After calling for photos of aspiring plus-sized models’ “junk” to promote its new XL clothing line, it would seem that American Apparel is offering the same in return.
Read on for Nancy Upton’s review.
As some readers may already know, I have a bit of a history with American Apparel, the Los Angeles-based, vertically-integrated, controversy-ridden fashion conglomerate owned and operated by the infamous Dov Charney.
American Apparel is known for both well-constructed wardrobe basics and questionable advertising campaigns. Some praise their provocative ads as art, while others consider them a little too risqué.
Late this summer, the company made headlines yet again. To promote its expanded XL selection, American Apparel hosted a plus-sized model search, calling for photos of young women’s “junk”. You can read all about my much-publicized entry into that contest here. Suffice it to say, their stunt backfired, big-time.
In fact, the company’s relationship with size has always been strained. For example, hosiery is divided into sizes small/medium, which fits 0-4, and medium/large, which supposedly fits dress sizes 6-14 (though size 14 hips are roughly 5 inches rounder than a size 6). In the past, American Apparel has stocked up to size 3XL in men’s and unisex designs, but as part of this new initiative, it began offering several women’s styles in size XL. The selection includes 21 designs, some pre-existing and some new.
Styles from the American Apparel More Sizes selection.
Now that the model search frenzy has calmed, I decided to visit both Dallas-area American Apparel stores to get an on-the-ground feel for size representation and customer service.
Both the Mockingbird Station and NorthPark Center stores had but one size XL in each color of any given item on the floor, compared to several smalls and mediums, which leads me to believe the new sizes may not be selling well in Dallas.
Upon closer examination, the XL size is not considerably bigger than the large size. I tried on a Cotton Spandex Jersey Long Sleeve Turtleneck ($30) in both a large and an XL, and the two looked almost identical. Generally speaking, all American Apparel clothing seems to be designed with two fits in mind: bizarrely oversized or circulation-stopping tight. The latter was the case with the XL Printed Sweetheart Two-Tone Mini Dress ($54).
I concluded that if American Apparel fit you before, it will still fit you. If it didn’t fit your curvier frame in the past, it still won’t. Sure, the XL size might button now over particularly full assets, but if the cuts have been unflattering up to now, they will continue to be so. This is in keeping with the company’s sizing guide, which states, “Our clothes are cut for a youthful shape. Most of our garments fit a little snug to flatter almost any body type.”
Understand that “youthful shape” seems to mean “narrow”, and “a little snug” means “skin-tight”.
clearly cut to fit a size 12/14, but not specifically to flatter one.
In the customer service department, I highly recommend the NorthPark location over Mockingbird Station. During my visit to the Mockingbird store, I was the only customer shopping, and yet I still was not approached for close to 10 minutes. Then, after heading into the dressing room with far more than my allotted five items, no one ever came to check on me.
On my way out of the store, I asked one of the clerks what number the XL’s corresponded to in standard dress sizes. She paused, staring out into space, before replying, “They don’t. They are all sort of cut differently, so, you know, the sizes don’t really go with them. I’m sorry.”
On the American Apparel website, it’s clearly listed that a women’s XL corresponds to sizes 12-14.
At NorthPark Center, however, I was assisted from start to finish, and was offered many tips and compliments. However, I also heard one sales clerk say to her counterpart, “Well, it’s not like I’m going to call the police.” This made me wonder if perhaps my face was familiar to her, from the model search situation. I cannot say whether this played a part in my customer service experience.
From a general standpoint, American Apparel continues to knock it out of the park making quality basics. The company also continues to confuse and alienate many women with its unflattering cuts and designs. Throwing in one item every now and then might add a nice pop of color to an outfit.
Wear two or more American Apparel pieces at once, though, and you might look like the girl who had too much to drink on that fateful night at the skating rink in ’76. Or perhaps a clown’s girlfriend. After eventually being asked to model for this company (at the conclusion of the search debacle), I believe it was for the best that I said, “No, thank you.”
(Photo credits, from top: 1. Lead Image/DFW Style Daily, 2. Store.AmericanApparel.net, 3. Nancy Upton)