So, yesterday, as the whole world was boggling over how Sarah Palin managed to spend $150,000 on clothes and accessories, I read this Slate piece, in which Nina Shen Rastogi goes on a pretend shopping spree at Saks and tries to do it herself. (In fact, she managed to, though $63,000 of that was jewelry.) And one of my first thoughts was, “I couldn’t do that if I wanted to, because they wouldn’t have enough stuff in my size.” Granted, Shen Rastogi was shopping “as” Sarah Palin, who obviously has no trouble finding things that fit at department stores. But it got me thinking.
So of course, being a fan of the online window-shopping, I had to determine just how much I could spend on high-end designer fat clothes if I were really trying. I didn’t limit myself, as Shen Rastogi did, to stuff that would actually be Palin-appropriate. (If I had, we’d have a much shorter list and lower number here). I just painstakingly went through everything available (online) in my size at the stores where Palin ran up the infamous bills — Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and Barney’s — and picked out every single thing I would buy if neither money nor closet space were an object. I don’t know where the fuck I’m going to wear a dozen different evening dresses, but they’re pretty, and since I have unlimited funds in this fantasy, I probably also have loads of charity events and opera openings and whatnot to attend.
I restricted myself to stuff I, personally, would wear — at least in theory. (I know some of the Anna Scholz stuff would look like ass on me because it’s too long-geared, for instance, but the shape is otherwise right for me. Unfortunately, a wide selection of plus petites is just as much a fantasy as having the money to afford all this.) Also, I could have run up a much bigger tab by really splurging on shoes and handbags, but the whole point is that I’m trying to see what I could get in terms of plus-size clothing. So I limited myself to 3 pairs of shoes and 3 bags at each store. I didn’t look at jewelry at all, so we can just pretend I spent $63,000 on that, too.
Here’s the list:
Valentino bow clutch, $895 (I have one kinda like this that I got for $6.99 during a Torrid half-off clearance sale; I’m sure they’re practically identical)
Total: $13, 720.90
Melissa Masse Parker print dress, $225, and long leggings, $150 ($150 for FUCKING LEGGINGS?!? Wait, sorry, my inner Sarah Palin would not say that.)
Gayla Bentley ballet-neck dress, $250 and obi sash, $25 (we’ll pretend this wouldn’t be a mile too long for me)
Total: $18, 741
Total: $10, 314.97
Oh wait, Barney’s doesn’t seem to carry plus sizes at all (at least not online). Which means I’m not buying shoes or bags there, either.
TOTAL FOR ALL STORES: $42,776.87
Add $63K in imaginary jewelry, and it’s $105,776.87, still well short of Palin’s and Shen Rostagi’s bills.
What have we learned from all this? Well, first, I’m pretty sure I got a hell of a lot more clothes than Palin did for the money, because there’s no such thing as a multi-thousand-dollar suit for fat chicks (at least, not at those stores). If a fat woman were running for office at that level, she’d still be in suits that cost under $1,000, ’cause that’s all that’s out there. Some of the career wear for fatties is very well made and plenty expensive, but if you buy the only argument in support of Palin here — that women of her stature are expected to dress a certain way, and it costs that kind of money — then a fat woman who aspired to be a woman of Palin’s stature and look the part would be shit outta luck.
And of course, it goes without saying that a woman who wears over a size 24 is already shit outta luck. Everything I’m saying here about upper-class fat women being shut out of dressing like their peers goes quadruple for fat women who are sized out of high-end department stores.
Also, is Tadashi really the only fucking designer making plus-size evening wear? (What happened to Carmen Marc Valvo’s plus line?) There are loads of dresses that cost over $1,000 in Saks’s straight size section, and some a lot more than that, but only one over $500 in “Salon Z.” Again, if fat women want to move in the circles where women blow a couple thou on a dress for one night, we don’t even have the option of dressing to the same level. We’ve got to show up to our charity events and opera openings in gowns that don’t cost much more than the average bridesmaid’s dress.
Now, real-world me is perfectly happy about this, since I’d like someone to shoot me if I ever think there’s a good reason to spend more than $500 on a dress. But fantasy-world me is pissed. I have all this pretend money, and I can’t even look the part, because someone decided that fat women don’t deserve fancy clothes. I mean, of course, with all that pretend money, I could hire a pretend tailor to make whatever I wanted, which is probably exactly what fat women who are loaded do. And of course, pretend bespoke is way more awesome than pretend off-the-rack anyway. But the point is, a fat woman could not spend $150,000 on clothes at those four department stores if she wanted to. (I didn’t actually do the math, but I bet if you added up every item available in plus sizes, you wouldn’t hit $150,000.) And in an abstract, will-never-fucking-affect-me way, that really blows.