Rebecca Caraway is a journalism junior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Outside the Ross in Downtown San Luis Obispo is a sign that reads “this Ross location is closed permanently. Thank you San Luis Obispo for all the great years.” With that, the last truly affordable store leaves the downtown area.
There have been so many times I’ve gone shopping with friends downtown and they decide we should all grab a couple items of clothes and try them on for each other. Nearly every time, the clothes they grab fit them perfectly and they don’t have to struggle with the zippers or buttons. However, for me, I don’t come out of the dressing room to show off my new look. I either can’t get it over my head, zip it up or it simply doesn’t flatter me.
Everyone knows the horrors of a dressing room — the sense of doom and embarrassment when that pair of jeans just doesn’t fit over your thighs, when a dress just won’t zip up or that top that is just too tight. Anytime this happens you can’t help but feel alone and compare yourself to your friends that somehow pull off every outfit. This is an experience that happens nearly every time I go shopping for clothes downtown.
I wouldn’t consider myself plus size as the plus size sections at stores and online are often too big. However, I do have a bigger waist, bust and stomach than almost everyone I know and the cute and trendy stores downtown aren’t catering to people that look like me and, even if they were, I could never afford them.
Blue Harvest Apparel has plenty of stylish casual wear with floral tops and large sweaters. However, their average top is neary $40 and the largest size you’ll find is just a large, which are few and far between. The most expensive pair of jeans on their site is $178 and the sizes only range from 25-29. The cheapest pair of pants is $39 and ranges from an extra small to a large. Their most expensive dress is $148 and only goes from small to large. The cheapest dress is $50 and is currently only available in a small. This trend can be seen in nearly every clothing store downtown.
The cost of clothes downtown is not realistic for college students. Most students don’t have the kind of jobs that provide them the means to afford to shop regularly at these stores, especially if they pay for their own tuition, housing, gas and food, like I do.
There are at least two stores downtown that are still expensive but do offer more size inclusive clothes. Athleta, while being a big brand company, offers plenty of plus size options, with their size range being XXS to 3XL. They even have a plus size mannequin in the store and plus size models on their website.
Athleta mostly specializes in active wear, though they do offer a number of casual dresses. One of the most expensive dresses is $99 but is available in all sizes. While Athleta is definitely out of my price range it is nice to see a more size-inclusive store, even if it is an athletic clothing store.
Then there is HepKat Apparel, my personal favorite shop downtown. HepKat has been open for 20 years and offers a variety of vintage inspired clothes with a wide range of sizes. The store is my favorite because it’s the one store where I can find things that I actually like and that fit me. Their website has a plus size section and offers sizes from XS to 2X.
The vintage design allows for more plus size options as the patterns and design work well with curves. HepKat is the only store I go to that I actually enjoy trying stuff on in. I love how I look and feel in the vintage dresses and tops. However, the items are still out of my budget. Due to the high demand of vintage designs, most of their dresses are well over $100.
For a college town, San Luis Obispo needs more inexpensive and size inclusive clothing stores. I wish I could shop in more of the boutiques downtown but they’re so far out of my budget. With Ross gone, I hate that I can only afford to go to places like Target and Old Navy.
Until the need for more affordable and inclusive clothing stores is met, I think myself and other students will find that they aren’t able to spend money on clothes downtown anymore.