To be honest, I actually find lingerie rather silly, but in the spirit of friendship, I ventured to the nearest Victoria’s Secret to find something for a bride to wow her new husband on their wedding night.
No sooner had I stepped into the place, I began to feel uncomfortable. As a plus-size gal, I stick out like a sore thumb in places like Victoria’s Secret. I detected one sales clerk giving me a puzzled side-eye … which I cheerfully disarmed by breaking the ice in my usual, pacifying way.
“Hellooo. I’m wondering if I could ask for some help?”
Again, I got the cold once-over. Like, what would a girl like me be doing in a place like this?
I felt that familiar, often-battled burn of shame sear across my face. If this had happened to me today, I would have offered some choice words on my way out the door. And then I would have ordered something online.
But this was the younger me. The more placid, unsure of herself, “don’t-make-a-scene” me.
After an awkward silence, the visibly annoyed and overly perfumed sales clerk put on her best fake smile (to match her fake tan) and asked how she could be of assistance.
I swallowed hard and replied, “I’m looking for a babydoll negligee — for my friend’s honeymoon. It’s not for me — it’s a gift.”
The very fact I had to “clear the air” and provide a legitimate reason to even occupy space in that store still angers me. It’s long ago, but no one has the right to make you feel like you don’t belong — and even worse, that you don’t matter.
Once the unsympathetic clerk realized the situation, she was actually pleasant and I was able to pick out something sexy yet tasteful for my friend’s lingerie party. So, it wasn’t a total loss. I vowed to myself, however, that that was the last time I would ever venture into a Victoria’s Secret.
Since those days, the body positive movement has grown up, and plus-size fashion icon Lane Bryant has been at the forefront. They are by far my favorite clothing brand, and even though this is not an advertisement for them, I believe in giving credit where it’s due.
It all started with the #ImNoAngel social media sensation — a more-than-slight dig for Victoria’s Secret and their flagship branding event, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. (This is in spite of the fact that Lane Bryant and Victoria’s Secret were for years both owned by the same company.)
Everyone is familiar with the Victoria’s Secret Angels — very thin and usually very young women parading down the catwalk in very little while shouldering ridiculously large “wings” that are almost as big as they are. (Granted, they did finally add a size 14 model recently.)
With its rebellious hashtag, Lane Bryant gave the proverbial middle finger to an industry that for so long had excluded curvier women and made them feel unworthy, unsexy and outside the standards of American beauty.
I’ve always loved the sauciness of the #ImNoAngel campaign, and its message that if you won’t include us, we will make our own rules.
As a result, Lane Bryant has helped blaze a trail to improved self-esteem for plus-size women everywhere, and has told its fans and followers that there is nothing wrong with them: They are beautiful and desirable just as they are.
Most importantly, #ImNoAngel takes the power of beauty standards away from the mainstream and public at large, and returns it to the woman herself — to define and redefine as she chooses. And that is the most beautiful thing of all.
Have you ever felt unwelcome in a lingerie or clothing store because of your size? Tell us your story!
About the Author: Aimee Kunau is a professional marketing and creative writer based in Boise, Idaho. Her passion is the written word, but she also is a raving fangirl for fashion, makeup and jewelry. She encourages every woman to celebrate her own unique gifts and beauty.