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Not a small problem

Several boutiques often don't carry above a size large. CW | Amy Sullivan

Elizabeth Elkin

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“It’s one of my biggest problems,” she said. “Jeans are too short, dresses are too short, shirts are too short. If I get them bigger, then they’re too big. It’s really frustrating.”

She said she usually doesn’t like the jeans she buys because they don’t fit her well, but they’re long enough, so she buys them anyway. She said when she shops at boutiques, it’s so difficult to find clothes that fit her. Many only carry sizes small to large and, even then, she finds it difficult to find larges.

“They kind of assume you’re going to be extra small, small and medium, and then most people aren’t,” she said. “And then people like me who, even though I am one of those sizes, has to buy larger so it fits right, it’s really frustrating to not be able to find the things you want.”

Golden isn’t the only person who has trouble finding clothes, particularly at boutiques. Often, the small selection of sizes can make it difficult for customers to find clothes that fit them.

Pat Poole, owner of Ellie Crimson, a boutique in Tuscaloosa, said boutique owners have no choice but to buy the sizes that brands carry, and sizes small to large are just what brands make right now.

“We are seeing a trend for plus sizes and smaller sizes coming into effect, and even kids, but as of right now, from what we’ve experienced, the target margin has just been small to large,” Poole said.

Poole said he has seen some clothes below a size small and above a size large, and when they have such clothes in stock, they always advertise on social media. However, he said most of what they get from brands are still small to large.

“It’s nothing that we can control, unfortunately,” he said. “But as the brands start to venture out to make these sizes, that is something that we will eventually try to migrate in, in order to represent those customers as well. No girl has the same body, so you want to try to represent everyone as best as possible.”

Frances Sewell, owner of The Klassic Shop in Kentucky, said the brands she buys from only sell small, medium and large, and the clothes she buys to sell come in packs of two small, two medium and two large.

“I wish my brands gave me a choice of extra small through extra large,” Sewell said. “It would be so nice for a boutique to be able to purchase those sizes.”

The size she sells the most, she said, is small because if a girl can fit in a small, it’s the size she’ll buy. Often, the sizes run big, and a girl who would usually buy a medium buys a small.

Sewell said she saw a problem with brands only making sizes small to large.

“You don’t fit as broad a base of customers as you should, because now there are young girls that are extra small,” she said. “There are also young girls that are extra large. If you have small, medium and large, you’re unable to serve those girls.”

Some brands, however, are branching out in sizing. Camille Stillman, a junior majoring in theatre and dance, is an independent beauty consultant for LuLaRoe, a brand that sells sizes from extra extra small to extra extra large. Stillman runs her boutique out of her apartment and makes most of her sales online. She said one thing she loves about her boutique is that she has a chance to make women of all shapes and sizes feel as beautiful as they are.

“There are testimonies all the time about women who were at a point in their lives where they didn’t really feel beautiful, then wore these clothes,” Stillman said. “It’s really not the clothes, but it gives them a chance to see that they are really fabulous. The people themselves are fabulous.”

Stillman started her business six weeks ago. She said it’s a lot of work to balance running her boutique, her photography business and going to class, but making women feel special is worth it.

“They’re able to realize ‘wow, I am beautiful,’ because the clothes fit well, and if someone’s been struggling to find something that will fit if they carry weight in a certain part of their body and they don’t necessarily want to accentuate that, sometimes it’s hard to find things that will do that,” she said. “Then they find LuLaRoe … I love it so much.”

The brand’s target clientele, she said, really is every woman. This variety in sizing and clothing that flatters different body types is what all brands should strive to make, she said.

Golden agreed with this statement.

“Obviously, there’s such a movement now of girls not having to be the extra small everybody wants them to be, so I think stores can do a lot better,” she said. “I think it can benefit them to have bigger sizes, and then when they do have bigger sizes, they order such a small amount, so they run out a lot faster, and that’s really frustrating. I think it would be beneficial for stores to get the bigger sizes because people are going to shop there and it’ll look good for them if they’re supporting everybody.”

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