Lee Lee’s Valise

I heard about a cool store in Brooklyn on one of my favorite NPR shows recently. The host interviewed the owner of Lee Lee’s Valise, a plus size clothing boutique. Lisa Dolan is a plus size designer, and she is starring in a TLC reality TV show “Big Brooklyn Style”. I loved what Lisa Dolan had to say:

DOLAN: Right. What they do is they have a pattern made, let’s say it goes up to a size 12. They take the same pattern and they just extend it as if we grow and get bigger like that big plastic man you see by the used car lot…That’s not how we get bigger. You need to start a new pattern that accounts for curves. Not just a big boxy item that’s thrown over you, it’s something that actually flatters your figure.

Dolan was awesome and cool. She seemed really comfortable with herself and in her own skin. Although I love the host of the NPR show for her willingness to talk about race and women’s issues and push her guests to answer questions on these issues, she buys into the NPR party line on the “obesity epidemic” and I was disappointed with her on this interview; she really pushed the idea that having a plus sized boutique was somehow wrong or damaging because it might encourage people to feel okay about being plus sized. She asked the question three separate times during the interview, which was only 9 minutes long:

MARTIN: Yeah. I hear what you’re saying. It’s just there’s an argument that the fact that there are more services and businesses out there catering to the plus-sized customer is not necessarily a good thing. And I know that’s a hard thing to…

DOLAN: Listen, I’ve had people walk in off the street say that I was advocating obesity because I had clothes to fit them. That’s wrong. That is just wrong. Clothing is a necessity. Fashion is a necessity for a woman. So put them together and you have Lee Lee’s Valise.

On the one hand, I would never have heard this obviously generous and gracious woman speak about her store and her passion if Michel Martin hadn’t interviewed her (since I don’t watch TLC), but I could have definitely done without the fat shaming. At what point is it okay to suggest that we shouldn’t have decent clothing for people of all body types because we don’t approve of some body types? I would expect that on an MRA forum but not in responsible journalism.

Comments

  1. Red says

    OHHH, BURN!

    As someone who’s struggled with her weight, I can easily relate. I’ve had some serious trouble looking for clothes that not only fit (both my figure AND my budget), but clothes that actually LOOK GOOD on me.

    Is that REALLY so much to ask? To have clothes that not only fit bigger women like myself, but that actually LOOK GOOD? Why should that be a bad thing? Aren’t WE deserving of nice clothes, too? Are these people REALLY concerned about health or image? Do they just not like looking at overweight people?

  2. sbg says

    Sooo, if we don’t want to promote obesity, we should what? Hand out burlap sacks to anyone over a certain size and tell them they can go to a real store once they start losing some weight?

    Honestly, I walked into a cute little local boutique because the dresses in the window display were so adorable and found out the hard way the owner only stocked to size 6. I expressed my regret, and she pointed me in the direction of a plus size store, which is fine, I suppose (I wear and 8/10 in dresses, btw, and wouldn’t consider myself plus size), but why would she not want to carry a larger selection of sizes herself? The store she sent me to, for the record, carried sizes 10 to, like, 26 or something. A very broad section, at any rate.

  3. Cheryl says

    When I gained sixty pounds in a handful of months due to hypothyroid, I went from size 16 to size 22/24 and had a very rude awakening to just how ugly and sack-like so-called plus size clothing is. Designers have no idea how to create attractive clothing for larger women and don’t seem to care about doing so. It’s also difficult to find larger bras. Good luck finding a bra size 38 and above that doesn’t look like something your grandmother would wear.

  4. TansyJ says

    sbg,

    Well, clearly, fat people just need to stop being fat right? That would solve the problem

    I recently had a similar problem with bridesmaids dresses. Neither of my bridesmaids are under a size 16, and I’m a 22. We went to a bridal shop and all they had for trying on were 2-10! with a couple 12-14′s here and there. When I asked what we were supposed to do they said they had a catalog with more sizes/colors. I asked what would happen if we ordered something and didn’t like it (I mean, a size 16 person can’t try on a size 6! and tell how the right size would look on her body) and they said “sorry, if you order it you must purchase it”

    But for heaven’s sake, you mustn’t go around ALLOWING fat people to BUY CLOTHES! Then they will just continue being fat! (oops, it seems I left the sarcasm on)

  5. Julie says

    WTF!!!
    So, I’m a size 16, XL on top & bottom, and WTF?
    What’s the reporter’s cut-off size, do you think? Should women who aren’t rail thin, like many women who’ve had children, frex, dress in shitty fitting clothing until they’re sticks? Damn. I’m going to find her blog/website/reporters page.
    I have never heard this POV about “fat women/large women/don’t deserve clothing that fits”. It makes NO SENSE.

  6. sbg says

    Cheryl,

    Honestly? I think it’s “designed” with the idea large women should want to hide their shapes. Or, rather, be made to hide their shapes, because fat, don’t you know, is ugly. Ugly cannot play with pretty. It doesn’t have the right.

  7. firebird says

    TansyJ:
    sbg,

    Well, clearly, fat people just need to stop being fat right? That would solve the problem

    I recently had a similar problem with bridesmaids dresses. Neither of my bridesmaids are under a size 16, and I’m a 22. We went to a bridal shop and all they had for trying on were 2-10! with a couple 12-14′s here and there. When I asked what we were supposed to do they said they had a catalog with more sizes/colors. I asked what would happen if we ordered something and didn’t like it (I mean, a size 16 person can’t try on a size 6! and tell how the right size would look on her body) and they said “sorry, if you order it you must purchase it”

    But for heaven’s sake, you mustn’t go around ALLOWING fat people to BUY CLOTHES! Then they will just continue being fat! (oops, it seems I left the sarcasm on)

    That is it precisely. We can’t allow fat people to be fat, that would be like, tolerating their existence.

  8. firebird says

    Julie,

    I think what upset me is that the journalist in question would likely identify as a feminist. She regularly asks questions about how whatever the subject at hand will affect women or POC in particular and if her interviewee dodges the question she will follow up and ask it again. She does a semi regular commentary and often does it on feminist issues – the one I remember most was on a time a male pundit made a sexist comment about a female pundit that worked for the same organization and had the same political views he did – pointing out that even being respected for your views doesn’t protect you from sexism even on air. That’s what really upset me about her fat shaming fail – I expected better of her, and I told her so before I posted this, though not in enough time to have heard anything back yet.

  9. kaleecat says

    I’m disappointed that MM fell into that trap. Turn her question around — so stores that sell only Triple-zero to size 4 are advocating anorexia then?

    I have been plus size my entire adult life. It’s easier to find cute clothing now than in the mid-late 80s but entirely too often the design is obviously simply a typical size design with extra fabric or trying way to hard to be cute without taking into account the plus size woman’s body. Tiny flutter sleeves? Tight ribbons around the midriff? Cheap, flimsy fabrics. there is a horrible disconnect in fabrics, quality and prices as well.

    My favorite plus-size clothing store in the 90s/early00 was August Max Woman. Well made, timeless & updated style and fairly well-priced. I still have a few pieces that I’ve babied that look virtually brand new.

  10. kaleecat says

    sbg,

    I’m sorry, that owner considers 8/10 plus size?! Well someone better hand me that burlap sack then. that’s just silly, stopping at size 6 in your stock.

  11. Red says

    sbg,

    Ya know, the burlap sack thing might be a VERY CREATIVE way to protest the fashion industry’s treatment of larger women. Would they PREFER we wear such things as opposed to actual clothes that fit and look good? Fact is, it appears that the industry doesn’t WANT women who are ‘carrying extra’ to be seen by themselves or others as attractive and i can tell you, that’s faulty because we ARE.

    Case in point; my sister was wearing this lovely dress for her ‘plus-size figure’ (that complemented her VERY well) and she had a guy coming up to her and calling her ‘sexy’! And she DID! The dress is now dubbed ‘man-bait’!

    As for myself; I may be overweight, but I’m not so hard on the eyes. I’ve got a great complexion, gorgeous red hair, a great smile, nice legs, not a bad dresser and I’m cute as Hell! I deserve nice things, too dammit! Why should I have to settle for less?

    (I’ll say no more on my sister on that matter cause she’ll kill me…)

  12. Red says

    kaleecat,

    Clearly, no one told them that Marilyn Monroe was a 14 and was was the ULTIMATE Sex Symbol for her time. You’d be an idiot to call her fat.

    And did you hear about Kate Upton a few weeks ago and how a ‘skinny blogger’ called her ‘fat’? http://hellogiggles.com/the-fat-shaming-of-kate-upton-or-why-ill-never-buy-the-difference-between-thinspiration-and-pro-ana-websites and http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/363579/20120716/kate-upton-fat-skinnygossip-model-website.htm and http://www.salon.com/2012/07/10/who_says_kate_upton_is_too_fat/

    Some of the backlash was uncalled for, I’ll grant you (death threats, etc. Not cool). Suffice it to say, people thought the blogger was a jerk. The blogger retracted their statement. Sort of…http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-07-12/news/32652175_1_carina-cruz-kate-upton-teen-protesters

  13. says

    Something else that irks me? In the midst of all this, we’re constantly being told men don’t mind excess weight, and that if we’re not getting asked out a lot, or if we’re constantly being passed over for promotion in favor of skinnier women, it’s not our fat, it must be our horrid personalities or something.

    Which is it, society? Either fat’s a problem consistently, or it’s not. If men and employers genuinely don’t mind it, as opposed to just paying lip service to that sentiment, then why not encourage us to make the best of ourselves with lovely clothes? Which is it?

    It also bugs me that what’s considered plus size is maybe 20 pounds overweight, and even this society doesn’t consider you “obese” until you hit 30 pounds over… so at least the bottom end of the plus size range can’t possibly be considered to “promote obesity” or any such thing. Also, just having a large frame, big bones or big breasts can bump you up a size for off-the-rack stuff, even when you’re quite slim.

  14. sbg says

    kaleecat,

    I’m not sure she thought that, just that the number is outside the range she’s prepared to carry. I guarantee you she’d sell more clothes if she carried more in sizes more women could fit into. Key word in that sentence: more. ;)

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