I love my alma mater, the University of Virginia. I go back to visit the grounds regularly because I have such fond memories of my time in college. It helps that I met my husband there and we were married in the chapel of the university. I keep up with lots of my college friends and donate regularly. That being said, there are areas for improvement. Last May, I was in the large university book store where they sell all of the clothing with the university’s name on them. I was very excited to buy something because the men’s basketball team had just won the national championship in March, so I wanted to get a shirt to commemorate the event. My husband was with me shopping for the same reason. We headed into the store to find the perfect item.
Very quickly, I was disappointed because the women’s section in the store was very small. There were hardly any choices for something that would fit me well. Whereas the men’s section had many, many designs from which to choose. I was frustrated that I could not find a shirt in my size because the women’s section was very picked over since it was a reunion weekend. My husband, on the other hand, had no problem finding a shirt for himself. When I asked for help from the woman who worked there, she did not seem worried that the women’s section was so small and told me to come back when they restocked. I live 3.5 hours away, so this is not an easy task. I did let her know of my disappointment that the women’s department was so small and pointed out that 55% of the student body is female. She said that she understood my frustration.
In early March, we went back to school for a basketball game. This time we stopped at the local non-university store that has sold university gear for decades. Upon entering, I asked where the women’s section was. I was surprised to see that the women’s section had not improved since the 1980s. It was just a small corner of the store. When I said something to the salesman, he looked a little sheepish. I again mentioned the fact that more than 50% of his customers are female, and he told me that the girls like to buy things that are too big for them and comfortable. I told him perhaps that was because there was very little there that fits them. He smiled wanly and admitted that I was probably right. If they don’t offer clothes that fit, then you have to buy ones that don’t or don’t buy any at all.
So, we went back to the University Book Store to see if they had improved their offerings for women. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had. Although the men’s department is still bigger, there was much more selection than when I had been there nine months ago. I like to think it was because I said something to the salesperson, but I suspect it was more due to market forces.
I did a little checking to see if UVA is an anomaly and found that they rank 8th in the ACC for their inventory of university athletic wear for women. If you look on the chart below, you will see the results of my research for each ACC school. The best school, Florida State, has 42% of their inventory devoted to women’s items. The stinker at the bottom, Duke, has only 18% of their inventory for women’s items. Most schools hover around the 25%-30% level.
And after you have checked out the chart, please write to your school and ask that they increase the variety and inventory of clothing available to women who are THE MAJORITY of college students after all. We can check in next year to see if any pressure from our campaign has improved the inventory. I would love to hear your thoughts, you ACC women, so feel free to leave a comment below!
University Insignia Clothing Items Available Online
(From shop.the acc.com)
Anna Lynch is a “writer, educator, and champion for all things women.”
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