Location: Forever 21
Vibrant electro-pop music blared over the speakers. Spotlights and flashy chandeliers hung from the ceiling illuminating the large store. Everywhere I looked, racks of clothing filled with the latest fashions cluttered the room. The clothing was colorful — a stark contrast to the plain white walls and floors. Girls of all ages roamed around pulling clothing off the racks as I made my way around. An escalator led down to a second floor that was filled with more clothing, shoes, and accessories. There was even a men’s section taking up about a quarter of the lower room despite the fact that I hadn’t seen any males enter the store the whole time I was there.
Upon further exploration of the store, I noticed a small section of clothing tucked away in the farthest corner. A sign read “Forever 21 Plus Sizes” in neon lights. This section immediately intrigued me. It was completely void of people, and despite being a large, two-story store, this section was shoved into the most inconspicuous corner of the room while the rest of the store was overflowing with fun and crazy clothing. Only three mannequins inhabited the barren space, all dressed in drab clothing. One was sporting a plain gray t-shirt with a pair of dark-wash skinny jeans. Another was dressed in a plain white button down with black pants. The last wore a boring, black, short-sleeved dress. Compared to the other mannequins in the rest of the store who were dressed in brightly colored, patterned, and fashion-forward outfits, these “plus-sized” mannequins seemed oddly drab and out of place. Even their poses were dull in comparison. These mannequins stood simply with their hands at their sides. Every other mannequin struck vivacious poses — arms outstretched, fingers pointing, hips out, and heads turned. These other mannequins were even dressed up in wigs and hats while the “plus-sized” mannequins remained bald. In fact, everything about the plus size section of the store was a bit drab, from the clothing displayed to the decorations. Two simple photos were displayed of a model wearing the plus-sized clothing, but curiously enough, the photos only showed the model from chest up so you couldn’t actually see her body or the clothing. Truthfully, neither the girl in the picture nor the mannequins looked very “plus sized.” If anything, the plus-sized mannequins portrayed a healthy, normal body type while the “normal-sized” mannequins looked like toothpicks. Furthermore, the majority of the store was adorned with mirrors, overly-skinny mannequins, and pictures of thin women wrapped around handsome men, but the plus-sized section merely contained minimal, boring clothing and scarce decorations. There wasn’t even a single mirror in sight. Although it could’ve been unintentional, the contrast of the plus-sized section and the rest of the store felt representative of the way that plus-sized women are portrayed in a society that values thin women.