Two days ago, Cintra Wilson, a writer for The New York Times, wrote a perceptive yet deeply insulting article about the opening of (gack) J.C. Penney in the Manhattan Mall. In her "Critical Shopper" column, "Playing To The Middle," Ms. Wilson quite accurately writes about the cheap designer knock-offs the store traffics in:
Since the 1970s, J. C. Penney, like a retail Island of Dr. Moreau, has been doing a sinister experiment with various designers, turning them into something ... not quite human. The plot is a fashion democratization known as “masstige,” which sounds gynecological, but is a marketing term created by a fusion of “mass” and “prestige.” It refers to a downward brand extension: designers compelled to put their good names on down-market lines of “affordable luxury.” (Read: items in cheaper materials, sold at lower prices.)
She goes on to name the various designers, some of them completely obscure, who do "masstige" lines for the store, including Kimora Lee Simmons.
However, the majority of Ms. Wilson's article takes deadly aim at the, er, larger-sized customers that flock to J.C. Penney's. She laments the lack of size 2s in stock, but is shocked, shocked to find clothes in 10, 12 and 16! She sees this as a stroke of diabolical marketing genius, particularly where the displays are concerned:
It has made a point of providing clothing for people of all sizes (a strategy, company officials have said, to snatch business from nearby Macy’s). To this end, it has the most obese mannequins I have ever seen. They probably need special insulin-based epoxy injections just to make their limbs stay on. It’s like a headless wax museum devoted entirely to the cast of “Roseanne.”
Purely gratuitous fat-bashing, don't you think? This sort of unthinking "skinny superiority" absolutely enrages me, I do not mind telling you.
Ms. Wilson is a body snob of the worst kind. Of course, most fashion people are body snobs (pace Karl Lagerfeld), but to me, "Playing To The Middle" hits below the belt. It makes me want to slap Ms. Wilson and then force-feed her a giant chocolate cannoli from Veniero's. And then not let her go to the gym to work it off.
Oh, she throws in how delighted shoppers are to vote with their money for a store not for exercise-crazed skeletons. (Of which, apparently, she is one.) But she still cannot keep herself from making more snide comments about the customers:
No matter how many Grand Slam breakfasts you’ve knocked out of the park, Penney’s has a size for you. Ladies will find kicky little numbers that fit no matter how bountiful the good Lord made them; in the men’s Big & Tall section, even Voltron could find office casuals.
The Good Lord may have made many women bountiful, but He has certainly made Ms. Wilson's mind tiny, petty and mean.
I welcome your comments, dear readers, both pro and con.
Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog
You can read the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/13/fashion/13CRITIC.html?_r=1&ref=style