All Things Ellie

It's like Sex and the Suburbs and 30 Rock all rolled into one…

Is Shopping a Moral Issue?

Two bits of fashion related news and commentary:

1. Abercrombie & Fitch is at it again, sending a girl to the stock room for the sole crime of having a prosthetic limb. Apparently the girl in question got special permission to wear a cardigan at work, but was then told her cardigan was against the dress code and sent to the back to hide her birth-defect. William Gibson, my favorite cool hunter, says that our children will not blame A&F, they will blame us for buying A&F.

2. People are upset that size 12 and up at Forever 21 are considered expanded sizes.

As someone who was a size 16, I can say that while horrible for self-esteem, I wish someone had told me to put the third piece of chocolate cake down. My parents just took me shopping at the GAP, which didn’t consider a size 16 or the 18 I was busting into an extended size. What’s worse is that sizes have gotten larger. A size 14 today would have been gigantic compared to the size 14 Marilyn Monroe wore. I’m not saying its Forever 21’s responsibility to point out that some kids are overweight, but when I was growing up most stores didn’t carry over a size 14. Now it’s not uncommon to sell up to a size 20. There’s something seriously wrong with that. And no, it’s not the company. It’s the culture that encourages kids to eat trash and keep them inside.

But where as I find it hard to condemn Forever 21, and not because they employ me, I can’t get past A&F. Perhaps it’s because I do work for Forever 21 that I know, in my store at least, this would never happen. Any employee would receive any reasonable accommodation, including the right to wear a cardigan if she or he chose. It’s one thing to say we will size our clothes in such a way that if you are in fact a plus size, you will buy plus sized clothes and quite another to say that if you’re somehow less than perfection in appearance you can’t work.

But should shopping be a moral issue? Should we all flock to Wal-Mart because it’s the most green, or because they managed to help victims of Hurricane Katrina before the US government could? And do we boycott American Apparel because the owner tolerates women just enough to use their sexuality to sell t-shirts? Is Target to be lauded at bringing high fashion to the masses at affordable prices or should we start finding elsewhere to shop since Target wants to prevent retail workers from unionising?

The bottom line, and it’s always that in the retail world, is that only a few people view shopping as a moral issue. The point is sadly not a matter of concern for the big retailers. Discuss.

2 comments on “Is Shopping a Moral Issue?

  1. Chris
    July 15, 2010

    We all make moral compromises. I use Verizon and Time Warner, shop online and IRL at places that do objectionable things, eat meat, drive, etc. I try to balance things out enough to not find myself a totally morally objectionable hypocrite, but I’m hardly a martyr to any cause.

  2. Ben U
    July 15, 2010

    This is a tough one. You can say that corporations have a responsibility to be good citizens, which they by and large do not exercise.

    Is it morally objectionable to tell a girl with a false arm that she needs to hide in the back? Sure. On the other hand, how many of their customers are shallow enough to see her and walk out? More than we’re willing to admit, I’m guessing.

    As for the clothing sizes, this has been going on for a while. Nobody wants to face facts, so if they’re going to store A and their clothes are a size 20, but they can go to store B and the exact same size is a 14, they’ll go to store B just so they can still say ‘I’m a size 14’. They know it’s all a gimmick, but sometimes that’s just enough comfort to get you through the second box of twinkies.

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This entry was posted on July 15, 2010 by in Uncategorized.
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