Open Letter to GAP

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gapLogoDear Gap,

Do know I love you, and I have loved you for a very long time. When I turned 16 I headed to my nearby Super Gap (think it was a precursor to Old Navy) and turned in a job application. You never called (maybe because I was 16 and had no experience?) but it didn’t change my love for you.

One of the first outfits I recall purchasing was from that same Super Gap. Emerald green tee-shirt hiked up with a brown leather belt at the hips, an emerald and navy plaid cotton drop-waist skirt that puffed out quite nicely. My sister had a similar look in pink.

An Open Letter to Gap

two high school students hugging in a school auditorium. The woman is wearing a dark green v-neck sweater from Gap
Me in high school with a friend wearing a Gap sweater

I still have that forest-green v-neck sweater I bought for my high school boyfriend Shaun (that is not Shaun in the picture). Remember it, with the wide stripes of navy, gray and ivory at the neck? It was 1992 and very preppy in a cool way. We broke up around Thanksgiving and I was secretly grateful for then I could keep the sweater for myself.

How about that pewter shantung a-line wrap skirt I found on the clearance rack for $9.99? The snap was missing but was otherwise perfect. I paired it with a black silk twinset and black ballet flats and felt like Audrey Hepburn. That skirt is sitting in my attic waiting for the moment when I again fit into a size 10.

Gosh, I am still sporting my forest green hoodie with the half-zip neckline that I got in 6th grade. Then it was paired with leggings and puffy socks, but now it goes with me on every camping trip and it is thrown on every sick day. Other than the torn seam at the pocket, it looks almost brand new.

I did denim cheat a few times in high school and college. Guess, Calvin Klein and Express were shiny and attractive, but you were the one that always fit me best. You were always who I went running to when the others were too tight/too loose/too trendy.

After college, my body became more… curvy and it seemed that the only store that accommodated my curves was you. I found jeans that were not only the right rise on my petite frame, but the right length to let me wear heels without either tripping over the hem or have my ankle bones show. Oh the original Lowrise Bootcut… I kept my first pair for two years after they tore at the crotch in some hope that the Denim Fairy would come and make them whole.

gap store

But Gap, you started betraying me. You modified the Lowrise Bootcut, making the denim stiffer and the legs slimmer. Don’t you know by now that I have “athletic” thighs? I still bought them, but instead of a custom fit, I had to do squats each morning to get them to be comfortable. It made me feel… the way Express started making me feel at the beginning of the new millennium: used… and fat. Then you discontinued the Lowrise Bootcut altogether. Why, Gap? Why?

On one of those increasingly rare occasions, I had the pleasure to work with a salesperson who was A. knowledgeable about your line, and B. helpful. She suggested I try your new Curvy line of denim, suggesting the Curvy Bootcut as a decent alternative to the Lowrise.

The denim wasn’t as refined, the color not as hip, the fit not as exquisite, but it was good enough that I could again own a pair of jeans and not show my thong each time I sat or fear that my “athletic” thighs would bust a seam. I purchased a pair and wore them regularly, the denim molding to my figure with each wash and wear.

After a season of wear, my Curvy Bootcut was looking a bit ragged and the trends were heading toward more indigo of territory. I returned to you, hoping for a replacement pair. Yet again, you betrayed me by discontinuing this line as well!

gap store in a mall

I tried every style in your store, finding them all to be built for someone else – a woman with skinny legs, no curve to her belly, and no junk in her trunk. When you chose to bring back this line, yet again it was altered to no longer fit a REAL curvy body.

What happened? Did I go to sleep and wake up to a world of stick-people? I looked around me and saw the same women as before – curvy, soft, natural, and desperate for a decent-fitting pair of jeans.

Beautiful women in jeans way past their prime – waistbands above the belly button, tapered ankles, dated stonewashed hues. Gorgeous ladies with muffin tops, exposed ankle bones, exposed undergarments, and suffering legs in binding denim. Women who are clinging to old pairs because nothing current fits. Women who have succumbed to denim built for plastic mannequins and not human beings. Women with NEEDS.

Last year I was in San Francisco, your stomping grounds. My job had me visit your hallowed halls and I even ate in your cafeteria and sat on your terrace and admired your view. I felt as though I was Home. I met one of your bigwigs, and together, we went to your flagship store to go shopping. I, a curvy petite brunette, and she, a leggy blonde, scoured all the many floors of your store for new fall jeans. On a whim, I picked up a pair of your denim trousers in size 12 Regular, no less (at the time, I was a solid 14 Petite). You know what? They FIT!

For the first time since my affair with the Lowrise Bootcut a pair of your denim fit me as though they were made for my body. It didn’t hurt things to know I comfortably slid into a size smaller too. I left the fitting room to find that Leggy Blonde had also fallen for your denim trousers. The magic was back – your ability to dress all women and make us all feel great about our figures.

I wore the heck out of those denim trousers. I would hang them dry and iron them to press a crease down the front. I got rid of all my not-quite-right denim, slipping into the trousers at least once a week, of not more. Each time I wore them, I got compliments on the style, the color, and questions as to whether I had lost weight. I glowed; I had that look of love.

Even with careful maintenance, those denim trousers started to falter. The color began to fade, the hem began to fray, the fabric between the thighs started showing signs of wear. I went to your website to buy a replacement pair but they were no longer available. I ordered an alternative and returned them before even trying them on – I could tell in the package that they wouldn’t flatter. The denim was too stiff, the slash pockets would bulge from my curves, the waistband would probably dig into me when I was sitting.

gp488584 00p01v01A couple of weeks ago, I came back to you. You had updated your website and I eagerly logged on to see your fall collection. Your denim selection was extensive, but I didn’t see anything that was quite right… the straight leg trouser jean. No slash or patch pockets in front, no flap pockets in back. A clean look and a delectable color and finish. A worthy replacement to my San Fran pair, almost exactly like the original. I ordered them in haste and waited with bated breath for their arrival.

Finally, they arrived. They were even more beautiful in person. I put them on… and they fit well. Not as well as San Fran, but not too shabby. I liked the 2007 details – the detail on the back pockets, the tab waistband, the dark grainy wash.

Today I decided to finally wear them. I looked in the mirror and was pleased with the reflection.

I drove to work, and when I got out of my car, the tab waist unsnapped (there is an inner button, then an exterior snap for the waistband). Maybe I moved weirdly; I re-snapped the pants and walked to the building.

The pants unsnapped twice on the walk to the building and once in the elevator. As soon as I stood up from my desk chair to retrieve a document from the printer, my pants unsnapped again, having the denim tab stick straight out from my waist through the denim, making this wardrobe malfunction obvious to everyone around me.

I used my document to cover my waist and rushed back to my desk, searching my purse for a safety pin. All I had was one of those little gold ones that attaches tags to garments. I attempted to use it to hold my pants together, but your denim was too strong and the pin bent and collapsed under the weight.

I was angry and could not wait to get home and throw these pants back in the box and send them back. Then I went to the local grocery to grab lunch. I was walking from my car, walking carefully and with perfect posture to keep the pants intact. I saw my friend Megan who was grabbing a drink from Starbucks. “Look at you Al, have you lost weight?”

Oh, Gap, how you toy with my mind and heart. You KNOW I am a sucker for the weight loss compliment. I followed Megan to Starbucks and we chatted, your jeans staying snapped the whole time. Walked back to the car, jeans still on good behavior. Then walking back to the office building, and you unsnapped. TWICE.

You know what the problem is? These jeans were not made for a tummy. No tummy at ALL. If I suck in my stomach and have perfect posture, the jeans stay relatively intact. But if I move, walk, BREATHE they unsnap. A quarter of an inch more on the tab, and these jeans would have worked for a woman with a six-pack or with a bit of softness to her shape. But noooo…. Yet again you have betrayed the softer sex and made jeans that have us believe there is something wrong with US.

Gap, I know you haven’t been doing well financially and I would hate to see you go. I think of many great outfits in my past, and most had at least one Gap garment in it. But if you don’t stop and see the population of this country, you will fade away.

You have Old Navy for the cheap basics and trendy pieces. Banana Republic is great for the young professional and elegant staples for many ages. And you? You should be a guaranteed spot for great jeans, well-made tee shirts and a bunch of fun pieces to jazz up a wardrobe of staples.

The last hoodie I got from you had two seams fray in the wash. My newest denim skirt faded after one round in the washing machine, and the new scoop-necked tees I got from you in a Large are too big and the Medium are like bodysuits. Your chance for survival is not going to be based upon designer collaborations but from being reliable.

You need to be a standard for American women (and women around the globe), but now you are a place I see many females walk right past in the mall to head to J. Crew, Levis, or a department store.

No, you can’t compete with the high-end designer denim, but you still have a chance to hold onto your title as American Fashion Mecca. Just remember who it is you’re actually trying to dress. Your mannequins aren’t the ones with the money.


A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. ive just bought a pair of long and lean stretch in the UK. my last 3 pairs were US size 4 and were brilliant. But this pair had a VERY stretchy type demin (like they were made with some different material),had UK sizing, and not as deep a hem at the bottom! Definately not the long an lean that I knew and loved

  2. I also agree completely! I used to LOVE the gap, I wore something from the gap everyday! Usually their jeans, in the past few years I have had a harder and harder time trying to find a pair that I like. I also bought the first round of the “curvy” jeans finding them stiff and only ok. I used to love the long and leans, however I dont find much luck with them either. I think I just bought the Trouser jeans you wrote about- I have not worn them yet- I am interested to see if I have the same problem with the tab closure. Thanks for the great column and lets hope someone in Gap designs reads this letter.

  3. Allie
    You are a true star, I feel the same way about gap. What is up with the fall line? I am happy to also know that I am not crazy. Keep up the good work. Thank you for always making my day. Good Luck on your shoe purchase.

  4. Add me to the list of former Long & Lean fans. I was too tall for the petite and too short for the regular. Ankle was my dream come true. Now the ankle length goes about five inches past my leg and the petite is sized too oddly. I mourn the loss of my denim happiness.

  5. Three cheers for your open letter, and I will sign on as well. Although I don’t wear jeans, the issues of fit is a terrible one for me when it comes to trousers. So, I really don’t wear those either. Let’s hear it for the “athletic” thighs! I’ve got those too.

  6. Your story about the denim trousers from last year broke my heart because when we own a great pair of jeans, it is the best feeling. Maybe that is the lesson to take to Gap – if you do find a pair that really works – stock up on them.

  7. It’s not just in the US that this is happening. I am in the UK and used to love the Long and Lean jeans. Now the longer length is not long enough anymore and the denim is all of the ‘stretch’ variety. Shirts, tees, dresses are all made from flimsy, see through fabric (who buys stuff like that?!) and the prices have not decreased. Primark sell better quality at the moment.

    And for some unknown reason, online ordering is not available outside the UK, leaving mea tortured by the Tall lengths available in the US. Come on Gap, sort it out!

  8. Hi Allie – I did a post a month or so ago about how happy I was that the Gap seemed to be returning to its roots by doing simple dresses that are washable, trousers, button up blouses and basic sweaters. I do think that they have thankfully given up trying to be like A&F. But I do agree with you that the Gap jeans are very frustrating. I bought “long and lean” jeans last summer and I really liked them – they fit, didn’t give me butt dimples, and they were a solid, darker wash. I gained five pounds and these jeans felt too tight so I returned a few months later to buy new long and leans. They didn’t have any solid washes but instead were distressed. I bought two pair one size up not realizing that the fabirc and cuts had been changed and I had them hemmed before I wore them (I am between ankle and regular) and by the time I realized the style, fabic, sizing changes, it was too late. I didn’t realize that they would change the styles but call it the same thing. They relaunched them again this spring and not one of the styles wash a solid dark wash. So there went my favorite pair of jeans. I don’t like the trouser jeans at all. I had the pair that you loved and wore out (they looked the same in your pictures). They looked great for an hour and then would get stretched out and sag.

    As for the other “GAP” brands, I love Old Navy classic t-shirts and tanks (they are thick and not too long like JCrew’s – which are also too thin) and I love the styles at BR but I find their quality has gone way down. I will not buy a sweater at BR anymore since almost all the sweaters I bought last year pilled all over after the first wear and I had to return them all.

    Stacy London was on Oprah to talk about jeans and you can find her advice at

  9. WORD on the large is too big/medium fits like a bodysuit. And I have noticed the same problem, but far worse, between L and XL. The XL fits like a circus tent and the L is much much smaller than just one size down should be.

    And the Gap used to be so great!

  10. I got a Gap gift card from my Amex rewards a while back. Went into the store- didn’t see ANYTHING. Picked up a navy crew neck T and have had a $9.53 balance on my gift card ever since. Maybe i can purchase socks or something…

  11. I am also sad at Gap’s fall from grace. It was my favorite store in college. Then it just wasn’t cool anymore. The clothes became either weird or too expensive. And they do seem to “relaunch” their denim every year, making the old styles obsolete.

  12. Whatup fellow Falcon? 🙂

    Yeah, his name was Khalil; he was in our graduating class. Yeppers, that is in the school auditorium senior year! I think it was graduation rehearsal, when we ordered or caps and gowns, something like that… I scanned a buncha old pics recently, I need to send some your way or add more to my MySpace page! 😀

  13. Hey! Is that picture from Central? I feel like I recognize the guy, but can’t come up with a name. (My children have stolen my brain).

    I can’t remember the last time I found jeans in the Gap that fit. They’re either too long, too short, or gap at the waist. Sad, really, because who of our generation doesn’t have fond memories of “falling into the Gap”?
    Great post!

    Sonja 🙂

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