FFS, Lands' End

I have a shameful, embarrassing confession to make: I really, really love Lands' End clothing.

There. I said it. I do. I really, really do. It's so well-made and long-lasting and reliably OK-looking and practical. I have literally gone from a day at the beach with the kids to a dinner with the Smartner in an entirely acceptable (B)Lands' End dress, just like a mom-on-the-go caricature in bad catalog copy would. In fact, it was this dress below, which, along with another version of it in a print and a third copy with sleeves, formed my daily uniform all last summer.

Every. Damn. Day. (Image Source)

So, it was with an illicit thrill that I opened my newest catalog of sturdy Lands' End near-fashion when it arrived in my mailbox this week. I could tell from first glance that this catalog was a special one. The photos in the first few pages of the catalog look like the kind of fashion editorial that J. Crew would feature, with a clan of approachably attractive people having some wholesome, well-styled, outdoorsy fun at what looks to be an Easter garden party for the extraordinarily wealthy. So special, Lands' End! Such a treat!

And then, people, after this very fresh and modern fantasy of tame family fashion comes an even bigger and more delightful surprise. Why, it's Gloria Steinem herself in a four page advertorial introducing Lands' End's Legend Series! The Legend Series is an "ode to individuals who have made a difference in both their respective industries and the world at large," and Steinem's interview is the first in the series. As much as I initially wanted to cringe and make fun of the photos of Gloria Steinem lounging in a no-iron shirt (p. 6), dark-wash jeans (p. 19), and blazer (available only online), the interview is just fine. Steinem speaks about the Equal Rights Amendment and empathy, as well as her life experiences of starting Ms. Magazine, traveling, and speaking widely in support of female equality. The purpose of the piece is threefold (fourfold if you count selling high-rise khakis): it promotes Steinem's new book, My Life on the Road and the ERA Coalition, and it announces Lands' End's financial support for the Fund for Gender Equality. I can get behind all of these things, and so I chose to overlook the fundamental cheeziness of the entire article in favor of appreciating what good it was doing.

But some people didn't overlook it! Oh, no! Even though the entire advertorial was completely inoccuous and very mainstream, some folks took one look at it and saw only one thing:

I swear these aren't on offer at Lands' End. Promise. (Image Source)

Apparently all some of Lands' End's angrier and more vocal customers can see in the puffiest of pieces on Gloria Steinem is a pro-choice boogeywoman and implicit abortion-rights declaration. And, I guess, that's always going to be the case. There is a population for whom, in some unnuanced and unsophisticated form of flawed arithmetic, feminism will always equal abortion and only abortion. And that's too bad, but I suppose it isn't that surprising.

What is surprising, though, is that this bullshit equation and its adherents completely succeeded in their ridiculous campaign to make Lands' End withdraw its support of Steinem (though, apparently, not its donations to the Fund for Gender Equality). That's right, friends! According to Jezebel, once confronted with an assault of angry pro-life comments on its Facebook page, including pictures of the prettiest Lands' End catalog ever in the trash (What, pro-lifers? You don't recycle?), Lands' End issued an official apology for featuring Steinem:

“We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality. We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize. Our goal was to feature individuals with different interests and backgrounds that have made a difference for our new Legends Series, not to take any political or religious stance.”

And here's where I wish that Lands' End the company could be as strong and reliable as their goddamn chinos. Because, honestly Lands' End, you DIDN'T take any political or religious stance by featuring Steinem in your "Legend Series" Q&A. While your detractors, many of whom likely didn't read the piece, would paint it as some kind of radical rabble-rousing, it truly is only the milkiest of milquetoast writing. This would have been an ideal moment to take a stand for reason and logic, and your catalog-tossing complainers would likely have disappeared after a week of Facebook furor. But, no. You caved. You tore like a badly reinforced seam and frayed the reputation of practical reliability you work so hard to build in your brand. What a damn shame. What a stupid, damn shame.

The irony of a company known for making iconic bags not having the ability to sack up and fight back in the face of absolute nonsense is staggering.

This sack is empty. (Image Source)

Now Ms Magazine is, of course, calling for readers to demand that Lands' End withdraw its withdrawal of support for Steinem and re-include the article in the Legend Series. And, sure, I'd like to see Lands' End try to rectify their cowardly mistake in issuing a toothless apology to thoughtless people. But it's too late. I see the company for what it is. The emperor wears no clothes, let alone well-crafted basics that take you from (forgettable) day to (boring) evening in a flash.

I was so looking forward to placing my usual early-spring order for my summer wardrobe of sturdy staples and an army of fit-and-flare dresses to see me through September, and now it just feels - not even dirty or wrong - just stupid. So, thank goodness I managed to thrift a like-new copy of my favorite Lands' End sundress in my size this week. Maybe I'll donate the difference between the retail price and the thrift price to the Fund for Gender Equality and call it a day. Or, what the Hell?, maybe I'll just write that check to Planned Parenthood itself.

Reliable pieces of tame fashion are a dime a dozen, but integrity is rare. And I'd rather put my money to better use than lining the well-crafted pockets of cowardly practitioners of unnecessary capitulation.