old navy

Plus-Size Perplexity #1: Pants

by Jamie Sanford on April 10, 2014

As the owner of a plus-size body, there are limitations to where I can shop. As if this were not frustrating enough, I have run across issues within the stores apparently catering to this under-served category of shoppers, and I am hoping to examine them here. It would be great to have a discussion about my issues with those making the clothes, but I’ll be happy to start a comment discussion for now.


I have an office job. I have to be in something deemed “business casual” 4 days a week. This means no jeans, no t-shirts, none of that until Friday. Until recently, I wore pants about 99% of the time to work. In the past year or so I have drifted to wearing dresses a lot more, which has been a nice change. However, I wear black leggings under my dresses, and we’re getting to the point in the year where it will be warmer, and so leggings won’t be the first item I reach for. I take stock in what’s in the closet and decide that I need to buy some new pants.

The example I will use below is at Torrid, where I shop quite a bit. However, the problems I see here are systemic within the plus-size shopping arena.

Here is the result under the category Bottoms, subcategory Pants.

What the hell? Why isn’t there a single pair of pants in a boot-cut that are not black? If I like to wear pants and I like to shop at Torrid, and I don’t want a pair of skinny-cut pants, I am just out of luck. Am I supposed to shrink into the corner and wear my black boot-cut pants and be grateful for them? That’s crap. The ikat print “soft pants” are cute, but they look like pajamas. I can’t wear those to work – but I would definitely be interested in a more structured pant in the same print. There are a few colors of sateen skinny pants, and while the shininess is suspect, I would definitely try those on in a non-skinny version.

I had a dark moment where I tried on skinny pants, and they are not for me. Also, I do not subscribe to the idea that leggings count as pants. They don’t. You might get a pass for wearing them with a long top, but it needs to be long, like to your knees.

Is the problem that I am not empowered enough? I certainly have an IDGAF attitude about many things, but I’m still not going to wear something I don’t feel comfortable in, so I won’t be deciding that leggings and a crop top are for me. I am not hating at all on people who pull it off (I mean come on, Gabi looks ridiculously good), but I am not there. And I KNOW I am not alone.

I have been searching anywhere and everywhere to look at the results for plus-size pants, and this is where we are. This Torrid selection is a pretty accurate representation of how things are going. Lane Bryant seems to offer up more wide-leg pants (one pair even in a white pinstripe OOOOH), but still, not a big collection of pants in other cuts and pattern choices.

SimplyBe is moderately better? They have bootcut work-appropriate pants in grey, black and navy, which is super generous. What hurts more is that the bone they throw out with them are SALMON JEGGINGS.

Look at that waistline and tell me it doesn’t scream “sexy.”

Old Navy, who I generally avoid after they decided they didn’t want plus-size women in the store anymore, offers some basic boot-cut khakis, in—you guessed it—black, navy, and khaki. They also have some color and print in something called “ankle pants” which I suspect are skinny pants just made shorter, and also would probably not be work-appropriate. Why not take the same printed fabric and make the boot-cut pants out of it? I do not understand how this all works.

ASOS, who I love and have been shopping a LOT, also has trouble in this area. Leggings and skinny pants, and more of these flowy fabrics that are just not what I’m looking for. I also found this daisy printed pair, which is eliminated partly because I had a very similar print in a dress from Wet Seal, 100 years ago.

Speaking of Wet Seal, they’ve added plus sizes and hilariously, 20 years later, they will still sell me daisy print, this time in leggings.

I would maybe rock these under a black dress. Maybe.

So, that’s it for me, for now. I’m guessing the plus-size lovers of leggings and skinny pants are thrilled at the current state of things, but I am totally not. I really wish I had the ability to make my own clothing, because I would be breaking out some fun pants in a cut that works for me, and wearing them with one of my 348 black tops.

(It’s not really 348, but it is really hard to find things in my closet because of all of the black tops. It’s a problem I’ve created for myself.)

I have not talked much about this dilemma before, but since I keep my Brand Experience posts to Thursdays, it seemed appropriate to be included here. I am interested to learn more about plus-size brands, who designs for them, and what influences the decisions on what gets made.

I am really interested in hearing from anyone reading on their thoughts or experiences.


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