Dressbarn, Memories, and Humanizing Corporations


Debbie says:

Katelyn Burns, a journalist and transwoman whom I follow on Twitter, wrote a lovely memoir essay about the role of her local Dressbarn, first in her trying to save the (loving) marriage she was in before she transitioned, and then in providing her the perfect dress for her first day on the job with her new name and gender presentation.

Her essay is lovely and I recommend that you read it. And I doubt she will disagree with what I have to say, even though she didn’t address this issue.

“That particular Dressbarn, in a parking lot between an Olive Garden and a Super Cuts” has been a key spot in Burns’ life. And a little web-surfing turns up a general agreement that many Dressbarns have been friendly places for trans and transitioning women to try on clothes (along with a surprising number of other national chains).

But … Dressbarn’s management and its parent company management have (this almost goes without saying) never issued a trans friendly policy. There’s no reason to believe management would discipline an employee who was rude or inappropriate to a transwoman. And there’s certainly no clear record of sensitivity or inclusiveness training, or any simple way to find out if the management employs any transpeople.

Chain stores are designed for the convenience of the owners–not the customers, and surely not the employees. If we are treated well in chain stores, it’s because the staff is providing respectful and human interactions–which we are socialized and trained to then associate with the brand.

I couldn’t be happier that Katelyn Burns found what she needed at her local Dressbarn. And I completely get why she is sad to see Dressbarn closing.

At the same time, I feel sure that Burns is as aware as I am that the closing 650 stores is something the top management folks did in their own best interest–with no more concern for what happens to its laid-off employees than it does for whether or not Burns used one of its stores as a stepping stone to a new life. That Dressbarn was where Burns found what she needed–but Dressbarn as a disposable corporate entity doesn’t deserve the credit.