J. Crew should face facts and post signs on its stores that read: ” If your BMI (body mass index is above 18,) and you have a single curve on your body, don’t even think about entering.” J. Crew is obsessed with hipless, small-breasted young women who favor skinny pants, skimpy shirts and sweaters and barely there skirts. They’re today’s versions of Twiggy and they’re splashed over the pages of J. Crew’s newest catalog.
These women slouch down the street with their hands in their skinny pants pockets (it’s got to be a struggle for them to squeeze their hands into the pockets in the first place), their shirts calculatingly tucked half in and out of their pants, their hair in that oh-so-cool, mussed- just -enough look and their oversized trendy glasses perched on their button noses.
Mind you, I love the look, but it’s one that 12 young women can pull off successfully in all the United States and it precludes probably 98 percent of the population of young American women. Of course, the people who run J. Crew have every right to create and cultivate whatever image they choose, but what I find disturbing is its striking indifference to real young women.
Fashion retailers and magazines have long believed they should use models other women aspire to look like. Hogwash! Why can’t young women aspire to be like women who are smart and successful? When Dove introduced its Real Beauty campaign in 2004, to critical acclaim, I thought it would mark the beginning of a new, intelligent culture in the advertising business. But even if a few companies here and there have subsequently made half-baked stabs at celebrating flesh and blood women–who may even have a little healthy fat on their frames–it hasn’t caught on with the likes of J. Crew, Ralph I-am-a-cowboy Lauren, The Gap and countless other “iconic” American brands.
I wonder if rugged Ralph allows women who wear size 12 into his circle of friends. And what would he do if his son brought home a size 16 girlfriend? Send her galloping into the sunset?
When young gymnast, Gabby Douglas, excelled at the London Olympics a couple of weeks ago, her hair style got more attention than the style of her routine. We have become Champions of Superficiality. Gold medals all around!
0 Responses to “Crew Cuts It on the Straight and Narrow”
Cecile Wheatley says:
I am surprised… I used to shop at J Crew a lot when they were in Aventura. They closed and poof! i have no idea where they are now. But Michelle Obama is a devotee…and God knows Michelle is anything but semi-anorexic!!!! TALK ABOUT CURVES!!!
I am going to be 65 and my problem is the waist ends below my belly button and I have a belly, all the skinny /pencil leg slacks have very short rises so that doesn’t work. Other slacks are made for women with hips. I have tried Not My Mothers whatever and they have a curve. I need slacks that actually come over my belly and have a absolutely straight leg. Surely there are women out here that have no hips. Plus there are no really nice quality clothes in the main stream stores. Just came from Nordstrom nothing.
Jean & Valerie, the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas says:
Geri, When will designers & retailers sit up & take notice that boomer women, with $47 billion in annual disposable income, are a gold mine? Whoever steps up to the plate to give us what we want – stylish, age-appropriate, AFFORDABLE clothing that makes us feel good – will reap well-earned rewards. The US can put a man on the moon, manufacture sky-high platform stilettos & skin-tight mini-skirts. Why can’t somebody produce flattering jackets, trousers, shirts, skirts and dresses for older, non-Cougar women? Wishing & waiting …
The irony about J. Crew is that years ago, they used over-50 models–male and female. I remember a model with a shock of gorgeous white hair (I don’t think it was Carmen Dell’Orefice, but it could have been) in one of those terrific heavy turtleneck sweaters where the hem on the arms and bottom naturally roll a bit. (I bought one and it is almost 20 years old and still looks great). J. Crew has definitely changed the target demographic to appeal to college-aged people.
Kate Line Snider says:
Nice look. Doesn’t look great on everybody ( “Wanh!” ), so I don’t waste my time feeling insulted and defiant. Why do a manufacturer’s wares have to suit everybody? You can get the look or something like it in all sizes from somebody else, usually cheaper.
Life is short. Get on with it!
I agree with Geri in regard to J.Crew and the styles out in the retail world. I am 61 years young and do not want to look frumpy. It’s difficult finding stylish clothing in a size 14. I was a size 10 for many years but due to steroids and other medication my weight and body changed. I was a 2X and then I had to settle for dowdy, but once my steroid amount was lowered I lost 55 pounds. Size 14 is the average American woman and I am proud to be among that group.
Judy L says:
….and that’s why, Geri, we love FOF website so much……keep guiding us over 50’s and over 60’s with fashion, accessories, ideas and helpful hints so that we don’t look “dowdy” and “frumpy” and can make the best of what we still have (or don’t). We all know that fashion magazines and so much other media makes middle-aged and older women feel left out and unimportant in this 20-something world…..matters not a wit as far as I’m concerned – I rather have the age, wisdom and sense of humor to deal with it than have to strive like the dickens 24/7 to worry about how I look and compete with all the others. Keep up the good work, thanks again.
Geri Brin says:
We love you, Judy L.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Laura Borud says:
I’ve found that many stores I used to shop at no longer fit my post menopause waistline. Even at my heaviest I had a waist, now it’s almost non-existent. Finding it harder and harder to find clothes that aren’t too dowdy and it’s frustrating. I will not wear a Spanx or whatever either. My body is what it is and I want to dress in a manner that hides the yuck and highlights the yum, is that so hard? Apparently. By the way I’m 51.
i agree with you 100% . Stores think women shrivel up and die after menopause.
The reaction to the blog is interesting because I was talking about J. Crew in relation to all women, not just FOFs, because the average size of all women is 14, not -0.
California Girl says:
CNBC did a puff piece on J Crew this yr. CEO Mickey Drexler anecdotally related a critical email he rec’d from a size 12 or 14 woman who could no longer wear their clothes. He personally called her. She was on the show saying she now shops there again. I’m a size 10, very busty & hilly & I can’t wear most of their clothes.
hi ca girl,
mickey drexler built up the gap and then his arrogance almost killed it off and he was gone.
he’s done a brilliant job building j crew, but his arrogance is going to get the best of him again. it’s happens to “merchant princes” time and time again. i covered the retail business for a major trade newspaper for many many years and it was fascinating to see the level of arrogance in the business.
Joyce A says:
It’s the bottom line. It’s what sells. And I would say 98% of the people I see on a daily basis in Hollywood and around Los Angeles fit that exact image (and wear that exact style).
I think you got it right, Joyce A. J Crew, et al., will market what sells. Since they seem to be more popular than ever, I’m assuming that they’re selling plenty! I don’t fit in most of their stuff, but then I figure I’m probably not their demographic. If we want clothes that are stylish, not “old lady,” then we have to find a way to demand it. Through our wallets!!!
My experience is very different. I am in my 50s, lost a fair amount of weight through diet and exercise over the last couple of years, going from a 12-14 to a 4-6. I am also very busty -was a34G at my heaviest, now 32E. J crew has fit me throughout the range of my weights and sizes with no problem-maybe a little too well for my wallet!!
My experience is closer to yours. I am 53 and went from size 14 being a bit tight in December 2011 to a size 6 -8 this summer. (but I am now a 34 c)… J Crew and RalphLauren had really nice clothes in natural fibers like cotton that fit me in all size ranges, and I always could get them on sale.
coldwater creek and chico’s pants fit well when I was heavier and out of shape, now they don’t fit through the waist and tummy area.
NYDJ has many different styles that all fit well.
Debi Costine says:
Actually, my experience does not line up with your concerns. Have you tried the clothing on or are you basing your concerns on the models in the catalog? I’m in my early 60’s and certainly have an “edgy” BMI, yet I have recently purchased boot-cut cords, a blouse, sweaters and a blazer from J. Crew and found they fit very comfortably! They offer a variety of styles & fits, some of which I would not choose to wear, but lots I just love!
Penelope More says:
I don’t agree with your assessment of J. Crew at all. No one shop is for everyone but as a 64 year old, size 12, with a love of fashion and color, I find a few fabulous goodies in J. Crew from time to time. Their T- shirts and cashmere sweaters are a great buy and come in a wonderful array of colors. I can wear a large , or sometimes I find an extra large, even better. I don’t go near those skinny looking jeans but I always check out their shoes and on trend jewelry selection. In addition,I usually find a Christmas present for my daughter who is a busty size 10. Lighten up, people! No, I don’t have any connection with the company.
Geri, I think you need to tell us where you DO like to shop and which lines work for you. I am remembering some complaints about Eileeen Fisher, another favorite of mine. I love you anyway, because you created this fabulous forum.
i love mixing clothes from all over the place and don’t have one favorite place to shop. i recently met Marla Wynne, who designs for HSN and LOVE LOVE LOVE her clothes. I never dreamed I’d buy a stitch of clothing on HSN, but now I am. She’s FOF and knows how to cover our “icky bits,” as she calls them. We’re doing a fashion show of her collection at our Beauty Bash on Sept. 29. Do you live in NY? Check out her clothes on hsn.com.
Penelope More says:
Will do! I’m a born and bred New Yorker but now live in San Francisco so will have to check her out on HSN.
None of this J Crew stuff would ever have fit me, even in my earliest youth. I was a size 10 at age 12 and although I’m only 5’5″, I have the curves of a much larger woman and carry my weight in my thighs, calves, back, arms and stomach – with a C cup chest and large shoulders and 44″ bust. Just go out there and try to find a 44″-46″ C cup bra with no huge spacer in the front of the cups (I am not deep chested, can’t wear any of the plus size bras) and see how tough things are. I’ve taken to making 90% of my clothes, it’s the only way I can get the fit I need. I live in long skirts to camouflage my calves (boots don’t work for me) and jeans and swimsuits are a total nightmare. J Crew, Old Navy…are you kidding me? I gave up on this stuff as a youth! I’m frustrated that there are only a FEW retailers out there that even truly CONSIDER the ‘real woman’s’ body these days. If it weren’t for Lane Bryant and Jessica London/Roaman’s, I’d never own anything that wasn’t homemade.
I feel sorry for the young girls growing up today, when our main food source is Corn Syrup and the average 12 year old is already as large as an adult female. If fashion doesn’t change to show larger women as BEAUTIFUL, these girls will NEVER have a positive body image – or clothes that show their beauty.
We continue to allow the fashion industry (dominated by Males) to dictate to us what we ‘should’ look like – and as long as we allow this, NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE. Women won’t ever feel or be equal to men unless and until we are allowed to be judged the same way men are, BY OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS INSTEAD OF OUR LOOKS…and then and only then will we have an equal playing field in the home and the workplace.
Young women won’t feel good in their voluptuous skins unless and until WE DEMAND THE CHANGE by SPEAKING WITH OUR WALLETS and by boycotting the Designers that create these impossible standards for Consumers to emulate.
Sherrie Mathieson says:
I made “a point” of using J Crew clothes (amongst many other brands) in both my books–on real people modeling (moms all over age 46, and up to age 86)–in all sizes from 4 to sz 22. The models had fit problems and health issues. But I made that my challenge for my books “Forever Cool”and “Steal This Style: Moms and Daughters Swap Wardrobe Secrets”just as it is in my everyday style consulting business with real people with real challenges. The trick is to identify what works for you amongst these youthfully and classically oriented brands..apply the “art of the mix”…and before you can say “J Crew” you’ve got a great look.
Norma Byrd says:
I absolutely do agree. Stores and clothing manufacturers who insist on promoting the bony, anorexic look are encouraging unhealthy habits, specifically major eating disorders, among young people. The long-outdated Twiggy look is and always was disgusting to me, and the vaunted celebs who’s bones jut out every which way make me want to grab a big piece of chocolate cake. Or two. Go back and look at photos of Marilyn Monroe who (though not exactly a role model for morals) was considered gorgeous. She was a pretty hefty lady! On the other side of the coin was Vera Ellen. I saw an old movie recently in which she starred and I couldn’t believe what a rediculous stick she was, and she died an untimely death because of her severe anorexia, as did Karen Carpenter. I agree too with Wylene who asked why manufacturers of beauty products don’t use real women to show how marvelously their correctional stuff works. And don’t get me started on clothes made for women seven feet tall! Just yesterday I shortened a wrap skirt 4″ (I’d already taken two inches off at the waist!) that was sold as a normal size 8. I’m 5′-4″, 118 pounds, and this skirt dragged the ground by six inches. How unreal is that?
Debra Scandone says:
I’m 100% plus with Geri on this one, I have neices who are beautiful and only 2 of them could possibly wear these clothes, the rest are out of luck.
I’m constantly surprised by the short sightedness of designers, I admit clothes look great on clothes-hangers (models).
As a 54 year old, who is 5’3″ wears a 10-12 curvy petite – I have trouble finding clothes that fit and are age appropriate, not old lady or junior.
I know I am very close to the average american womans size ( I believe its 5’4″ and size 14) – and I can’t go near J. Crew.
Please get your facts straight. Ralph Lauren has been offering plus sized clothing since approximately 2000. Also, The Gap offers plus sized clothing through their subsidiary entity Old Navy’s website.
Sherrie Mathieson says:
Absolutely true! And you exemplify an “educated consumer”. Remember the slogan “an educated consumer is our best customer”? I believe that is very much what’s missing.
i know RL and The Gap have plus size clothing. I’m saying they disdain normal or plus size women and wouldn’t be caught dead using one in their ads.
I so enjoyed this blog post that I expended by laughing off all the calories I ate for breakfast.
But I still can’t wear those J. Crew catalog styles well.
I want to say AMEN to your thinking about this issue.
your comment made ME laugh. Loved it!
Wylene Shields says:
My daughter worked at a J. Crew call center part-time as a second job to earn more holiday money last year. The only problem was she fell in love with the clothes so she ended up spending everything she made shopping there while she had her discount. She’s about 5’8″ and pretty slender so she found alot of things to fit her and I got a nice coat for a Christmas gift. She said that some of the clothes would have only fit her when she was in high school and super slender. The thing that bothers me in tv ads is all of the anti-aging creams, etc. that lift sags, etc. and are demonstrated on someone who looks about 30 years old. I’m 64 and can still wear some 6s & 8s, but my midriff front and back doesn’t look like it did even 10 years ago which brings me to those ads for bras that hide back fat. I look at the tv and there’s a 20 something size 4 whose back doesn’t have an ounce of fat to hide. If they want to show that the things work, they should use some models who really need what’s being sold.
Actually, I discovered the opposite when I stopped by a J. Crew shop last week wanting to get a pair of navy leggings I’d seen in their catalog. I tried the 2 smallest sizes (0 and 2, I think) and, WOW, way too big! Roomy, baggy leggings are not a fashion statement I like. And I’m a very fit, muscular 70!
L. Simone Johnson says:
I am tired of looking at cadavers in clothes in the fashion magazines. Some of them are just scary looking, I often wonder about their health. Plus, the magazines are air brushing in the shape of breasts, as if someone so thin would have breast tissue. I love the new fashions, but wish I could see them on average sized women.
One more point: there are cigarette ads in all the fashion magazines!! Another horrible message.
Marcia Robinson says:
Many, many years ago, when J. Crew was just a catalog house in MA, I ordered several polo shirts and couldn’t even get them over my head. Whatever I ordered had to be returned because of the sizing. Never bought a J. Crew item again.
That models are getting further and further from what real women look like is an important issue we should speak out about. However, what I find even more disturbing in the photo above and in other catalogs is that these are GIRLS that are portrayed as cross overs between waifs and fashion/sex symbols. We are allowing the sexualization of girls at younger and younger ages and as women/ mothers and human beings we should be deeply offended and strenuously objecting. If we weren’t growing them up at hyper-speed, they wouldn’t have the need to seek out these looks or the means to purchase this clothing.
Now wait a minute….do you think skinny people walk into Lane Bryant and complain? I am all for loving one’s body and eating delicious food, however, if a store is catering to a select segment of society shouldn’t it be their choice to do so? We, who don’t fit their sizing, can choose to shop anywhere we’d like…no?
Agree. We’re not their target market and that’s okay. Can’t be all things to all people.
absolutely it’s their choice, which i said in the blog. i was making the point that they are ignoring the vast majority of real women, (even young women) especially in their ads and catalogs, which is their right, as well. I just don’t happen to agree with the approach.
I take more issue with the age of their models than I do their sizes. I happen to be a size 2-4, 61 year old woman who can find many clothes in their line that are timeless classics. That said I would love to see some of those items modeled by someone who did not read about the 60’s in their ancient history class.
And why stop with J Crew? The cosmetics industry is certainly not pandering their wares to anyone in my age group whether it is Chanel or L’Oreal. The only site I can think of to see makeup on a woman anywhere close to my age is Bobbi Brown. So what makeup do I purchase the most of? Bobbi Brown! I am tired of ad campaigns using Photoshop to blur older women into younger ones and younger women into perfect women whether it is clothing, cosmetics or skin care. OK, rant over. I feel better now 🙂 Great article!
I use to be a J.Crew devoted customer. In the past couple years they have shifted from appealing to all women – to the younger, rail thin customer only. It’s a shame because, I really loved to shop at J.Crew. I have to say I am really surprised because, Mickey Drexler has always been so customer supported. I wonder how many customers they are losing with a shift to the super skinny toothpick only customer? I will admit I did try on the toothpick cord pant recently and had the laugh of a lifetime!! I guess in my dream I had a Pippa toosh!
I now only purchase J.Crew accessories, handbags and the cashmere scarves….that is basically the only thing that fits. Albeit, I wear a size 10. With hope, the designers of J.Crew will wake up and realize that they have a lot of fans out there who want to come back and shop!
Laura Follo says:
I agree with you in general, specifically when addressing J. Crew’s obsession with “skinniness”. The dominating style of the retailer’s clothing line is “contemporary classic” which, for fabulous FOFs and beautiful big women would be perfect. It’s too bad that J.Crew is so short-sighted. It’s been proven that our target market has the means to purchase often and in quantity, even in a recession. So, it’s J. Crew’s monetary loss. Although, on the flip side, they have an enormous skinny fan base who is very vocal about their J. Crew addiction, spreading the word and recruiting more fans. And they also have the Obama women still sporting their clothes, which continues to be a PR dream for them. So, maybe they feel that they don’t really need us.
Not the case with Ralph Lauren. Let put in a plug for the brand. I don’t really care what size Ralph Lauren’s friends or his son’s girlfriends are, he has realized the worth of the Real American Woman’s loyalty and has been producing beautiful lines of high quality off-the-rack fashion for Women sizes 14-22 for years. You can find his line in stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor and on the RL commerce site. They are the same fashions that are produced in smaller sizes, with the same attention to detail and same quality fabrics. So, bravo to Ralph! And, no I don’t work for him (I wish!). It’s just that we should give credit where it’s due.
Official FOF and Lover of Beautiful Clothes
I went shopping last week and went into J. Crew . Now I am a size 14 and there was nothing. NOTHING. in my size. The saleslady at the store said they don’t stock anything that “large” in their stores. Beautiful clothes but if your “fat” forget it.
the salesperson should be fired. what a thing to say to a customer. so dumb. size 14 is not “large” It’s the average size of American women.
I read somewhere that the fashion industry is run by gay men and that is why they favor small, almost breastless women.
You “read somewhere”? I suggest you read more to gain more insight into reality. I’m not sure you can grow some compassion or open mindedness but that would be refreshing as well.
Still Blonde after all these YEARS says:
I dearly LOVE J. Crew and the clothing that FLOTUS wears of theirs. But I do agree on the models they use and most major clothing manufacturers use–why do they ALL have to be so tiny? ENOUGH! I not only want to see women of a certain size, I want to see women of AGE! My age. So thanks for bringing up the topic because we need to focus on somen who want to be who they ARE!
Mary Jane Caldwell says:
As the cost of materials increase, (cotton especially), the clothes continue to shrink. Just look at the new men’s jackets! They look like children’s clothes on adults!
Another tidbit… I believe they offer free tailoring if you buy something full priced, so take advantage of a custom fit!
I totally disagree. J Crew has supplied most of my clothing over the years as I really like their timeless styles. I can wear them season after season. I am a curvy, almost 50 yr old woman and find plenty of pants and shirts that fit me. They have a variety of skirts including delicious pencil skirts that make me look ooh la la. I would agree with the fact that the catalog showcases uber slim women but show me a magazine or runway right now that doesn’t! I don’t think its fair to single out J Crew. And due to their ongoing success, I think your numbers might be a little off as to what percentage of the population they cater to. I urge you to put aside your assumptions and go try on a pair of the matchstick pants (get a personal shopper to help with sizing) and some of the other great pieces they have out this fall! Best to you!
I totally agree. I’m 67 years old, a size 6/8 or a 0/.5, but everything that fits would look great on a 20-something not a 65+. I’d love to find a knee-length dress that didn’t look like it should be for either my friend’s 16 year old daughter or my grandmother, and NOT be cost prohibitive. I’d love to look great, but . . .
Oh, I couldn’t disagree more! I’m a size 8, and J. Crew is one of my favorite brands for fit. I know so much depends on body type. Another pear-sized woman may have trouble with hips (my slightly larger problem are my breasts… pun intended).
But I’ve always found their pencil skirts, blazers, and jeans flatter. I stick with their classics and never tire of them!
I will admit that I haven’t tried some of their trendier pieces, but they have got to stay current. What I always applaud is quality. And they are made well and stand the test of time, at a fabulous price point.
Not every brand works for every woman — size, age, style come into play. But I love J. Crew!
Right on, Geri! For a while there they had a few almost “normal” looking models but they have gone way teenaged skinny on us! Where are we supposed to shop? Help!
SUSAN GOLDSTEIN says:
Not only can I not FIT into their stuff, I couldn’t afford it… it is way over-priced for a regular person’s budget.
Magazine writers and designers need to leave their little New York nest sometimes and see how the rest of us live…. I recall one New Yorker, who was a magazine editor, aghast that one of her friends actually expected the nanny to cook and clean and do laundry and take care of the children on top of all that…. practically slave labor. I burst out laughing at her naivety and told her, “Honey, you just described me… a typical MOMMY”…. She didn’t talk to me for the rest of the evening.
I’m with you! I’ve always wondered how Michelle Obama, a normal sized woman but huge by J Crew standards, was able to wear anything of theirs.
Ann Russell says:
I agree. I was always a 0 or 2,but very large breasted. It was difficult to find clothes that fit that didn’t look crude or too matronly. Now as a well rounded 4,it is hard to find modern clothes that fit and don’t resemble my daughter’s clothing. Shopping becomes an olympic sport to find clothes that fit while minding the budget in these tough times.
Sharon Greenthal (@sharongreenthal) says:
I agree with you for the most part, but as a size 14 I have to say that Ralph Lauren has quite a few things that I’ve bought and have fit me well. Likewise the Gap has all styles of jeans, from skinny to curvy – but at 50, I think the Gap is a little cheaply made and not for me.