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We Are So Confused by Oak’s New, Supposedly Plus-Size Section

Because it’s not actually plus-size.

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A blonde plus-size woman wears a leather jacket Photo: Oak

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Nearly two decades into the 21st century, there are still frustratingly few mainstream clothing stores that offer plus-size — a range that actually represents most of the women in our country. And if you’re above a size 10, you can forget about shopping cool, small labels and boutiques.

Brands that do include or specialize in plus-sizes usually offer an assortment of “flattering” shapes like wrap dresses, options that quickly edge into the frump zone. Obviously, this isn’t good enough. In the words of one of my plus-size friends, “I don’t want clothes that make me look smaller, I’m okay with the size that I am. I just want clothes that make me feel cool.”

So needless to say, we were pretty psyched when we got an e-mail announcing a new plus-size section at Oak, one of my favorite relatively affordable “cool” labels. (It feels sort of like a cross between Rick Owens and American Apparel, if you can imagine such a thing.) But that excitement dissipated when we realized the offerings were basically just a tease.

Browsing the section — comprised of 16 items, included distressed skinny jeans and a pretty great-looking leather jacket, as well as a bunch of oversized tops and dresses — we couldn’t figure out the deal with the sizes. The drop-down included S, M, L, and XL, just like any normal store always would. Was this a special plus-size range? Or did they just add XL and call it plus? We reached out to the brand for clarification, and from there, it only got worse.

A simple question about what sizes were added got this response:

Thank you for reaching back out. Here is what our creative director Louis Terline wrote in response to your sizing question:

For us sizing is just another element of inclusion, for most of our styles we extend our sizes in all directions and have increased the size run. We always try and help all of our customers find the best styles for them and who they want to be. For the plus size launch the jeans are the first style that we extended with n eye towards a fuller customer. We wanted too make sure it kept the same appeal of the original. I (Louis) has a strong background in plus size fashion and has been working on the best way to launch the project for a while. We're really excited about being able to show our full collection in a more diverse way and will definitely be adding more specific styles very soon.

We don't think its necessary to size in the traditional "plus size" numeric sizing (we've never really followed norms on that) but we will have conversions on our website to help guide new customers towards the best choice for them (as well as training for all in store sales people). But fashion is fun. Try new things and see what works for you.

I’m sorry, but what? As one of my coworkers astutely pointed out, it’s not fun if you can’t fit it on your body.

With some more pointed questions we eventually were pointed to a size chart for the jeans, which still rendered the sizes unintelligible: The charts equates size 36 with a size 20 (we’re pretty sure a 36” waist equals a size 12?).

I can tell you from experience that a lot of Oak items are cut very generously and may indeed fit someone over a size 20. But adding XL for a few tent-like options and then putting clothes you already make on a size 12 model and then calling them plus-size is at best misleading and at worse irresponsible (and honestly, kind of cruel).

Oak, we love your clothes, but let us know when you actually add plus-size.