it didn’t fit over my hips).

I bought a fit-bit and took extra shifts. After a bad break-up, I took even more shifts. I managed to get in 20k steps a day. When I wasn’t helping a customer I was taking laps around the store or in the fitting room, and eating salads in the back on my break. I was befriending my coworkers (one of my best friends today is someone I met at my store!), taking initiative during morning meeting reports, and always lending a hand.

I was great at finding “Sneak Plus”, a term coined by YouTuber Sarah Rae Vargas,  meaning straight size clothing which just so happens to fit plus size people. I had an oversized harem pant jumpsuit, a ton of baby-doll style maxi dresses, some sweaters and tees. I bought myself all the right accessories and had a friend on the visual team color my hair. I looked like the chic Anthropologie woman I always dreamed of being.

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I took tons of OOTD’s in the staff bathroom.

I was promoted to the management team and given the most fun responsibility EVER – creating content and curating the store Instagram account. I got to shoot all my coworkers in beautiful outfits styled by me. They were looks I wished I could wear, but couldn’t. I lead fit sessions and styled my co-workers so that I wouldn’t have to showcase my inability to fit into the store denim.

I heard rumors of a particularly conniving manager refer to me as “lazy”. Ahem – I have step counts that say otherwise, madame.

During this time of sneak plus, photo shoots and politics, I noticed a trend with my customers. Plus sized women were approaching me and asking me to help them find what I was wearing, and if I knew of anything else that would work for their bodies.

On one occasion I helped a quiet, middle-aged woman, dressed all in black, place a very large online order for every piece I owned and suggested.

I researched Instagram marketing and followed local bloggers to learn how to achieve gorgeous flat lays and effortless #OOTDs. I started becoming active on my own instagram account, and eventually created a blog. I shared knowledge that I learned working at Anthropologie (Always Wear a Third Piece, How to Elevate Denim, and some info on my favorite all-natural skincare brand, Indie Lee – I was trained by Indie herself at Anthropologie). I soon garnered a decent following of two-thousand gals all looking for style tips.

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Eventually, I left the retail world and have been solely focused on creating content for plus size women.

And then, it happened. Anthropologie confirmed they were launching a plus size line on instagram in a photo of plus size home decor fashionista Justina Blakeney.  A Plus by Anthropologie. I squealed with delight and sent out the information to the troops, I looked up the instagrams of models and celebs who were at the event. It’s coming. And sometime in March, it will be here.

I feel so personally connected to this company. I learned how to work.  I learned how to be responsible. I learned a skill set that I am presently earning my living from.

Even though I haven’t worked at the company for almost three years, I feel like this is the greatest acknowledgement of my time there. I would not have the aesthetic taste I have, my communication skills or my ability to run a brand without the education I received from Anthro U.

Marie Denee recently posted a list of ask-fors for the Anthro team on her blog

I too have a few things to ask for from Anthropologie. (Yeah, there’s some overlap for good measure!)

  1. Please Accommodate a Variety of Sizes : Plus does not end at size 24.  Please feature a variety of sizes and shapes and colors in your media associated with the plus line.
  2. Don’t Give Us Drab : The worst thing you could do is release a line of jersey dresses and separates in solid colors. We love the brand for what it is: whimsical, colorful, patterned, unique. Give us the same clothing in the same fabrics as your straight sized customer. I want a closet full of animal-printed blouses far more than I long for lilac tunic-tees. Though, to be fair, I will also wear the tunic-tee.
  3. Acknowledge that We Love Our Bodies With Your Designs– Give us a sleeveless maxi dresses, cute short rompers, overalls, figure hugging pencil skirts. Yes, some will want to play it safe with a-line shapes and long-line tops, but we are still Anthro Girls!
  4. Give Us Time – Plus size customers are used to fast fashion and fast fashion prices. We have been groomed to accept that our bodies our temporary pit stops on the way to fit bodies. We are used  bargain basement disposable wardrobes. True body acceptance comes with wardrobe items meant to be treasured for long periods of time.  We are NOT before and after photos and a new generation of consumers is aware of this. We will all come around, I promise.
  5. Let Us Try It On – So many stores with extended size ranges keep their selections online. Fat bodies come in so many different, interesting shapes. We need to try on clothing! Also, I cannot communicate enough how othering it is to order online when we want to have an in-store experience full of surprise and delight. (I remember my handbook well!).
  6. Train Your Staff to be Inclusive – So many people are afraid to speak to plus size women about their bodies. I had a customer refer to herself as fat (she was fat) and a bunch of my sales associates immediately cooed back “AWWWW, NO YOU’RE NOT” Yes – she IS, and that isn’t bad! Maybe your customer won’t be as “woke” as the fat internet is, but I know you can train your staff to be unafraid to communicate with a fat client about their bodies. And further, celebrate them.
  7. Call Urban and Free People and BHLDN – I am a fat bohemian queen who is trying to go on vaca and get engaged this year, and I want to wear EVERYTHING under the URBN umbrella!
  8. Optics – Recently your instagram account posted a photo of Karl Lagerfeld. Now, unless I’ve been living under a rock and Karl Lagerfeld has in some way contributed designs to the Anthropologie lexicon, I feel like he is pretty irrelevant. Further, Karl Lagerfeld is EXTRAORDINARILY alienating to most people who aren’t benefitting from thin privilege. Your launch is less than a month away and you’re reposting a photo of a person who – on multiple occasions – expressed disdain and disgust for fat women, jewish people, women in general, and Muslims. This won’t do!

Okay, you’ve heard me out. All this being said, from the bottom of my heart, I cannot be anything else but grateful, so incredibly excited and poised to be very broke for a very long time.

 

We have been waiting. Thank you.

 

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roseyblair

Plus size style junkie and advocate for size inclusivity in the fashion industry. Lusting after Gucci and Prada bags. Taking pictures everyday. Trying to cultivate good skincare habits. Planning the next stamp in my passport. Creating a cozy home with lots of treats and treasures.

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