One year ago, I walked into a new marketplace that was a cool mix of home décor, repurposed furniture, bath products, candles, art, and boutique clothing. These are the kinds of places that sing to my soul and offer a form of therapy all their own. I can spend hours just roaming the aisles, taking it all in: sight, smell, and sound. Some people jog. Some people talk to therapist. People like me shop, but not just anywhere. I like to shop in places that inspire creativity and, oh, did this place inspire. It was new and still had many empty booths available for rent. My mind raced while I thought about what I could do in all the empty spaces.
There was already a vendor that was redoing furniture in chalk paint and her skills were obviously much more refined than mine. There was already someone offering home décor and their tastes were so similar to my own that someone had already sent me a text about it. No need in duplicating that. As I made my way to the front, there was a separate room with the cutest boutique clothing. I went in knowing before I even turned over the first tag that I would either find something for my daughter or come out empty handed. It’s not that the styles didn’t suite me. The clothing they offered was right on trend, cute, stylish, and I would have loved to wear a number of the pieces. There is always a problem shopping in a place like that, none of the clothes fit me. All the sizes in that space were just as I expected, a size small to large. A few were marked “one size fits most”. Those are the ones that hurt the most because “most”, according to them, does not include me.
Like I usually do in a new market, I decided to walk the floor a second time. It always looks different and you see new things if you go in reverse. I was angry at myself for not sticking with the diet I had started in January, again. As I walked, I overheard another woman say to a friend, “I can’t wear anything in there.” I grinned at her and nodded in that uncomfortable silent “I get you, girl” kind of understanding. Her words echoed in my mind, “I can’t wear anything in there.” At the register were two more women, and as I looked at them, the “ah-ha” moment happened. They couldn’t wear those clothes either. Of the six other women in the market at that moment, at least four would not be able to wear the clothes offered in those booths.As soon as I got in the car, I tried putting Siri to work. “Siri, what is the average size of a woman in the United States.” Of course, she gave me the usual response. “Sorry, Kim, I am not sure what you said there.” She hates my southern drawl and I had to wait until I got home to research.
Google directed me to several articles and I read again and again and again how the average sized woman is now a 16! Why then are all the boutiques stopping at a 12? This was ludicrous and I was no longer just mad at myself, I was mad at the fashion industry for snubbing over half the women in the U.S. and making them feel anything less than average.
I pitched the idea to my husband that I wanted to start a booth of plus-sized clothing. For those that know him, it will come as no surprise that he was behind the idea 100% and immediately thought I was a genius. We set out a budget for my adventure and I researched clothing lines, fixtures, hangers, how to obtain a taxid, a name for my business, and, of course, a design of the space. Most of the booths in the market were a 12X10. It would be tight, but perfect for trying out something new. Finally, I was ready to take my idea to the market owners. They were delighted to see new business coming in and began showing me the available spaces. Remember, I designed and prepped for a 12X10, but those were in the back, and I wanted to be front and center. They had a space that was going to be available in a few weeks but it was a 12X20 with book shelves attached that added another 10ft of retail space. I got excited and took it.
My initial budget and design went out the window and I began ordering, building, and prepping for a May 1 opening. Since then, that market went out of business. I am happy to say that it had nothing to do with me. As a matter of fact, the two original boutiques left about the same time I opened. Two other clothing vendors came and went. They all catered to that same small-large category. I was actually doing really well there with my larger sizes, but the market, overall, never drew enough attention to keep most vendors and had trouble marketing itself. The owners asked for a lot of advice, but seldom drew from it and learned. They closed the doors just 10 months after their grand opening without any notice. Luckily, by that point, I had already taken my idea to two other market places. One opened in August as a 10×20 space and the other was set to open in November as a 12×15.
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I own two plus-size boothtiques. I usually follow that up with a shrug and say, “I got mad when I walked in and they didn’t carry my size. Most people would have gone on a diet. I opened a business.”
I love telling people what I do. I am not one of those body-proud women bouncing around in a bikini, I still would love to lose the weight, but now, I hope that my honesty and service is helping others enjoy their shopping experience and to realize they are beautiful just the way they are. It is okay to want to lose weight or to become healthier. It is not okay to put off living until you reach perfection.
I am not present at my booths much. I stock it, decorate it, and leave the rest for the girls who work at the desk. It is a self-service deal. I do, however, love when I am there and I see the familiar face of “Why look? Nothing will fit me”. Sometimes, I work silently and watch the realization come over them, but when they look really down, I say, “Hi, let me tell you a little about what you’ll find in my booth. I specialize in sizes xl to a 3x. Of course, we have accessories for everyone.” The look of surprise and delight keeps me motivated as they realize that there isn’t just one arm of clothing tucked into the back that will fit them, but a whole booth.
The Full Closet Boothtique specializes in plus sizes with accessories for everyone.