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J.C. Penney Just Gave a Perfect Response to the Skirt ‘Controversy’

J.C. Penney is still selling a skirt that generated controversy on social media.J.C. Penney is still selling a skirt that generated controversy on social media.
J.C. Penney is still selling a skirt that generated controversy on social media.Courtesy of J.C. Penny

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new dress controversy exploding across the Twitter universe this week. And the retailer ensnared in the latest fashion faux pas is striking an aloof tone that could be a benchmark to how brands can handle these “controversies.”

The latest target of the Twitterati is department-store operator J.C. Penney (JCP). What angered the masses? A $24 pencil skirt marketed under the retailer’s in-house Worthington brand looks innocent enough: it is white with an infrared floral print. The dress is so unremarkable that it has zero online reviews.

So what’s the problem? Blame the dirty minds on Twitter (TWTR). The dress has gone viral as some on social media lament the flower’s placing and coloring – going as far as to call it the “period dress.”

An image of the dress can be seen in the following tweet.

But J.C. Penney, rather than pulling the typical corporate move of apologizing and pulling the offending skirt, did something unusual in this age of social media outrage. It defended the dress.

Here’s how J.C. Penney responded:

Fortune reached out for further comment, but J.C. Penney is a corporation of few words when it comes to the issue. The official response from the press team: “The Company is going to refrain from providing additional comment beyond the response we issued yesterday on Twitter @jcpenney. Thanks for your interest.” And judging by the tweets that followed, many Twitter users agreed. “We don’t have JC Penney in Nova Scotia, but I’d wear the heck out of that skirt. Any time,” one wrote.



The retailer’s understated reaction is notable because it goes against the reflective response by Big Business to get out of a “negative” news cycle as fast as possible. And for readers that like the dress, there’s an added incentive today: it is currently retailing for 40% off the original price.

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J.C. Penney is establishing a bit of a reputation when it comes to skirting controversy. In 2013, a tea kettle that purportedly resembled Adolf Hitler quickly sold out on the company’s website but also drew some negative press attention for why the company would sell such a product in the first place.

In a series of tweets to various individuals lamenting the kitchen item’s appearance, J.C. Penney said the design’s likeness was unintentional. But they didn’t apologize, instead, their tone was pretty much: “Get over it.”

Here’s how they responded to actress Mia Farrow in 2013.