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Gorsuch: Clothes for White People

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Catalogs fascinate me. Particularly the time of the year when the Christmas marketing machine has already swung into high gear, having first started rolling in October. Companies spend the most time and money on their holiday catalogs, trying to show their products in the best possible light, surrounded by festive atmosphere and beautiful, happy people in domestic settings. The photos are designed to make someone viewing them want to be one of those people. The world portrayed is the ideal world, where ideal families lead ideal lives in eternal perfection.

Okay, I’m looking through a catalog for winter clothing. This is a company with its headquarters in Colorado. The first page states, “We are a family passionate for the mountains. For years we have traveled throughout the world together in pursuit of the unique and captivating.” That sounds promising. I grew up in the mountains. I like traveling the world. There are mountains all over the world that are home to fascinating and diverse cultures that produce beautiful things. My shopping self is awake and paying attention.

I start to look through the catalog. The first shock is the prices. The coat on the page 1 costs $3950. A scarf costs $398. There are plenty of items over $1000. A gift box with shower gel, lotion, cream, and soap costs $250. I feel indignant. The mountain people I grew up with were poor. I don’t see much of that here.

In the gift section they offer books: How to Be A Lady, How to Raise A Lady, How to Be A Gentleman. What does any of this have to do with the mountains or traveling the world?

Most of the models are women, and they are all very pretty. Occasionally men make their appearance. They are considerably older than the women, none of whom appear over twenty-five. But then I realize what’s really bothering me. There are no people of color in the catalog. I start to go through the pages quickly, looking for color. Finally, on page sixty-five, I find one. A black woman. She is in a small inset picture. Her features are very Western European. Her hair is straightened and pulled back. She appears once more in another small inset on page sixty-eight. This time her hair is covered with a scarf.

On page eighty-six the dirndls come out. The blonde women and children are all wearing them. The man is wearing a “Fritz” jacket that costs $1898. The pictures are looking more and more, well, Aryan Nation.

To me, this catalog is saying, we do not consider people of color as part of our market. Why? Do black, yellow, and brown people not make enough money? Would they make more money if they were white? Do their skin colors clash with the fabrics, styles, and accessories being sold? Do they not live in cold places and participate in winter sports? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, why? Is it preconception or fact? Is it something that bothers you or something you just don’t think about?

I’m a middle-class Asian woman who shouldn’t even consider buying anything that costs over $200. But like many women of many colors, I like pretty things. And like women of all colors I have a credit card. I saw a pair of boots that were gorgeous. I kept thinking about those boots until I felt like I had to have them. And unfortunately the allure of fashion trumped righteous indignation. I ordered the boots. They came, and were beautiful. They didn’t fit. I have a problem with boots going over my huge calves. Obviously, these boots weren’t made for someone who had muscles. Why did I think they would be? The women who could afford these boots would naturally be model-thin. And gorgeous, and blonde, just like in the catalog.

I returned the boots. Two days later I got a phone call. It was Customer Service. She said that the boots looked as if they had been worn, and therefore she was contesting my request for my card to be credited. I told her I had indeed worn the boots, and that’s how I figured out that they didn’t fit. She said she wasn’t sure that she could give me credit. I told her that the company’s luxury goods were expensive enough to warrant top-of-the- line service, which I wasn’t receiving. After a little more verbal sparring (which further cheapened their products in my eyes), Customer Service agreed to credit my card. She said that she was doing me a special favor, and that I shouldn’t wear anything in the future before returning it.

So now I’m just left with this catalog. Not just shut out, but kicked out.


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