Aerie: a New Nest for Feminists

American Eagle Outfitters’ sister-brand, Aerie, boasts its #aerieREAL campaign with taglines like “Love Me, Don’t Retouch Me”, “Time to get real. No supermodels. No retouching.” and “The Real You is Sexy.”

The #aerieREAL campaign began with the line’s Spring 2014 release, and started by featuring young women, Aerie’s target demographic, posing in Aerie’s products without the overly sexualized intensity of a lot of their competitors.  This new tactic featured their shopping bags declaring that “The girl with this bag has not been retouched. The real you is sexy. #aerieREAL”, further emphasizing the campaign’s main goal: to empower girls and young women.

AEO also makes a point of engaging with their audience in a variety of ways: they encourage their fans and customers to share their Aerie Real-ness with hashtags on instagram and twitter, for a chance to be featured on the Aerie blog in their favourite Aerie wear.  And that little bit of fame is a good feeling — one that can be easily associated with the Brandy Melville method of conducting their market research.

Starting and ending here with beachy looks, we on the #BoycottBrandy team feel the most positively about American Eagle and Aerie brands, because of these philosophies that they have adopted.  AEO makes sure that they are a responsible company, declaring their awareness of the impact that fashion has on people — especially young women — and body image through their “AEO Better World” programs.  On Aerie specifically: “Our aerie line is tailored to young women, so we take special steps to address their unique needs in creating a balanced, healthy life.”  Unlike Brandy Melville, whose philosophy is myopic and exclusionary, in a world that already constantly works to control, exclude, and disempower women, especially young girls.

AEO endorses programs like “Bright Pink“, a non-profit organization focused on breast and ovarian cancer prevention and education, and “HERproject,” an initiative for equality between men and women in global supply chains.

The #aerieREAL twitter feed is full of tweets from fans saying “this was definitely uplifting” and “please do more of these”, because working with girls to help them celebrate their bodies the way that they are is actually empowering and body positive, rather than just pretending to be.

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This all being said, #aerieREAL is not without its own problems.  While racial diversity is evident in the campaign photos and ads, there is still plenty to be desired in terms of the diversity of body types being presented.  The next step for Aerie’s REAL should be to diversify the sizes of their models, and to get over their fear of the word “fat.”

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I for one would love to see #aerieREAL take up the mantle of un-demonizing fatness, since they’ve already proven to be willing to take the risk of going against the grain by not retouching their models. To put it in their own words: “It’s time to feature beautiful images that reflect all realities” (my emphasis). I love the engagement that they’ve taken to their audience and want to see more, more, more of it!!!

Brandy Melville, as well as other labels, can definitely learn a thing or two from AEO’s progressive model.  Besides saving themselves money on graphic designers, who have to put hours into the model retouching, clothing companies can enact change in the way women’s bodies are perceived, and how women perceive their own bodies.  If we embrace everyone’s “imperfection” and keep rolling on with this celebration of realness as normal, the world will be a safer, more positive, more uplifting place.

More Links for You, as Always…

AEO Better World

Aerie on Twitter and Instagram 

xoxo – Kristin

Fashion: For Women, By Men?

For an industry that basically runs on marketing towards women, fashion is surprisingly full of men.

According to TIME Magazine’s “All-TIME Top 100 Fashion Icons List” (as of 2015), 51% of these icons are women. A majority indeed, but only by a percent.  And as we delve deeper into the more detailed statistics, it becomes clear that the entire thing is still fairly skewed, with white, middle-aged men in the most influential and active roles in the system.  Organized into the five categories that TIME has employed, here are the numbers:

  • 26% of top fashion designer labels are women*, of which 16% are women of colour.  Women of colour make up 4% of the total list of top fashion designers.

  • 100% of top models are women, of which 3% are women of colour.

  • 75% of “muses” are women, of which 13% are women of colour. 

  • 15% of top photograhers are women. Neither of the two women in this thirteen-person category are women of colour.

  • 100% of top stylists and/or editors are women. None of them are women of colour.

  • Overall, this adds up to 7% representation of people of colour on the entire list.

*Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, as with any of the other listed pairs of designers, are counted as one.

This makes me upset.  This makes me upset because in this world of ours, women are expected to be constantly conscious — if not obsessed — of their appearance.  And we can’t win, either: if I’m too worried about how I look, I’m shallow; if I’m not trying hard enough to look nice, I’m lazy and ugly and “not like a girl.”  It goes both ways as well:  men who dress themselves well are often assumed to be gay or less masculine in some way or another and if he tries to look nice, he’s accused of being too much like a girl — as if that’s a bad thing.

This is especially upsetting because as a woman with even a mild interest in fashion, I can’t believe that the people behind the ads that are everywhere are resoundingly white and male — especially when white boys are, more often than not, the most annoying when it comes to a) dressing themselves and b) demanding that women dress for them, and not themselves.

Actually, when I think about it further, I really shouldn’t be that surprised.

“Sex sells” is a phrase that’s heard a lot around advertising, and if we take into consideration the high number of women who are in more passive roles in the fashion/modelling industry — 25 of the 30 models and ‘muses’ listed by TIME — I can’t help but think that this is due to the tendency for women’s bodies to be over sexualized. So once they are used in this way in an industry that sets the status quo for what women “should” look like, they also become perpetuators of that sexualization, regardless of intention.

The three categories of icons dominated by women are as models, editors/stylists, and muses. As such, these categories are all passive in comparison to the number of men who make up the designer section.  These roles in the industry, while definitely important, are relatively passive because in each of these roles, women are being given items to critique, to wear and model in, or they are the “inspiration” for the designers to create from.   Rather than giving women the role of creator, or giving them more control over the fashion industry, they are looked at and admired — and in doing so, they are easily reduced to objects to be manipulated by the men of the industry.

The women dominating the editors/stylists category is also problematic for a few reasons.  While it is excellent that women’s are the discerning eyes who decide the “do’s and don’ts” and “ins and outs” through their editorials and blogs, we should be concerned that TIME’s top ten editors are all white women. Harper’s Bazaar’s “14 Fashion Blogger Instagrams to Follow Now” also features an all-female list of bloggers, however just over three quarters of that list are also white women.  What does this say about the people in fashion whose opinions matter?  Women of colour don’t get much of a say anywhere, after already being erased by the visual media.

The low numbers of female designers and female photographers on this list also indicates a high priority for the male gaze.  Not only are men the ones in control of the clothing that the predominantly white female models are going to wear, they are also in complete control over the photos produced that will eventually move into the advertisements plastered all over magazines, websites, and other social media.  Why aren’t more women being recognized? Why aren’t more women getting into these jobs and onto these lists?

So then how does this relate to #BoycottBrandy?

Brandy Melville’s model-recruitment strategy starts and ends with young girls — and even this company was founded by two men.  The girls they choose for their marketing research are typically 15-16 years old according to an article by racked.com , and if the actual Brandy Melville Instagram (brandymelvilleusa) is any indicator, all of them are tiny, long-haired white girls.  But who can really be surprised that this is the aesthetic that they are going for, and that most people seem to be pretty okay with its exclusionary standards, when we look at something like TIME’s top 100 list and see mostly white people?

The number of skinny white women who are in the fashion industry who made it onto TIME’s list encourages the kind of advertising that Brandy Melville (and companies like it) puts out.  By excluding women of colour from advertising, modelling, and marketing ideas, the fashion industry reinforces a status quo of whiteness, blondeness, and thinness that cannot continue to go ignored.  While there is nothing wrong with empowering young girls to make decisions and tell large corporations what they want — can we get a hell yeah for diminishing the condescension and dismissiveness that teenaged girls have met with for so long?? — the tiny white, bougey percentage of all teenaged girls that fashion is catering to with this kind of advertising is still nowhere near enough.

Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen can continue to strut their stuff all they like, and I will support them and girls and women who look like them wholeheartedly — just as soon as more women like Velvet d’Amour, Saffi Karina, and Jennie Runk are also celebrated as widely and often as Victoria’s Angels and Brandy’s “Beach Girls.”

Links for you! 

TIME’s All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons

Huffington Post’s Top Plus-Sized Models

Harper’s Bazaar 14 Fashion Blogger Instagrams To Follow Now

Racked.com Smells Like Teen Spirit: Inside the Secret World of Brandy Melville

And for more absolutely wonderful plus-sized models who should be getting more priority and attention and love from the masses, check out one of my favourite tumblr blogs: http://curvesandconfidence.tumblr.com

xoxo — Kristin

Keely’s Fitting Room Confessions: Part 1

This past week, Kristin and I decided to go on an adventure to West Edmonton Mall in hopes of discovering the truth behind the “one size fits most” phenomenon. As well as comparing the sizes of different brands of jeans, from low-end to high-end, to better understand inconsistencies within women’s clothing. This is just a quick overview of our trip. A more detailed analysis is coming soon.

My Stats

me

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 160 lbs

Tops: M, L

Bottoms: 10-12

Those are my stats just for reference. And the picture here is me in my regular clothes. I consider myself very average. Not too small, not too big. Could I lose a few pounds? Maybe. Will I? Only if I want to. Also, the most common size in the US is a size 12, so I think I represent the majority just fine. So keep this in mind when looking at the photos of me in the “one size fits most.” Either I am much larger than a size 12, or one size doesn’t fit most. Spoiler alert.

Clothing Sizes around the World

We already know shopping can be hard, annoying, frustrating and downright painful at times. What makes it even more confusing is the fact that every single country has a different sizing system. Stores like H&M and Zara have the different sizes right on the label, which makes it easy. But other stores only have the European size listed, which is a headache.meee

Here’s a conversion table for women’s clothing sizes. It looks slightly intimidating at first. And it is! A lot of foreign stores are making their way into North America. Especially in huge shopping centres like West Edmonton Mall. This means that not only are the clothing sizes within Canada confusing and inconsistent, but now we have to worry about the systems in other countries too.

One other thing that really irks me about shopping is that half the time jeans are sizes 0-14, and the other half of the time they’re 24-32. What’s up with that? Why can’t we just come up with a universal sizing system for jeans? That would be nice.

The Stores

Kristin and I wanted to visit a variety of stores so we could really compare the differences in clothing. We visited some very, very expensive stores, as well as some more modest ones. We each tried on several pairs of jeans at each store, and I definitely noticed some patterns. This is a quick breakdown of each store we went to, price point, sizes available and some notes about what I noticed.

Brandy Melville

Price: $

Sizes: XS, SM, “One size fits most”

Overall Impression: I need to eat a salad.

This store makes me very sad. The clothes are super cute, but they literally only carry a size small or extra small. The tag will say “one size fits most,” but the tag on the actual piece of clothing says small! It’s ridiculous. Even the jeans were labeled SM or XS. The only thing that actually fit me was a sweater, but that’s only because it was meant to be very oversized. I would definitely not shop there. I wouldn’t want to give my money to a corporation that caters only to supermodel-sized women.

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High Grade

Price: $$$ – could barely afford to be in the store

Sizes: Up to size 31 or 32

Overall Impression: Nice jeans, but sizes were too small. Not a lot of options.

I was very uncomfortable when we first went into High Grade. Maybe because a pair of jeans is half of one month’s rent. There was definitely an air of pretentiousness. I also felt a little bit guilty since I had absolutely no intentions of buying anything. Not that I could buy anything anyways, since the largest size they had was a 31, which is roughly a 10.

True Religion

Price: $$$

Sizes: Up to size 32

Overall Impression: Not worth $400

I have the same feelings about True Religion as I do about High Grade. The largest size was 32, which is a 12. There was a pair that fit me, but they were also $400. No thanks. They don’t have any options for curvier girls, which is unfortunate. I guess the brand only caters to smaller people because they don’t want larger people to be seen wearing their clothes.

 

Old Navy

Price: $

Sizes: 00-30 (plus size)

Overall Impression: Awesome! Caters to ALL shapes & sizes. There’s an option for every woman here.

I commend Old Navy for being so all-inclusive. They have a bunch of different sizes, cuts, and lengths for pretty much any body type. They also go up to size 30 (plus size)! No one has to feel bad or ashamed, because there’s something for everyone here. And the prices are more than reasonable.

 

American Eagle

Price: $-$$

Sizes: 00-18

Overall Impression: Plenty of sizes & fits for every body type. Also available in short and long.

I may be a bit biased, because AE is my favourite store. But I think they do a great job at reaching a wide audience. Like Old Navy, they also have a variety of lengths and cuts. They also go up to a size 18, but only carry up to size 12 in store.

More pictures and a detailed analysis coming soon!

-Keely

Kristin’s Fitting Room Confessions (Part 2) — Diesel and True Religion

High Grade Clothing is one of those stores that I have walked past many a time, but entered only once before this trip for #BoycottBrandy.  On that other occasion I was with my older brother who, aside from having a very well-kept body, had the kind of job and money to shop pretty freely through such a branded place.  That trip, unlike my ninth-grade nightmare with my sister, was on far better terms since we were shopping for him, and not me.

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So, walking into this place already knowing there was no way I would be able to afford the clothing was, in itself, an experience.

Diesel logos plastered everywhere, Keely and I tried our best to just not look at the price tags as we started rooting through the stacks of jeans.  The first main difference between here and Brandy was that we had to actually consult tags to find sizes, and there were different sizes, as well. The second obstacle was that the sizing scheme was unlike ones with which were already familiar.

These jeans were sized more similarly to men’s jeans, that is, in waist sizes in inches.

Arbitrary 0-14 even numbers were gone! It was a new experience in trying to find clothes.  This time around, seeing our bewildered expressions, the sales associate running the store approached, asking if we needed anything.  Explaining quickly how the sizing ran, she helped me pick out a few styles of skinny jeans in different brands and whisked me away to a fitting room.

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Far more comfortable behind a secure dark door than I had been in the short-skirted curtained cubicles of Brandy Melville, I set to work. This first pair of jeans, called “Paige,” was probably the comfiest relative to everything I tried on here.  A little snug, I knew I could reassure myself that in the event of purchasing and wearing them long term, they would likely stretch to be more comfortable.  So, Paige had broken the experiment a little: I had successfully found a high-end pair of jeans that fit me, relatively well.

The next two pairs I tried were not so lucky.

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The Diesel “Lowky” pair fared better than Brandy’s, but not by much.  Although it had the same numerical marking as the Paige, they wouldn’t budge further than my knees. Disappointing, really — just because jeans with a higher spandex content are super comfortable, I was looking forward to potentially finding something with a different texture.

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Finally, the “Skinzee” set seemed to do everything it claimed it would: stretch, cling, and flatter — until I tried the zipper and it, too wouldn’t budge. So what gives, Diesel? If I fit one pair of 32’s shouldn’t I technically be able to fit all of them?

Disappointed yet again — because in addition to being exclusive to body types, the price tags fall far too far out of my extremely modest student budget — we headed out of here, onward through West Edmonton Mall, to fit or not to fit in more clothes.

Our next stop was True Religion, where the service is much different.  It felt like a library or shoe store for pants: a single sample pair of jeans in each style is was hung on a rack behind the counter, from which you would select one that you liked the look of (as if it’s ever helpful to look at something while it’s on a hanger), hand to a sales associate, who would then grab your requested size from the back storage before guiding you to a fitting room.

First, the fitting rooms were enormous.  Second, the jeans were the opposite.  Sized in the same way that Diesel’s were at the last store, I requested 32’s to try a pair of orange skinny jeans that boasted a mid-rise waist.  I was not optimistic tugging them over my calves, nor inching them carefully over my squashier thighs — but at the very least here, the button closed, and the zipper budged even if it didn’t completely “do up.”

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Trying on these jeans, I started to feel a long-lost familiarity in the sudden resentment I had towards my belly.  Squashed over the top of the waistband here, even before trying the zips and buttons, I suddenly felt excessive — flabby, pudgy, overflowing.  It was another exercise in private humiliation and passive rejection by yet another big-name company.  “We don’t want you in our jeans.”

Examining the print and online advertisements for Diesel and for True Religion, their models seem to follow suit to Brandy Melville as well: overwhelmingly white, thin, and not inclusive.  Representation, what?  True Religion does have some non-white male models, but a quick scroll through the women’s collections and there is nary a shade darker than peach to be seen.  This is another form of excluding marginalized groups from their clothing, their image, and furthermore the images portrayed and witnessed by society.

How can we challenge these prioritized representations of women in clothing? Not only does the whitewashed cast of models perpetuate an unrealistic representation of our diverse world and culture, when companies like Diesel and True Religion cast these kinds of people — and only these kinds of people — in their campaigns, it sends a message to everyone who does not match them, or does not fit into their clothes, that they do not belong.  There is also a sense of socio-economic discrimination going on with these high-priced name brands: if I bought a pair of True Religion jeans, I would literally be out a month’s rent.  The discrimination in this case comes not only physically, but socially — leaving me very stuck and feeling very lost.

Stay tuned for more later…

– Kristin

Some Links for you!

http://www.highgradeclothingonline.com

http://www.diesel.com

http://www.truereligion.com

Body Dysmorphia and the Problem of “One Size Fits All”: An Aside to the Fitting Room Confessionals

Body Dysmorphia, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), is an anxiety disorder related to depression which affects both men and women equally.  A person who suffers from BDD is literally obsessed by their appearance, usually fixated on a flaw that is beyond their control, or which is almost unnoticeable by others.  Oftentimes, the flaw is imagined.  This obsession with an invisible or uncontrollable problem begins to manifest itself in compulsions to adjust, camouflage, or “fix” the issue, with some BDD patients going so far as to engage in extreme, and sometimes unnecessary, cosmetic surgeries, which may or may not rid them of feelings of inadequacy or discomfort.

While BDD affects both men and women equally, the areas of concern differentiate greatly: men with BDD tend to be worried about their body build, thinning hair, and genital size. Women, on the other hand, have a much longer list of common BDD concerns: skin, stomach, weight, breasts, buttocks, thighs, legs, hips and excessive body hair.

So what does this have to do with #BoycottBrandy?

Among other things, the idea that Brandy Melville’s clothing ought to fit “most” people who walk into their store could be seen as a trigger to people with, or at risk of developing, BDD.  Societal expectations and standards for beauty add to the pressure that people living with BDD feel to maintain their appearance.  Brandy Melville’s philosophy of “one size fits most” has the potential to trigger the panic and anxiety of the disorder.  Constructing the idea that “most” people can fit into Brandy’s clothes is alienating: if I don’t fit into those clothes, then am I not most people? Does that make me different? And is that bad?

Going to Brandy Melville and experiencing this kind of discrimination firsthand was rather disheartening.  Keely herself, as we finished up our trip, commented half jokingly, “Well, that was depressing.”  Having struggled for so long and so hard with body image and trying to find clothes that fit me properly, it’s easy to let the sentiment resonate a little.  And when so many stores have thin models in their photos and constantly stock more of the smaller sizes near the tops of their displays while hiding the larger sizes in harder and more awkward places to reach, the message that is being told becomes clear: the bigger you are, so are you less welcome.  To fit, you have to work harder for it.

And that, to me, is just plain unfair.

– Kristin


For more on BDD:

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-body-dysmorphic-disorder

http://bddfoundation.org/helping-you/about-bdd/

http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd

***Disclaimer: this post contains information from a quick Google search, including a summary of information found on the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, but should not be considered authoritative, medically.  For more information on BDD, remember to consult a professional.  This post also contains a personal opinion on Brandy Melville, the clothing industry, and how it can potentially be linked to BDD: this, is a personal opinion and should not be cited as an authoritative source.

Meet Ayan!

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Hello Guys,

My name is Ayan and I’m a first year accounting student at the U of A. I decided to #BoyCott Brandy MelVille because of it’s discriminatory outlook on clothing sizes. What I what  to get out of this project is to stop the discriminatory clothing biases set in Brandy Melville’s “one size fit all “ branding policy. This standard of marketing is not only irrational but harmful for most young girls out there. Therefore, boycotting Brandy MelVille for me is a must for young girls out there like myself in order to address this issue at a larger scale.

What I hope to get out of our blog post is to encourage young adults out there to be more verbally outspoken and not timid when it comes to serious issues such as the one size fits all policy that Brandy Melville envisions for most  young girls out there. Moreover, this idea of categorizing 95% of most women “fat” due to the exclusive branding decision that a clothing company decided to make, brings no value but rather diminishes that companies foundations and ethics. For this reason, we will need your support and we eagerly encourage you guys out there to stand up to discriminatory standards that are evolving in most clothing stores such as Brandy Melville’s by supporting our endeavors or by signing our petitions, as well as tweeting us on twitter!

Thanks,

Ayan.

Introduction – Keely

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Hey guys!

My name is Keely and I’m somewhere between my first and second year Anthropology major and Physical Sciences minor. Although I’m considering changing my minor to WGS, because it’s freaking awesome. My interests include anthropology, archaeology, astronomy and feminist issues of course! I do quite a lot of volunteering around campus and am an active volunteer at the campus observatory. I also do lab analysis for an archaeology project one of my professors is running. In my free time, you can find me curled up on my couch with a cup of coffee, watching Netflix and cuddling with my guinea pig. I also enjoy looking up pictures of cats.

I definitely would consider myself a feminist. Although I do usually wear a bra and shave my legs – sorry stereotypes. I don’t believe women are better than men, or that women deserve special privileges. I believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. Some would say we don’t need feminism in today’s society. Because we can vote, right? Wrong. We need feminism because “acting like a girl” shouldn’t be an insult, because women are still expected to take their husbands name in marriage and because when a women is assaulted, she was “asking for it.”

#BoycottBrandy interests me because the company is openly racist and fat shames young girls. They set an unrealistic image for girls to live up to. “One size fits most” is not a size! 00 is not the size that most women are. I’m interested in comparing companies like Brandy Melville, to companies like Aerie. Why is sizing across all stores so inconsistent? Why are men’s clothing sizes consistent? Why is there no “one size fits most” for men? What kind of audience do stores like Brandy Melville target? These are the types of questions I hope to answer with this project.

Keely