Land’s End and Gloria Steinem


Over the weekend, several readers let me know that Land’s End is currently embroiled in a controversy surrounding their decision to  print an interview with Gloria Steinem in a recent catalog. After pro-life customers began complaining and protesting, LE issued an apology and may even have reneged on their year-long commitment to help funnel donations to the Fund for Women’s Equality. I hadn’t caught wind of this because I’ve been absolutely swamped with freelance projects and haven’t been terribly tuned-in for the past few weeks, so I was baffled and dismayed by the news.

The readers who contacted me also asked me to comment, so here are my thoughts: I feel that this is an incredibly disappointing and cowardly thing for Land’s End to have done. According to the commentary I’ve read (can’t find the actual interview at this point), the catalog piece didn’t mention abortion, but the people who spoke out against it seem to believe that Steinem’s pro-choice stance is the only thing that matters about her. Despite the fact that Steinem’s work has had a positive impact on countless women, despite the fact that her writing and leadership helped change how women are viewed and treated in this country. This interview could have been a welcome and unexpected tribute to her many accomplishments. Instead, it brings yet more controversy and negative attention to a movement that is constantly under fire for preposterous reasons, a movement that exists simply because its members believe that women deserve equal rights and opportunities to men. Myself included. This is a spineless move on the part of the company and I find their choice incredibly frustrating.

Now, here’s why I will continue to feature links to Land’s End products on this blog:

Land’s End is one of a teeny, tiny group of companies that creates quality women’s clothing for a true variety of sizes and shapes. Regular, petite, and plus are nearly always represented in every style, with petite plus and tall also in the mix, albeit less frequently. They do swimwear in regular, petite, plus, tall, and tall plus sizes as well as offering suits for women who have had mastectomies. And this is important. It’s important because most of the women who wear specialty sizes are excluded from mall brands, or forced to shop online to get access to clothes that actually fit them. It’s important because some brands that offer plus sizes create them separately from their regular-sized designs, which means that when plus sized women admire clothes from the regular section, they are reminded that the company believes they’re different and “can’t” wear the styles that smaller women can wear. When Land’s End creates its garments in a true variety of sizes, the underlying message is that all women belong, all women are welcome, all women deserve the full attention of their design staff. Most vendors don’t even bother with specialty sizes, and the ones who do make it difficult and frustrating for those customers to try and buy. Land’s End wants all of those women to have access to the same designs, and wants all of them to feel like they are equally valued as customers. And this is important.

Is this decision hypocritical? I’m sure some of you will believe it is. As I’ve said many times before, I believe that hypocrisy is an essential part of the human experience and anyone who claims to be living a life free of it is delusional. I also believe feminism is a huge movement that encompasses a vast number of varying viewpoints and agendas, and I’m quite sure I’m not the first to break with one of the movement’s early leaders for my own reasons. If you think this decision makes me a “bad feminist,” you won’t be the first to think that about me. And while you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, it will not shake my own dedication to the movement and its central goal: Equality.

Like the vast majority of mainstream brands, Land’s End isn’t producing its merchandise sustainably, so I, personally, will probably never shop there again. And, as a feminist, I am saddened by the company’s reaction to pushback from a segment of its customers. A group who took an interview that is said to have focused on Steinem’s views on equal rights and being a woman in the modern workplace, and turned it into an argument about religious and political beliefs. But in addition to making this misguided choice, LE has and will continue to be one of the only clothing manufacturers that silently champions size equality. And that is important. So you’ll continue to see links to their merchandise here. Naturally, I completely respect anyone’s choice to boycott or never shop with the company again, as I’m sure many of you will do. But what I’m trying to do here on this blog is build an informative and supportive community that makes all women feel important and welcome. So even if they make the occasional disappointingly profit-driven or PR-centric choice, I want to support companies that go out of their way to show women that – no matter who they are or how they’re shaped – they are important and welcome.


  • If you feel strongly about this issue, express your views respectfully and civilly or they will not be published. I’m happy to facilitate a discussion that includes contrary opinions, but will not tolerate cruelty.
  • Be courteous and kind to each other when responding to remarks from other readers.

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  • Samantha Manzella

    Thanks for tackling this, Sally. I’m a journalism and communications student, and even though I’ve never taken a PR class, I can tell you right now that apologizing like this is a weak and silly move. Lands End made a choice to interview Steinem–so stand by it! I don’t personally shop from Lands End, but I find it silly that anyone who is pro-life would boycott the company purely because they chose to feature someone an article, especially if the controversial subject at hand wasn’t even mentioned in the piece. You’re so right about Lands End incorporating a wide range of sizes. Their message is clear: all women are important and welcome. Steinem sure as hell supports that message, too.

    Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful commentary.

  • QuahogHedgehog

    Thanks for your thoughtful commentary here. I have always enjoyed that you keep their links on relevant things, since I’m in the plus size range and they have always been able to accommodate me. I absolutely think that you should keep doing that; it’s your blog, it’s your decision, and it seems well reasoned, though personally I need a break from them. Not because I’m doing any kind of a boycott, but because I feel so meh over the whole thing I’ll probably shop elsewhere for a while until that feeling passes.
    It was disappointing though, both because people are unable to see all the good she has done that has nothing to do with reproductive choice and also that LE was unable to ride it out 🙁

  • Elaine Halsey Drew

    Are you sure that Lands End isn’t sustainable or at least working towards more sustainable practices? I looked on their website recently and found information saying that they had adopted many of these, so I changed my mind (hopefully accurately). As far as the other issue, I think they should have made a commitment (or not ) & stuck w/ it. I also unhappy, however, with Gloria, even though she has done amazing work in the past I agree. Her & Madeline’s opinions that a woman belongs in hell if they don’t vote for a female candidate made me really angry. Freedom of choice should be respected on this subject as well.

  • I have to admit, I was kind of baffled by their choice to feature Gloria Steinem–or anyone really–in a magazine-like feature at all. I deeply respect Steinem’s opinions and accomplishments; I am a feminist, and I have very strong opinions of my own. It was just … odd… to see a clothing retailer take such an unprecedented (for LE) editorial approach to its catalog design. It was a little less weird to see the same edition of the catalog (I believe anyway, or maybe it was the one following the Steinem edition) feature one of its more mature models in an interview about her active lifestyle. But still, not what I expect from a clothing retailer. If LE wants to get political–and make no mistake, Gloria Steinem is always going to be political and will always push the buttons of a certain segment of the population, regardless of their beliefs about women in the workplace–then they have to be able to stick to their guns, so to speak, and say “This is our perspective. It informs our design and merchandising decisions. Take it or leave it.” They needed to be prepared for this kind of push-back. I have to wonder who at LE thought this would be a good idea. Whoever it was must be incredibly naïve. And may now be without a job.

  • Ginger

    Good points about specialty sizes! I like that they make swimsuits for women who’ve had breast cancer surgery and they aren’t all black and they look just like swimsuits for women who haven’t. The last thing a woman facing the pool or beach after breast cancer surgery needs is a swimsuit that screams — I had breast cancer surgery and now I have to buy my swimsuit at a medical supply store that has two styles, both black.

    Personally I was disappointed in Steinem for appearing in a catalog, but that’s mostly because I’m still peeved at her and her comments about why young women might not support he Presidential candidate of her choice. I felt that was a huge miscalculation on her part.

    I agree with you about cowardice on LE part.

  • marsha_calhoun

    I am pleased that you will continue to do your job and present options for all women, allowing them to pick and choose which ones to patronize. I just wish Lands’ End (what’s that wretched apostrophe about, anyway?) would do its job and restrict itself to providing quality clothing for a wide variety of women, and stop trying to manipulate (that is, attract) customers by attempting to associate itself with social issues. When I want clothes, I want clothes; the marketing department should be sent home and the money directed toward providing a good product and clear sourcing information so I can make up my own mind. Featuring an interview with a public figure is far outside what should be the mission of the organization.

    • it’s the possessive form of “land”: as in “the end [belonging to] the land”. Land’s End is a place name.

      • marsha_calhoun

        I was wondering about the placement of the apostrophe – Land’s end (the end of the land) makes sense; Lands’ End (which is the way the company itself places the apostrophe, and which should mean the end of more than one land) makes no sense to me.

        • Sorry, I mistyped. But yes, Lands’ is the possessive of the plural. Think “the end of all lands”. The location named that way must have seemed like the ends of the earth. Very poetic.

      • marsha_calhoun

        Ye gods – from their site: “In the years since, the misplaced apostrophe has continued to grace our name and our label. And while it has prompted some raised eyebrows among English teachers, it sets us apart as a company whose continuing concern for what’s best for the customer is unmistakably human.” This admission of an initial mistake that they couldn’t afford to correct is followed by several tear-jerking examples of their wonderfulness that in no way are associated with the apostrophe that “sets them apart.” I repeat: Get rid of that marketing department!

  • Hi all – reader Chris was having trouble getting her comment through – please email me if this ever happens to you! So she asked me to post her comment on her behalf

    From Chris

    Oh good grief! I too, thought that it was a bit odd for a clothing catalog to print an interview with a prominent person. That is, perhaps other than a notable person in the clothing or fashion industry. I wonder what LE’s true motivation, not their stated one, in featuring Steinem. I had speculated it was about LE’s bottom line, a celebrity endorsement.

    Regardless, I don’t think the PR dept thought it all the way out. They must be incredibly naive or inexperienced. Jumping into the political arena means there is a willingness and readiness to be splattered, fight dirty, and stand behind chosen principles. I don’t think it would have been any worse if LE endorsed a presidential candidate and then later said, “We sorry. We offended some of our customers. We take back our endorsement of x.” I think this whole thing was a very bad move on LE’s part. Now LE is alienating both the pro-choice and the pro-life folks.

    Has Steinem commented after the apology? I wonder how she feels. I can just hear it. “Oh Ms Steinem, you were cool last week. But you proved to be to controversial. So we’re going to take care of the problem by tossing you in the dumpster in back of the offices.”

    I think LE should have stuck to what they do best, clothing. I have been buying clothes from LE since the 90s. I have always liked their products. But recently I have been struggling with buying from them without knowing for sure how their garments are being sourced. Yes, I know they post pretty words on their website, but how much of it is true? I don’t have the money or the contacts to travel the world to investigate their vendors.

    When I first started purchasing fro LE in the early 90s, a lot of their clothing, was made in the USA. The quality was superior to what it is today. In fact, I still have many of those garments. And if I wanted to, I could drop by their mfg facilities in the US. LE used to brag about it in those old catalogs. Now with this thing with Steinem, I don’t know if I will buy from LE again or not. I have to think about it some more.

    This interview with Steinem, this little episode has the potential to crash the whole company. We will see in the days ahead how it plays out.

    • crtfly

      Thanks so much Sally!

    • mmelaprof

      “When I first started purchasing fro LE in the early 90s, a lot of their clothing, was made in the USA. … LE used to brag about it in those old catalogs.”

      So much this! Thanks for pointing this out. It wasn’t even that long ago.

  • Nebraskim

    Spot on with your comments, Sal. Thanks for tackling this. As a retired PR professional I was disappointed that LE backed off. The CEO of Penzey’s, a spice purveyor out of Madison, Wisconsin, comments often in their catalog about their support for teachers, their disgust over Wisconsin’s governor, and a variety of issues. He is absolutely unapologetic about his support of liberal causes and says if it loses him customers, that’s their loss, not his. I value authenticity. If some LE customers were offended, they could vote with their feet, just as I choose to never shop at Walmart or Hobby Lobby, nor eat Chick-fil-a. None of those companies miss my business and I prefer to spend my dollars elsewhere. Lands’ End managed to offend way more people by backing off/apologizing than if they had just owned the interview and said, “here is a woman of substance.”

  • greendoc

    i’m one of the readers who messaged you about this, Sally, so thanks for responding. Gloria Steinem, a feminist icon who helped to improve the lives of millions of women, is so much more important than Land’s End. Let’s not loose sight of all Gloria Steinem and the first-wave feminists helped bring forth for all of us: women, men and children. My mother was born in 1929, and I was born in 1961. And then the women’s rights movement happened. I’ve had countless more opportunities at home and professionally than my mother ever had, and for that I am eternally grateful to Ms. Steinem and her colleagues. Land’s End is merely a catalog selling bland, practical clothes, and will never be more than that to me. Ms. Steinem, on the other hand, changed the game and the rules. She will always deserve my gratitude.

  • Wendy Leonardo

    I have to admit, this Lands End business has caused me some anxiety. Though I don’t buy as much from them as I used to, I really depend on some of the basics they sell. I’m still trying to decide whether to boycott. Other commenters have said it better than I can, but I feel that when LE decided to print the Steinem interview, they should have been prepared to defend it and not cave to a protest unrelated to the topic of that interview.

  • montroyal04

    I feel sad about this whole thing, because I rely on Lands’ End for affordable well-made clothes in my size. I emailed them that I will continue to support them, and I feel for them because it just seemed like their facebook page got hijacked by a particular end of the political spectrum and they panicked.

  • TheLibrarian28

    Thanks so much for bringing this to the attention of your readers. I hadn’t heard about it, but I did think it was pretty cool when I saw Gloria Steinem in my latest LE catalog. Little did I know…After I read your post, I fired off an email to LE telling them I will no long be a customer because of their cowardly behavior and lack of support for women’s rights. Thank you again.

  • Teresa L

    Ok, so Lands’ End stepped in it on this one but I do believe they were trying to promote equality. The same equality and acceptance I see in their product lines – clothing for all sizes. Where else can I find a quality swimsuit for my plus sized child that is age appropriate? Let alone an entire line of clothing. What a boost to self-esteem as to actually have clothes that fit you!
    I will continue to support Lands’ End, they seem to treat their employees well and offer products for all.