INDIANAPOLIS — Meijer, a Midwest supercenter chain, recently released its own intimate apparel line for women, sizes small to 3X.
"Tranquil & True" includes wire-free bras, underwear, sleepwear, and shapewear.
"For Real Women, Real Bodies" is the brand's tagline. It speaks to Meijer's goal of providing apparel for people of all shapes and sizes that's "stylish" and "comfortable," the company says.
Meijer tells WRTV that the collection is a "natural extension" of its diversity and inclusion efforts.
"We're really proud to be committed to diversity and inclusion and how that relates to fashion, and that experience for our customers and what that looks like," Nicole Witherup, the divisional merchandising manager for women’s apparel at Meijer, said. "We continue to challenge ourselves, to say, 'How can we do more?' 'What else can we do?'"
In 2016, Meijer started its journey into being more size-inclusive by eliminating plus-size sections in its stores and eliminating the traditional price hikes for bigger sizes.
According to Meijer, they were the first major retailer to put clothing from sizes XS to 3X on the same rack for the same price.
"I personally have had that experience of having to shop in a different department than maybe your friends or your family members," Witherup said. "I mean, simply put, it's really about the customer. We want her to feel that she's having a good experience and that she can experience what everybody else is feeling. And so it's really, it's about her, ultimately."
Four years later, Meijer launched its "Confidence Beyond Measure" campaign, in which it features diverse models in size, shape, race, age, and ability in its women's department. By 2021, it expanded the campaign to include men's and kids' fashion.
Witherup says it's about seeing yourself in the clothing you seek.
"I think our hope, really, is that when you see those images that you see yourself," Witherup said. "You see someone that you know, that you're able to really relate to, that feels like you, whether that's your age, your race, your ability, or experience, whatever that looks like."
This year, Meijer's fashion department is again listening to what shoppers are putting down.
BetweenJanuary and August 2021, comfort-focused smoothing underwear sales increased by 46% compared to the same time period in 2019. In addition, wire-free bra sales increased by 41%.
"There's been a lot happening in intimate apparel and bras and underwear in the last few years," Witherup said.
"When you get up, get dressed, it's really the first thing you put on," she said. "I think a lot of times, you know, things ride, they pull, they dig, it's not really setting the right tone for the day. And so, we want to make sure that you feel comfortable, you feel confident, you feel stylish, but most importantly, really feeling good in your own skin."
Making inclusive fashion accessible
WRTV caught up with Jjanga Horne, an Indianapolis-based model and body-confidence influencer, to hear what she thinks of Meijer's new intimate apparel line.
Horne echoed Witherup's sentiment that representation in the clothing you seek out is crucial.
"I did stop by and look at it, and I love it. I think it's honestly really refreshing to see more companies taking in inclusiveness," Horne told WRTV.
Horne is popular on TikTok and Instagram, where tens of thousands of people follow her fashion choices and her messages on self-love. Her rise to social media fame didn't happen by accident, but it didn't happen on purpose either.
"The biggest part for me was knowing that there was very little, to almost none, representation for Asian women when it came to anything," Horne said of plus-size fashion modeling. "There are some plus-size Asian models, but it's like, less than five that I know of."
Horne explained that she started making sure she spoke up and showed up.
"I didn't put any thought when it came to what I was doing; it was more making sure that I was showing up and allowing people to understand that they can be a mom, you can still be sexy, you can also not have to be a size six, or below," Horner explained.
In her opinion, the Tranquil and True line speaks to women in the Midwest. For starters, Horne notes, the Midwest is not as monolithic as folks in other parts of the country think.
"When people think of the Midwest, they still think (of a) heavily white population. They think, you know, corn. They think, honestly, farmland," Horne explained. "But there's been so much progression. There is a large Asian population. There's a large group of ethnicities that are just growing and flourishing in the Midwest now, and I feel like it's (Meijer's ad campaign for Tranquil and True) including those people, rather than just choosing all white people to model and then sprinkling that one other ethnicity in there."
However, Horne does have concerns.
Although it is racial and size-inclusive, Horne shares that she fears Meijer could be another company being performative.
Her worries echo other diversity and inclusion advocates as of late, who feel some corporations are disingenuous with their diversity and inclusion efforts.
"I have mixed feelings about it," Horne said.
"There are always going to be pros and cons to things, and I think the biggest pro to this is that there is way more visible representation accessible to people who have lower income," Horne added.
Witherup says it's no accident her team decided on the name Tranquil and True. Instead, it's a name representing Meijer's goal to prove to their shoppers that they're seeking to be genuine in their mission of being size and shape-inclusive.
"We use these words a lot now: 'authentic,' 'true,' 'being yourself,' 'real.' But they're important," Witherup explained. "It's important that we all, as women and really everyone, are feeling true to ourselves and feeling real."
"You can be an extra small, you can be a 3X, you can be tall, short, you know, we have things we want to cover, we don't want to cover, but we leave that up to you—to be real," she added.
Although Horne is slightly ambivalent on the motivation behind Meijer's new line, she says when supercenters such as Target, Walmart, and now Meijer drop their own brands in the promise of inclusivity, it also means items that used to be harder to get are becoming more accessible.
For instance, it makes shopping for a 44DDD bra less of a chore. It also makes buying 3X lingerie possible and shapewear more attainable, especially for those who perhaps couldn't afford it elsewhere or struggle to get to more than one place due to transportation complications.
"Accessibility can, unfortunately, be very classist," Horne said, speaking from experience. She grew up on hand-me-downs in a lower-class family.
Although Horne herself — a mom of two who now often travels to New York City for photo shoots — isn't struggling financially as she once experienced in her childhood, she says it never escapes
her mind that many people do.
"A lot of people don't have the time of day to go outside of a grocery store to go shopping," Horne said. "Having that cart really helps a lot of moms with going and being able to have accessibility."
Witherup says that with the launch of its intimate apparel line and its diversity and inclusion department, they hope it's further made clear that the family-owned chain is open to learning.
"We're listening," Witherup said. "The customer speaks very loudly, and we listen to her."
"It's been positive," Witherupsaid of the response so far from the Tranquil and True line. "But we'll continue to listen to our customers and keep evolving. And I'm sure we'll be expanding into a lot of other new exciting things."
In the meantime, Horne hopes all women realize the body fluctuates and it's possible to be one thing while also being another. She hopes people understandthat from seeingher posts on social media.
"I want people who come to my page to feel seen and also to let go of that burden of 'I'm not enough,' or 'I have to change this,' 'I have to change that,' you know, in order to kind of fit into a label or feel attractive," Horne said.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.