Open Letter to North Style

Dear NorthStyle folks:

About once or twice a year I receive a catalog from your fine establishment. I’m a big mail-order shopper, so it’s very appropriate that you would send me one. Each time I receive it, I think “hmmmm… stylish, understated, affordable.” I mark off a few items. And then I notice that you insist on a $5 surcharge for me to order your clothes in my size.

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but fat ladies all across the world are getting fed up with this kind of treatment. Countless times every day, I get messages — covert and overt — that there’s something wrong with me because of the size of my hips and the number on a label inside my clothes. These messages persist in spite of assurances from my doctor, my boyfriend, and my loved ones that I am healthy, lovable, and actually pretty attractive.

North Style, if you really want my business — and you should, considering what I spent on new clothes last year — then you’ve got to get with the program. I don’t hang out with people who make me feel ugly. And I’m certainly not going to hand over my hard-won dollars for the as-yet-unproven privilege of purchasing your merchandise. Take a number from retailers like Simply Be, Woman Within, and Ulla Popken, who treat me with the same courtesy and respect as a lady who wears a size 10. Then maybe I’ll take the next step and actually place an order with you.

Sincerely,

Me

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The main focus of this website is not fat politics, fashion, or online shopping reviews. Comments on this post have been closed. If you would like to discuss haiku, poetry, spiritual practice, gender, sexuality, or social justice, please feel free to follow me. If you would like to debate the pros and cons of fat acceptance and American’s obesity epidemic, please troll someone else’s blog. There are lots of people being wrong on the Internet. You can’t fix them all.

Oh, and for the record, I never ordered from North Style. And I never will. They sound like a company with a lot of customer service problems. ]

Author: Frances Donovan (aka Okelle)

I like poetry, long walks on the beach, and net neutrality. Tending the Garden of Words (www.gardenofwords.com) since 1998.

21 thoughts on “Open Letter to North Style”

  1. I was so happy to come across your Open Letter to Northstyle. I ha had the same thought each time I see the additional charge for plus size clothing. I am angry and offended that this company does not see the bigger picture and the impact on their sales. I hope that you mailed your letter to Northstyle.

  2. Hi Janet:

    I submitted my letter to them via the contact form on their website but never received a reply. They just keep sending me their catalog, which tells me pretty much everything I need to know about them as a company. Some retailers are better than others at making plus-sized women feel welcome and valued, but North Style isn’t one of them. It’s too bad, since some of their clothing looks quite beautiful in the catalog.

    It’s not the extra pricing alone for larger sizes that turned me against them, although that was definitely a sticking point. It’s also that they offer only some styles in larger sizes — and usually not the ones I’m interested in. My impression is that North Style has only recently begun to reach out to our demographic and isn’t necessarily aware of the way they come across. Regardless, I’ll continue to frequent the online retailers that do make me feel welcome. My favorites are http://www.simplybe.com/, http://www.sonsi.com, http://www.womanwithin.com, and http://www.ullapopken.com.

  3. I like many items in there catalog. Definitely won’t purchase…too many of their items are “imported”…no can do…want things made in USA only.

    1. The catalog makes the items look appealing, but their complete lack of responsiveness to inquiries suggests that shopping there wouldn’t be a very good experience. It can be challenging to find affordable clothing in plus sizes in the USA — good luck in your searches!

  4. Llbean also charges more for 1x-3x. I dobuy from them alot. North Styles things are lovely but I also read they have problems with returns and customer service. I have zero complaints with Llbean and others.

  5. You might consider a new doctor if your doctor is suggesting that leading a plus sized lifestyle is a healthy way to live. Sure you can be healthy now but long term, I’m sure you know that being overweight is not the healthiest lifestyle.

    Why should those who live a healthy lifestyle, have to subsidize the extra material and cost it takes to make plus sized clothes? Maybe you might consider this upcharge the final boost you need to get truly healthy so you are around for your loved ones for a long time.

    1. Rob, your use of the word “lifestyle” makes it sound like I spend all day scarfing cupcakes and going to Fat Bars or something. Given that you’ve never seen my medical records or even seen me, I find it amusing that you think you are qualified to pass any sort of judgment on my lifestyle or my health. My doctor assures me that I am in good health because I am in good health. Of course, what does he know? He’s only examined me, reviewed my medical history, and looked at my heart rate, my blood pressure, and my bloodwork. Clearly, a stranger on the Internet must know better.

      And if you’re concerned about my BMI, I suggest take a look at the actual “science” that went into creating it:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/31/health/31brod.html?_r=2&ref=science&

      Or perhaps you’d like to see the categories illustrated by actual people: http://www.flickr.com/photos/77367764@N00/sets/72157602199008819/

      If you think that the extra cost of plus-sized clothes has anything to do with the cost of the extra fabric, I wonder if you worry about all of those size-zero folks who are subsidizing the piggy size-tens and twelves. It has far less to do with actual production costs and far more to do with what manufacturers can get away with — and with the attitudes of ignorant, bigoted people like yourself. Maybe you can consider this reply the final boost you need to get truly educated about matters you clearly know nothing about.

    2. I’m 5’4″. I weigh 200 pounds. I have textbook blood pressure and my cholesterol is awesome. I don’t have any chronic illnesses, my pulse is great, and my level of physical fitness is great (I can run 10 miles in just over an hour and a half, so that’s 10-minute miles over an extended period of time).

      I have three friends who are within the BMI chart’s definition of normative, they are young, and yet they are winded walking up 2 flights of stairs.

      Being plus sized does NOT mean I’m living an unhealthy lifestyle. Being in the normative part of the BMI chart does NOT mean someone is healthy, either.

    3. You’re absolutely right, Rob. Obviously if someone is overweight, they must be unhealthy. And if someone is not overweight, they must be healthy. Because obviously no skinny person has ever been a smoker. Or done drugs. Or had cancer. Or had diabetes. Or…wait, okay, that can’t be right.

      But surely people who are overweight must die faster. Now THAT we can all agree on, right? Oh, wait…
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/extra-weight-longevity-_n_2396933.html

      Nope, turns out that’s not true, either.

      You really should check your assumptions and prejudices. Body weight/shape is but one factor in a MYRIAD of factors that would determine a person’s overall health. And assuming that this one factor tells you all you need to know about a person to make assumptions – and judgements – about their health is incredibly misguided. I’ve been a plus-size girl for over 20 years. And guess what? I go to the doctor on average about once a year, just enough for her to say, “Yup, you’re still totally healthy, keep doing what you’re doing.” My blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, pulse, respiration…all of the factors one can generally use to determine if a person is healthy are always textbook normal when I get them checked. I get sick about once a year with a cold, and that’s pretty much the extent of my medical history. I sit here right this comment shortly after getting off my spin bike, on which I did a one hour workout of high intensity sprint and hill intervals. Before getting on the spin bike, I ate a breakfast of quinoa and spinach, and now I’m going to cut up some mango and steam some Brussels sprouts. But, obviously, since my natural body shape and slow metabolism make it difficult for me to lose much weight even if I eat a healthy, vegetarian diet and exercise regularly, I’m unhealthy.

      As for “subsidizing” other people – if that’s really how think think plus-sized clothes work, then you know even less about manufacturing or retail than you do about health and medicine. But you know what DOES get subsidized by other people? Healthcare costs. Even though I go to my doctor about once a year, and otherwise don’t really take much advantage of my health insurance, my premiums (which I pay out of my own pocket, since I’m a freelancer), go up every year. Why? Because of other people. Other people who smoke or drink heavily or eat unhealthy diets or ride motorcycles without a helmet, or who otherwise make “lifestyle” choices that impact their health. Those choices affect MY health insurance premiums, even though I’m totally healthy. Huh, that’s weird, since I’m plus-sized, and OBVIOUSLY must be the unhealthy one.

      Check your prejudice and privilege, Rob. It’s blinding you.

      1. You might want to check that study more closely. It was based on BMI which is not an extremely accurate measure of a person’s fat content, people that have more muscle mass and very little fat can have a BMI that puts them as overweight. People that qualify for that are very rarely using plus sizes though. The article also makes the point of reminding people that extra fat stores do increase your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. Further more someone that has a normal blood sugar can still have insulin resistance and be on the road to diabetes. The results of insulin resistance won’t be seen until the body can no longer compensate by increasing insulin production. No matter how healthy you might be right now, insulin resistance usually develops as a direct result of increased fat stores.

      2. Maranda, the fact remains that the science regarding weight and health is inconclusive. Furthermore, regardless of a person’s health status, there is no excuse for the sort of shame and hatred perpetuated against overweight people in modern American society. Regardless of whether it’s a matter of aesthetics or medicine, our current attitudes toward body size need some serious adjustment. The very yardstick by which we judge someone overweight is suspect.

  6. Rob, You might consider a new brain if your brain is suggesting that leading a jerkface lifestyle is a pleasant way to live. Sure you can be happy now but long term, I’m sure you know that being a jerk is not the happiest lifestyle.

    Why should those who live a kind lifestyle, have to subsidize the extra hurt and time it takes to navigate jerks like you? Maybe you might consider this message the final boost you need to get truly considerate so you are someone your loved ones like to be around.

  7. There is no size zero. That means you’re nothing. Real women have curves and there are more of us to market to than the super skinnies. The healthy skinnies are 5% of the population world wide and the rest are starving themselves or had a bad case of body image dysmorphia that will cause organ failure and death if they don’t get help.

  8. I think a few folks are missing Rob’s point. If I go to Starbucks and want a bigger latte they charge me more. If I go to Wendy’s and want a medium order of fries instead of the combo standard of small, they charge me more.

    If I need to wear clothes that require more material and labor, I should be willing to pay more. Heck, even if I made my own clothes, as a larger size I would need to pay to get more material. The retailer bases their price on an average of material/labor for a set size. If your logic of not having to pay more for a larger size were true, why not those who order XS pay less? They’re using less material and labor, but no, they pay what the ‘average range’ of sizes pay – even though you can probably make 1.5 XS garments out of what 1 XL (still in that range) costs to make.

    The other retailers you point out are marketed ONLY to plus-size gals so their costs basis does not include more than one average range. By the way, look more closely at your Woman Within catalog, they DO charge more for sizes at the top end of their average range. This isn’t a statement on lifestyle choice, what’s healthy, who’s happy or any of the other emotional comments that precede mine. It’s plain business in that if you want more materials/labor for an item you should be willing to pay for it. Period.

      1. Exactly my point. The price is based on an average of the base sizes the vendor chooses. Once you are outside the average, you are up charged. Woman Within also has an up charge starting at size 24W I believe it is. So why doesn’t a 14W get charged less than a 20W? Same reason – 14W-24W is WW’s base average.

        It would be too administratively burdensome for a vendor to incrementally charge by individual size. In this case though, it’s actually the smaller sizes being overcharged and not the larger.

  9. Heather, I think you may be missing Rob’s point. Let’s return to the text, shall we? Rob says, “Why should those who live a healthy lifestyle, have to subsidize the extra material and cost it takes to make plus sized clothes?”

    He’s making two assumptions here: first, that being thin is the same thing as leading a healthy lifestyle, and second, that being fat does not. His entire comment contains both implicit and explicit value judgments related to size. In fact, he seems to think that larger women should pay extra for their clothes as some kind of punitive “up-charge” for our supposedly unhealthy lifestyles.

    While I appreciate your business-focused argument, I challenge your assumption that there are no implicit or explicit value judgments in additional costs for plus-sized clothes. And who exactly gets to decide what the average is? And why is it not administratively burdensome for clothing manufacturers to charge for sizes on the other side of this so-called “average.”? Your argument that the extra material costs more is specious at best. The fashion industry is notoriously sizeist, and also notoriously profit-oriented. The reason why plus-sized clothes cost more is not because they cost more to make. It’s because we as a society think that people should pay more for being fat.

    1. You’re correct, I did ignore the inflammatory statements Rob made related to lifestyle and such; mostly because they are non-productive. I don’t know if you’ve seen the recent news involving Abercrombie and Fitch but they are under fire for not offering larger sizes at all.

      I’m sure you’re being coy about why each size doesn’t have its own incremental price point. Doing so would increase the price of all sizes to compensate for the additional administration – this is basic economics, like the rest of my comment.

      You never did address the fact that Woman Within, a plus-size brand you mentioned as preferable to North Style practices the SAME up-charge for sizes outside of their average. This average is not meant to make larger people feel fat, unhealthy or any other way. It was chosen for manufacturing costs. Do you feel like the +24W women should not be up-charged for more material costs? If you do, you’d better learn how to sew because either the cost of all garments goes up to compensate for administrative costs over individual size pricing or the brands all go broke from charging less than what larger garments cost to make.

      It is simple economics – no more, no less. The fashion industry offers every size with each brand catering to the range they are marketing to. Profit focused? Yes, it’s called capitalism, this is America. If you don’t like it there’s always the choice to sew your own.

      1. Economic systems do not exist in a vacuum. They are moderated by the laws and mores of the societies in which they exist. In addition to profits for the investor, unbridled capitalism has given the world such gems as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the Bangladesh factory collapses, and deadly air pollution in China. Suggesting that I learn to sew instead of complaining about the unfair treatment larger women face every day at the hands of clothing retailers is akin to that old chestnut “America: love it or leave it!” It’s because I do care about America that I make my complaints. I’m one of those idealists who believe that a good thing can be made even better.

        When I wrote the post that we are discussing — more than a year ago, I might add — I hadn’t noticed the pricing structure of Woman Within. I’m happy to admit this mistake, since learning from mistakes is a wonderful avenue for growth. It doesn’t change the fact that North Style’s treatment of customers, whether plus-size or “straight”-size, leaves a lot to be desired. I’d list for you the myriad subtle and not-so-subtle details that point to my conclusion, but I doubt you care very much about my opinion of North Style. In engaging with you, I seem to have forgotten one of the cardinal Rules of the Internet: don’t feed the trolls!

        If you’d like to further debate fat, fashion, economics, or politics, may I suggest:
        http://blog.twowholecakes.com/
        http://www.fatnutritionist.com/
        http://fatheffalump.wordpress.com/the-rules/
        http://www.dailykos.com/

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