September 28, 2012

In Uncompensated Praise of Lane Bryant

My two favorite pairs of jeans gave up the good fight at the end of last spring, and my remaining jeans, purchased in desperation, were making feel frumpy, ugly, old, and ridiculous. That is quite an accomplishment for a single item of clothing. I changed into pedal pushers it was too chilly for, got rid of the bad jeans in a bold "I don't even have replacements yet, but I will wear pedal pushers in snowdrifts rather than ever wear those jeans again" move, and went shopping.

Here are the things I don't like about Lane Bryant:

1. They are the kind of store that has the kind of sales that mean you can never buy anything at regular price. If something consistently goes on 50%-off sales, that means the regular price is not a reasonable price to pay.

2. They are the kind of store that covers a table in piles of jeans, and puts "$29.99 jeans!!" on a big sign with an asterisk leading to "select styles." And it turns out that 1/5th of the jeans on the table qualify, plus one style on another rack covered mostly in non-qualifying styles. And there's no way to find out which jeans qualify without having a clerk take each pair over to the register and check.

3. I'm between two sizes there AND between two inseams there. So my choices are "too tight and too long," "too tight and too short," "too loose and too long," or "too loose and too short." I go with "too tight and too long," because (1) their jeans tend to stretch out quite a bit, and (2) I'd rather step on or roll my cuffs than have them floating over my shoes. (Accept my assurances that "You could get them hemmed" is an idea I am able to come up with independently.)

4. They have signs up all over that if the store doesn't have your size in stock, you can get free shipping from the site. That's an awesome idea, and compensates me for the frustration of coming all the way here and not being able to buy something they should have had in stock! ...But it turns out it's free shipping TO THE STORE. That is not "free shipping," that is "the store ordering something they needed more of, and I'll need to come back another day to buy them."

But here is why I shop there with happiness in my heart, despite the damning case I seem to have constructed against them:

1. They make me feel like I'm a normal person who falls into the normal range of human anatomy.

It's hard to beat that kind of service.

I can go into the store, and there are things on every single rack that fit me. Sometimes I try something on and it's too big, and I need to get a smaller size; sometimes it's too small, and a larger size is available. I can come out of the dressing room and stand in front of the big mirror and lift up my shirt to see how the waistband of the jeans looks, and I don't feel self-conscious about it: I feel like this is just the size and shape I am. I can try things on and reject them because I don't like the style or color, rather than because "Why is this an XXL and I can't even get it over my knees?? How big does this store think an 'extra, EXTRA large' person IS??"

Furthermore, the items I'm trying on will conform to current trends. Maybe they do a little more with sequins than the average store, but there's a "Hey, I am someone who has some flash and glamor and isn't trying to hide in dumpy baggy monochrome clothes!" feeling to it, rather than an "I'm hoping to distract your eye from my plumpness" feeling. If everyone is wearing skinny jeans and I'm starting to feel flappy-pantsed in my flare cuffs, I can go to Lane Bryant and know that they will have skinny jeans. Maybe I will not BUY any skinny jeans (I did not buy any skinny jeans), but I know I CAN if I WANT to. And if they don't have them in my size, they will order them, and I can come back another day and get them.


StephLove said...

I am also a plump person fresh off a frustrating jeans purchasing experience. I had a wonderful pair from LL Bean that actually fit so I wanted to get the same kind. I even called them up (okay I called three times with different questions- and I hate the phone not as much as you but quite a lot) and they checked my sales record to see what kind the old ones were and of course, they've been discontinued. So I tried something else, didn't fit, sent them back, tried another kind-- these are good enough to keep but not rocking my world like the old pair. I am wearing the old pair today, gaping holes in the right thigh notwithstanding because I cannot quite bear to part with them yet. p.s. Have you ever ordered from Junonia-- a tad expensive and mostly only sports kind of clothes available but their models are actual fat people which I appreciate SO MUCH both on a philosophical level and on a practical one (I can see what the clothes look like on an actual fat person) that I buy all my swimsuits there.

melissa.cureton said...

What a delightful review! Thank you for your honesty. I am a 16+ish which means in general that nothing fits me ever. 16 in a regular store? Sausage casing. 16 in a plus area (because there are so few exclusively plus stores) gapping here, sagging there. I don't think I have been in a LB because I didn't know what it was like (and am much more intimidated going into a strange store than probably you are on the phone. People asking to help me make me feel faint with anxiety).

Currently I am 19 weeks pregnant with my 2nd. There is NOTHING that fits me ever. I am a tall woman (5'8") who wears petite pants (giant torso). There are no kind of plus ish long torsoed maternity shirts any where. I wear some target Liz Lange shirts, but they are not usually long enough. Petite plus maternity jeans? Forget it. It is just so depressing to open my closet and say, "Well, nothing fits me at all. I guess I'll just look crappy again." I work two days a week, but otherwise wear a lot of faded (non maternity) sweat pants under my belly or pajama pants.
I would love to wear cute clothes, but apparently they just don't make them. 19 more weeks and then I can go back to my regular closet. To make it worse, I am losing weight with this pregnancy. So who knows what will fit when.
I just want to throw in the towel and wear a garbage bag somedays.

Where did you find maternity clothes you liked?

Swistle said...

melissa.cureton- I was very, very lucky with maternity clothes: in my first trimester, I happened to go into a Sears that was permanently clearing out their entire plus-size maternity section, and I bought, like, eight pairs of pants and four tops. Later, I bought more plus-size maternity tops from J.C. Penney online, but the jeans lasted all my pregnancies. For the twin pregnancy, I had to switch to men's lounge pants toward the end.

Swistle said...

StephLove- I've looked at the Junonia website, and I too love their models on several levels. I haven't quite taken the plunge and ordered something yet.

Beylit said...

For years and years my go to store was Lane Bryant because no one else sold remotely attractive clothing for curvy women. Especially young curvy women. Most every store I went into seemed to assume I was my grandmothers age. All ugly floral prints, elastic waist bands, and moomoos. Not my cup of tea.

I loved Lane Bryant because it offered me something resembling stylish and always office appropriate.

The thing I never liked about them was how expensive they are, and the fact that they are a little boring. Everything is very office appropriate, but I can't say I am an office appropriate attire sort of girl outside the office. I like wild colors and fun whimsical cuts. It gets frustrating.

I also mostly hate their jeans since they changed to the 'color shape' system (green triangle, red circle, blue lobster)because I fit none of those shapes. I am ridiculously short waisted, 5'10, with no butt to speak of. If I can button them in the front I have saggy bottom. If they fit in the rear I can't button them without pain. The waist always comes up almost to my boobs. Their average are almost too long and considering the length of my inseam I think that is too long for average.

Anyways, while I still shop there for some dressy clothes and some essentials, like camis, tank tops, and bras, I do most of my shopping now at Dress Barn or Avenue.
I don't know if you have Dress Barns but if you do I highly recommend them. Aside from having the worst name in the universe, they have a great selection. One side of the store is for smaller women, the other side is for curvy girls. They have a great selection of stuff from casual, to formal, and everything between. I adore them.

Avenue is all curvy girl and tends to be a lot more on the fun side of life. Brighter colors and fun pieces mixed in with some office friendly stuff.

Best thing is both are so much more reasonably priced than Lane Bryant and are typically better stocked.

Rayne of Terror said...

I am also a Dressbarn convert. It's my go-to store now, but for the opposite reason of Beylit. I started going to Dressbarn because Lane Bryant clothes weren't office dress enough for my offices and then I found out they have good jeans for $29.00.

Sarah said...

I too am a plus size gal who used to like Lane Bryant. But the truth (for me) is that the relationship was dysfunctional & I didn't feel like I had a better option. But now I have a new love: QVC. Their Women with Control line is comfortable & stylish if you can get past the stupid name. Everything is soft & stretchy & some of it has tummy-taming features. But best thing is they are still comfy. AND they come in lengths (pet, reg, tall) ANDAND they go up to 3X. Im an 18-20 in pants & I get XL or 1X petite. Denim & co on QVC is ok too but some of their stuff is have to be selective

Wendi said...

Jeans! I love and hate them. Here's my dilemma: I'm short (5'1") with a big belly. I can find jeans that fit well and look cute when I'm standing up. When I sit down, I can't breathe and I have to unbutton them. (!) I also can't wear low-waist pants; they slip down and I'm constantly hitching them up.

I made it through the summer in these awesome capri pants from Sonoma, with just a little elastic in the back of the waist. They fit well when I'm standing up and have a little give when I sit down, so I'm not in pain and out of breath.

Are there any jeans out there that you can comfortably wear standing up and sitting down? If they are comfy sitting down, they are too big standing up. Argh!!

Brigid Keely said...

I spent 45 minutes pawing through the plus size section at Kohl's (it's about 1/12th the size of the not plus size section) only to find no skirts, no dresses, no dress slacks, and no dress shirts. Everything there was jersey knit, soft and floppy, much of it armless. Now, I have nothing innately against jersey knit. I am wearing a pair of jersey knit yoga pants RIGHT NOW. And some of their soft floppy shirts were kind of cute. But I was stocking up for THREE WEDDINGS and they had nothing I would wear to a JOB INTERVIEW let alone a wedding. I knew Target was out as well because they have had the same clothing for THREE YEARS (all of it summer weight and sleeveless and U-G-L-Y).

I went to Avenue and I got two different dresses in my size that look good. One of the weddings I'm going to is Eastern Orthodox so I can't show shoulders/collarbone/mucho cleavage and the sales clerk helped me find a dress that exactly suited me. She was incredibly helpful. I dropped almost $200 on clothing and accessories there, money that COULD HAVE gone to Kohl's or Target or another store that refuses to stock decent fat clothing because apparently my money isn't good or something.

FWIW, I've recently fallen in love with skinny jeans. I sometimes have problems with them being too tight in the CALF of all places, but they look sleek and nice and I don't trip over the flares (I love the way flared legs look) and if I have to cuff them the cuff isn't bulky. I don't wear them skin tight, but they are much snugger than "regular" jeans and I look awesome in them.

Saly said...

I am moderately miffed at Lane Bryant because they stopped carrying a maternity line, and I REALLY loved their stuff the last time around.

Their jeans though, are incomparable for a girl with some, how shall we say, junk in the trunk. They seem to understand that just because I have the aforementioned junk, I do not necessarily have long legs. They work for me.

I'm a fan of getting their stuff with coupons and so called sales as well.

One other thing that has pleased me about them recently is that their adds, which used to picture girls in maybe the size 8-10 range, now feature women who look a little bit more like me. I mean, I have to imagine the stretch marks....but in the clothes, they look like me.

Anonymous said...

I still shop at Lane Bryant, but I have been secretly hating them for a long time. The price, for one thing. Why so expensive? Dress Barn sells plus size stuff for very near the same price as regular sizes. The tricky "sale" pricing that you mention in the post. But most of all, I hate them over WeddingBraGate.
Let me explain:

I have been a Lane Bryant shopper for about 15 years. At the time of WeddingBraGate, I had been a loyal shopper for 8 years--so loyal that I had almost NOTHING in my wardrobe that had not been purchased at Lane Bryant. Think about how many clothes a fashion-conscious 22 year old (at the time I started shopping there) with a dressy job would have. Think about me buying at least one or two new outfits plus accessories every year, and buying new bras and underwear every year. Think about how much money that is. Now, jump ahead to my wedding, six years ago. At that point, I had spent 8 years worth of money at Lane Bryant. I needed a long line bra for my wedding. I tried on several at various places, including Lane Bryant, and found the size I needed. (40DD) I didn't buy it that day, cause I hoped it would go on sale (it was still a couple months before the wedding) and I figured there was no need to store the thing and worry about losing it or damaging it until I needed it for the fitting. Day before the fitting, I pop in to LB, locate the rack with the long lines, flick through til I find a hanger and a tag that read 40DD. Buy the bra, head off to the fitting the next day. I remove the sales tag, but leave the bra tag in place...what the eff...this bra tag says 36C.
That's barely big enough to belong at LB. I look again at the sales tag. 40DD. The hanger. 40DD. EFF. There is no time to replace the bra. I have to buy an overpriced long line bra from the bridal shop, because they refuse to do the fitting unless I am in the VERY SAME undergarments I will be wearing on the wedding day, and they can't reschedule me because they are very busy, and if I take the next appointment, eight days away, they will not guarantee that my dress will be ready. Again, EFF.

Fine. I go back to LB, lying hanger and sales tag in hand, and counter chicky refuses a refund because I had removed the sales tag. "You may have worn it already and be trying to return it like a rental," she says. I point out that there is no physically possible way for someone who needed a 40DD to fit into a 36C. She is unmoved. I wait twenty minutes for a manager to have time for me. She takes a lot of wearing down, but eventually, grudgingly gives me a refund. (I refused her offer of store credit, because having purchased another bra at four times the LB price, I needed the freakin money, not store credit) BUT, they would list me in their records as a possible fraudulent return, and I would be unable to return product EVER AGAIN. I was furious, but agreed. Since then, I only ever buy bras and underwear there, and only because their bras and undies are the only ones that fit my odd shape comfortably. Size 18 short girls who carry all the weight in the belly, (thanks, babies!) cannot be overly picky. But I seethe and burn with hate whenever I have to buy from them, and am always on the lookout for another underwear supplier.
They treated me like a criminal when I returned an item that had been mis-labeled, size-wise.

This is Halyn, not Anon. Can't sign in for some reason

Swistle said...

Brigid Keely- Ug, the selection at Kohl's is like, "Oh, you're plump? Then you can pay for that by wearing The Clothes of Ugly Shame until you change your ways." I'm going to have to try Avenue. I've never been there, but I see there's one fairly near me---I never noticed it because it's in a plaza I never go to.

The Gori Wife said...

I love Lane Bryant jeans because they do actually fit me. My body shape pretty much is "square box" with some toothpicks stuck in the bottom for legs. Usually womens jeans companies expect you to have hips and a waist and I just don't. I could do without all the bows and ribbons and sequins, though, and a I think their expensive items, like blazers and such, are not usually very good construction/quality. I also kind of hate that there's some inconsistency in sizing it seems. So I go and try on a pair of the square-box jeans in the exact size I wore INTO the store but they don't fit the same, they're too loose, and then I try another, hoping that was an outlier, and the same pair in the same size is too small. Still nice to not be squeezing into the very largest size and still not fitting, though, which is my experience at Target.

For maternity, I am in love with Old Navy maternity shirts (XXL fits me fine in their maternity section, even though it wouldn't in their regular section), they're actually too long, which is not something I'd ever thought I'd say since I usually wear short dresses over jeans. Not great quality, but with sales they're cheap enough to think as long as they last the pregnancy, they'll be worth it.

PinkieBling said...

Favorite line: "(Accept my assurances that "You could get them hemmed" is an idea I am able to come up with independently.)" Hahahaha.

Bailey said...

Firstly, I want to applaud your decision to ditch the jeans you hated, which is something all the articles say you should do, but I can never actually do because, GAH, I BOUGHT THESE FOR MONEY, MUST WEAR. Go you!

Lane Bryant currently owns me for something like the next three years in credit card payments. I do love that they recognize that I have BOOBS, and that I might need a cute shirt to contain them without a neckline that shows 3/4 of them. I buy their bras and underwear at the twice yearly sales, but once or twice I have been suckered into paying full price for jeans and work pants. Immediate need, and all that.

Leslie said...

I miss Lane Bryant! It left our local mall a few years ago and the nearest one is a pilgrimage away (as are any other plus size clothing stores). I'm reduced to on-line shopping. Now and then I find some treasures at the Goodwill store which leads me to believe there's some woman out there looking a whole lot like me (but future me).

Just Vegas said...

I just spent WAY more time in fat stores than I prefer in getting ready for my sister's wedding. Some of it was so GD depressing. Then I walked into a Torrid. Oh blessed Torrid, where have you been all my life?! Lane Bryant is acceptable but I bought clothes that I actually LOVE at Torrid. And for cheap. I feel like a real person again.

Karly said...

I do enjoy Lane Bryant, but my god, the sequins. There are too many. Also, animal print. I just don't need that much flash in my life.

As for jeans, have you tried Silvers? Now, yes, they are expensive. They fit so well, though, and they are unbelievably comfy. I am the type of person who immediately changes into pajamas when entering the house, but I don't do that with my Silvers as often. Love them so hard.

brzeski said...

For many years I was in the same boat as Melissa - not just between sizes, but between stores. Between entire sizing PARADIGMS, if you will. Regular sizing was all too small, but plus sizing was all too big. So frustrating. But Lane Bryant often bridged that middle ground, and I know what you mean about feeling like a regular person who can just buy clothes. It makes you kind of giddy, doesn't it? To just be able to flip through the stuff, ALL the stuff, and know they will have something in your size?

Carmen said...

My feelings exactly about Lane Bryant. It's especially frustrating for me, because I can't just head back into the store in a few days, as I've made the trip FROM CANADA to shop there. I do like the Lane Bryant jeans though and the last 2 stores I went to didn't have my size. Argh.

We have no good plus-size options in Canada, other than Walmart (horrible) or Reitman's (not bad). The other options (Sears/The Bay/Zellers) are just old-lady clothes so I don't shop there.

I will be taking note of the other stores people mentioned here so I can explore more places on my next trip to the U.S.

lillowen said...

@Carmen, I'm not sure of your exact location, but there might be a Pennington's in your area. (They're in Ontario, at least -- not sure about the rest of the country.) I can't personally vouch for what the clothes are like, but they're owned by Reitmans and it's all plus sizes. Might be better than the old lady stuff found elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I buy most of my clothes from Nordstrom online. And often from Lands End.

I buy bras from Lane B though...their jeans stretch out a ton and it often seems 'trendy overkill' for me.

I've bought some stuff from the plus line fr the limited... - it's pretty good quality & they often have big sales/free shipping.

Heidi J said...

@Halyn Have you tried shopping for bras online at ? They have pretty much every size imaginable, free shipping and are very helpful. If you really don't want to shop at Lane Bryant again, I'd try them.

vanessa steck said...

I'm not a huge LB fan except for their awesome bras because of the price, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE Torrid. LOVE. Torrid is the only store that I ever buy full priced clothing from. I get my leggings for under dresses (on sale at Target) and my jeans and cords there, and they all fit well, are cute, and make me feel ok about being really, really fat.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, HeidiJ--I've been meaning to do some research and hunt down another purveyor, but I really hate shopping, so it's been easier to fume while dashing in to LB, where I know exactly what size and style I need, than to actually put in the effort to go elsewhere. (Yes, I know how psychotic that is!) Now that I have a starting place, I no longer have an excuse!

Shoeaddict said...

I've had stuff ordered at LB and they ship it, for free, to my house.

Swistle said...

Shoeaddict- Perhaps they've changed that policy, or perhaps it varies by individual store. At mine, it's free shipping to the store, or non-free shipping to my house.

SarahSews said...

I just went in there on a whim on Saturday to look at jeans. I am a size 16/18 and on the cusp of regular and plus sizes that makes it sort of hard to shop. I want fun, cute jeans and was willing to pay good money for a pair I'd wear to death. I struck out at Nordstroms and Macy's and everywhere else. I ended up so happy to find jeans that fit, I walked out with 3 pairs. Felt dumb for not having a coupon but 2 of three were already on sale so I didn't care. :)

goingloopy said...

I too am between sizes and between inseams at LB, and I bought jeans at Catherine's. The only things I ever buy there are "basics" - like bras and shapewear and surprisingly, pajama pants sometimes because they are generally on some sort of sale...but their jeans were the right length and the right rise at a time when every pair at LB was pissing me off (I AM 5'9" I SHOULD NOT WEAR A PETITE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD). Also, they were on sale for $19.99. So that may be an option. Otherwise, there is the dark side that is Old Navy's online plus sizes...I hate them, but their jeans fit me.