In my desperate attempt to land a job, I had an interview with Torrid, one of the largest, most successful plus-size stores on the market. I had worked for them in high school, when Tripp and Sourpuss were their most popular brands. The brand aged with me, retiring their baggy bondage pants to make room for skinny jeans while I let my asymmetrical haircut grow out. During the years I was learning to love myself, I spent plenty of "diva style" points behind those glass doors. Torrid and I have always, pretty much, been on the same page. Zipping up my black skater skirt and adjusting my spider necklace, I was feeling like a no-brainer to rejoin my fabulous fat counterparts behind the register.
Boy... was I in for a shocker.
During the interview, I was informed that Torrid is undergoing a session of rebranding. Only, instead of "growing up with the customer," as they claim to do, they are completely silencing their alternative style. Of course, the manager didn't tell it to me this way. She put forward that Torrid "wants someone to walk into our store and see what they see on the cover magazines." I couldn't help but complain in my head... isn't this what Hollister's requirements are? Responding to the confusion on my face, she suggested that Torrid is "still growing up with their customers, who are now in the professional world. They're getting jobs and growing up." From the subtle hints during our fake-smiled happy talk, I know that when Torrid says "growing up," they really mean turning their alternative side down.
Even though I spit out my best proud body positive campaign key words, I knew what was coming: my purple hair didn't stand a chance within the new version of their brand. Hot Topic may be the parent store to Torrid, and I might have bought my hair dye there, but the same dress code no longer applies. When I worked at Torrid during my high school days, back in 2008, I had bright pink hair down to my waist. The manager stated that the current rules were natural hair colors only. Here I was, thinking that the times were changing and becoming more accepting! How silly of me!
The manager kept repeating that their employees have to reflect their new image. To me, it sounded like a slightly warped version of an Abercrombie and Fitch interview -- "you must be fat-girl-pretty but also not stand out too much." I even attempted talking about big girl visibility, and how important it is that "fat girls not be considered PLUS SIZE fashion, because that would mean they are an extension of fashion. Fat girls need to be a part of fashion as a whole. Fat girls should wear designers, crop tops, belts on their waist and tight black dresses." I could tell that my enthusiasm for fat girl visibility made this Torrid representative wary of hiring such a vivacious employee.
It's obvious that I'm passionate about fashion and bringing big bodies within the spotlight. Torrid is "revolutionizing" their company to be another Forever21+, except they're going to keep charging the same boutique prices. They'll continue to sell their "Retro Chic" line, which will probably be the closest you can get to their signature bad ass look, but buying a Retro Chic dress will have you out $80 at the least. As my interviewer recommended, "that kind of expression should be left at home."
The new "I Am Torrid" campaign is gassed by the male gaze and modern blandness. It focuses on the "sexiness" of a curvy women. As seen in the image below, most of the images from their new campaign are in greyscale. Their new costumer only stands out with sex appeal, not with high fashion. As a person, who happens to have a fat body, I can proudly admit that I am tired of being sexualized and fetishized simply for having a "curvy" figure. Not only is that word terribly vague, but a fat body is more than its curves. Curvy women are more than how "sexy" they are. Lastly, sexy is more than just a sweater with a cut out for cleavage. Sexy is a mindset and it is an emotion, and I'll be damned if another plus size retailer tries to sell me another "buy this because it's sexy for a fat girl" campaign. What's next? A campaign about how black is slimming?
I don't want to dress like every other fat girl. For the same reasons, I don't want to dress like every skinny or mid-sized girl. I don't want to dress like anybody. I want to cultivate my own style, and for that, I need options. People have been shopping at Torrid BECAUSE it is a Hot Topic brand. They walk through the store specifically looking for tight-fitting jeans and loud, yet classy style. Torrid is taking a giant step away from that original aesthetic, and as much as they would like to believe that they are maturing WITH their loyal customers; they are alienating them and trading them in for ones with less pizzazz.
RIP Hot Topic's Torrid. They are now just another alternative company being washed out by plain peplum dresses and black button-up shirts. This one is dedicated to another style that us fat bodies will only be able to find online.
ALTERNATIVES TO SHOPPING AT TORRID (mostly online shops, unfortunately):
ASOS (actual perfection)
Re/Dress (run by two very lovely ladies who work very hard)
Domino Dollhouse (intelligent designer and buyer, with truly original and statement pieces)
Chubby Cartwheels (velvet skater skirts and true love)
Mod Cloth (expensive but extensive, vintage inspired)
Fashion to Figure (shield your eyes from the shape wear and it's gold and they have real stores!)
Simply Be (options from super alternative goth vibes to pretty girl does lunch date)
Ingrid R. Taller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Bitchtopia.com. She's a writer, performer, and fat activist.
This piece first appeared on Bitchtopia.com