Thursday, August 13, 2009

Quick hit: asshole at the NYT on J.C. Penney

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

I've read some pure nasty in fashion articles, but it takes a lot to make me actually gasp out loud. So congratulations, Cintra Wilson of the New York Times - you are officially enough of an asshole to shock me. Her latest article takes on J.C. Penney, the national chain that had the gall to invade Manhattan. In case you thought she was offended merely by the polyester-ness of the clothes, or the fact that it seems to remind her of her mother (who may have forced Wilson, doubtless kicking and screaming, into something polyester as a child), never fear - Wilson manages to convey her distaste for people above a size 6, the Midwest, and anyone who has ever found clothing they like at Penney's, ever.

What really amazes me is that Wilson touches on one of the fashion industry's most basic idiocies: most people in this country are not a size 2, but would still like to clothe themselves. Some even have the money to do so at the outrageous prices that the fashion industry dictates. But Wilson, in her infinite wisdom, seems to find it kind of amusing that J.C. Penney is attempting to provide this significant segment of the population with clothing that they would enjoy wearing. God forbid that a person who is a size 14 would enjoy shopping.

Wilson condescendingly observes that J.C. Penney's strategy of stocking their racks with sizes higher than the stray size 8 is "really, remarkably smart." She goes on to say, sounding rather pleased with herself, that "This niche has been almost wholly neglected on our snobby, self-obsessed little island. New York boutiques tend to cater to the stress-thin, morbidly workaholic, Pilates-tortured Manhattan ectomorph. But there are many more body types who vote with their hard-earned dollars, who appreciate a clean new space in Midtown to buy affordable clothes in hard-to-find sizes, as well as attentive service from attitude-free professionals." But obviously, if you have the good fortune to be among the ranks of the snobby, stress-thin Manhattanites, you never look back. Because then you can write bratty columns like these, mocking the rest of America.

Wilson makes J.C. Penney sound like it was created solely as an amusing outing for the bored Manhattan fashionista. Ooh, a fun scavenger hunt for a size 2! What happens when you try on a medium-sized tee shirt? Can you escape from the hordes of proletarian rabble unscathed? The only thing I can say for her is that she goes after male and female Penney's-goers with equal veracity - no sexism here! But it really shows just how dumb the fashion industry can be. The idea that people want models who look like them (Wilson comments with relish on the "obesity" of the mannequins) or clothes that make them feel attractive, regardless of their size, could earn people like Wilson millions, if they could only duck their heads out of snob-land for a second and deign to serve the unwashed masses.

I can't believe the NYT, supposedly the most respected newspaper in America, printed this. You'd think that in a recession, with the future of print journalism looking grim, they wouldn't make active efforts to insult most of the country, but who knows, maybe some editors really, really want early retirement.

4 Comments:

At August 15, 2009 at 3:32 PM , Anonymous Malavika said...

I think the author must of had some sort of trauma in her youth from wearing clothes from J.C. Penney: “get something vaguely shaped like the designer thing you want, but cut much more conservatively, made in all-petroleum materials, and with a too-similar wannabe logo that announces your inferiority to evil classmates as surely as if you were cursed to be followed around by a tuba section.”

she sounds like an elitist jerk and viciously attacks plus sized women. yet it doesn't surprise me that nyt would publish such an article. banana republic prices are considered unbelievably low to their fashion writers, who generally feature hermes, proenza schouler, and other high fashion designers.

 
At August 18, 2009 at 11:58 PM , Blogger Cristina said...

I’m glad you pointed this out, Amelia! Thankfully Ms. Wilson has since been raked over the coals in the blogosphere. Everyone from the Wall Street Journal Online to Gawker (no stranger to snark themselves) have ripped her a new one – and deservedly so. Her article was so appallingly offensive that I doubt she’ll be writing for the NYT in future. Shame on her and shame on her equally out of touch editors.

 
At August 20, 2009 at 10:44 PM , Anonymous nikki said...

I've never read anything half so bratty sounding in my life (as Wilson's article, I mean). Except maybe my own journal entries from high school.

 
At November 6, 2009 at 8:58 AM , Anonymous Linzi said...

As a "poor" person who I guess fits the demographic for this shop (im guessing it a bit like QS we have in the UK) I can honestly say I wasn't remotely offended by this article. She points out that the "elite" are all stressed and unhappy and just makes me glad that I'm happy being me and couldn't give a kipper what the fasion police say. To me it seems that people who are offended by this need to get a thicker skin and be happy being themselves.

 

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