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Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

Talbots; Why Not Just Commit, Totally?

I just got a direct mail promotional piece from the retail store Talbots. On the cover is a picture of Ashley Falcon, who Talbots identifies as its “NEW PLUS-SIZE STYLE ADVISOR”.

Inside, we see the plus size Ashley modeling Talbots clothes, along with some other models…to my eye a fair representation of Talbots size 12W to 24W offerings. Good for Talbots!

But, then, why does the sub headline under Ashley’s name on the cover of this promotional piece have to say,

“The skinny on style, fit, and not being a size 4.”

Am I really asking for too much? Couldn’t Talbots just commit totally to a plus-size campaign? Do they have research that says we’re more likely to buy plus-size clothes if we see the words “skinny” and “size 4” in an advertisement for size 1X to 3X clothes? 

Trust me. I’m grateful to see a mainstream women’s clothing chain invest in the marketing of plus size clothes! If the average size in this country is Size 14 (plus some), then it’s a smart business move! To me, it is progress. But it still feels like they have one foot in the plus size market…and one foot still in size-ism.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from Talbots!



Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, Vice President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, ellen@aweighout.com


  1. I think it is so self-deprecating! Why can’t it say, ‘beautiful, stylish and fits great’. I would want to go buy it then. Why does size 12W have to be temporary?

  2. I know! The change is starting, but we’re not there…yet. I guess most of the decision makers in the fashion/retail clothing biz are just not comfortable with the truth…most people are NOT thin! . But we’ll get them there…with our wallets. I won’t shop at any store that uses “size-ism” to sell products. I once stopped going to a hair salon just becaause they had consistently printed a promotion piece called “The Skinny on Hair Care”. Huh? Do people want skinny hair?

  3. I’m looking forward to the day when most stores display their plus size clothes on plus size models and mannequins instead of using the same picture for miss and plus size options. It’s very difficult to determine which clothes might work for me when the model shapes are so very different than mine. And I agree with Rachel…I’d much rather be called beautiful than skinny.

  4. Ellen, thank you for your comment about our Talbots Woman direct mail piece and for sharing your thoughts. We can certainly understand your concern with our sub headline and assure you your thoughts will be shared. We are committed to our plus size customers and have a wonderful assortment of classic merchandise ranging in sizes from 12W to 24W. Please visit one of our Womans stores, through our catalog at 1.800.825.2687 or at http://www.talbots.com. Thank you

  5. To be fair, Talbots does seem to be trying. They have been trying to appeal to a younger, hipper demographic lately and this seems to be another clumsy attempt. The clothes and styling are lovely. The sales people in the Talbots Woman stores are fantastic. Look at the clothing that they offer and how you are treated in the store. And do write them and tell them how you feel about this ad. Also they have a Facebook page.

  6. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Coach; A Weigh Out says:

    Dear Talbots,

    Very glad you took note of my comments. It’s exciting to hear that you are committed to your plus size customers! I look forward to watching your promotional materials evolve as you learn more about how we feel. I hope you’ll share comments like Rachel’s and Anmarie’s with those who craft your marketing message, “Why can’t it say, ‘beautiful, stylish and fits great’. I would want to go buy it then. Why does size 12W have to be temporary?”

  7. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Coach; A Weigh Out says:

    I agree. This is progress! “tell them how you feel.” Great suggestion, Linda. Use our voices and we get to change the way retailers sell to us.

  8. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says:

    I just Googled, looking for updated information about Talbots Plus Size Style Advisor and didn’t find anything newer than 2011. Anybody seen anything new on this?

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