Target Caught in Plus Size Clothing 'Manatee' Flap


Target is changing the way it labels its products after a keen-eyed shopper and her friend sparked a backlash for the retail giant.

Susan Clemens, a self-described "plus size" woman from Orange County, Calif., was taken aback when she saw a friend's Facebook post with a picture of a plus-size Target maxi dress described as "manatee gray."

When Clemens, 49, went on the site herself to see if her friend's post was true, she discovered not only that the plus-size style was described as "manatee gray," but the regular size of the exact same maxi dress was described as "dark heather gray."

Clemens took to Twitter to express her outrage, posting a screen shot of the two identical dresses with the different descriptors along with her tweet.

"What the. Plus sized women get "Manatee Grey" while standard sizes are "Dark Heather Grey." @Target #notbuyingit," she wrote Tuesday.

Within 24 hours Clemens' tweet had spread across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and blogs.

"A lot has happened in a day because it really resonates with people," she said. "I really didn't expect it to spread as widely as it has but people are tired of having the size and shape of their body commented on, and that's what this color discrepancy seems to imply."

Clemens' tweet was also heard by Target, which issued an apology to her on Twitter, as well as an explanation and immediate action.

"It was never our intention to offend our guests," Target spokeswoman Jessica Deede told today. "We heard from our guest. We apologized and we are working to fix it ASAP."

Deede says the "manatee gray" color description is a "seasonal color used across many different categories on" and, in this case, the two different descriptions came down to two people updating the website.

"There were two different teams that worked on uploading the dresses to, which explains the discrepancy," she said.

The Minnesota-based retail chain is now updating its inventory across the board to say only "gray," as opposed to more specific descriptors, according to Deede.

Clemens says she accepts the retailer's explanation and apology but sees the issue as something much bigger than a tag on a dress.

"It's an inadvertent thing that Target did but what it tapped into is something that's real for a lot of people ," she said. "I think, though, there's a bigger story here in the way that it resonated with people because they are concerned with how they're being talked about in the world at large, even if that wasn't the intent here."

Clemens, the voice behind the website, offering advice to younger woman, says that even after Target changes its policy, she plans to keep the issue going.

"I wrote a first draft of a book in 2009 on advice for younger women and what we would tell ourselves when we were going through things like bullying," Clemens said. "Perhaps I'll rekindle that."

"This is something that has mattered to me for a long time," she said.