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Overweight teens want cool clothes too

Beth Greenberg tries on a dress at "Torrid."  

By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Unit

BETHESDA, Maryland (CNN) -- Beth Greenberg is looking for a new dress for a friend's wedding. That used to mean buying a regular-sized dress, tearing out the seams, and putting in safety pins so it would fit her larger frame.

But now Greenberg goes to a different store, one that says it's the first to cater exclusively to overweight teenagers. "Torrid", part of a retail chain that includes regular-sized clothing stores, started out with six stores for overweight teens last year and now has fifteen.

"They have stuff that other stores don't have," Greenberg said while trying to decide between a dress with cherries and spaghetti straps and a purple strapless number. [Other stores] "assume that people who are larger don't have fun or don't go out or don't want to spend money on cool clothes."

The store has sizes 14 to 26 and is strictly for the very cool and the very funky. Many of the clothes are surprisingly revealing, considering that they're going to be on larger frames. Shirts bare midriffs. Skirts are lacy. T-shirts say "Obey me." Panties say "Bye bye now" on the back.

"The customer base is growing and we're here to service that need and make everyone have the right to be fashionable," said Meg Clymer, divisional merchandise manager for Torrid. "I think we as a company saw the market need for this and really wanted to take the risk."

Actually, in some ways, there's not too much of a risk, considering the number of overweight teenagers.

Fourteen percent of teens are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. That percentage has more than doubled since the early 1970s.

So is Torrid encouraging this trend by catering to it? Shouldn't young people who are overweight be trying to lose weight rather than buying a wardrobe to fit their large frame?

"I guess that's society's point of view," Greenberg said. "I'd rather have a good time now wearing what I want than worrying about trying to fit into someone else's idea of what I should look like."

"I'm happy with the way I am and I don't really care what other people think," said another shopper, Courtney Towles.

Greenberg, by the way, went with the purple strapless number.




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