(WOMENSENEWS)– Brandy Melville, a popular clothing store aimed at teenage girls, is everywhere. The Italian brand’s classic stripy T-shirts, muted colors and clean-cut styles are all the rage with many middle school and high school-aged girls. Even celebrities (Taylor Swift) are frequently spotted wearing the company’s cute little crop tops, skirts and dresses.
Brandy’s clothes appeal to girls who prefer a simple look. However, there’s one important thing that separates Brandy from the other clothing chains–their one-size policy. All of Brandy Melville’s clothes are only available in one, miniature, singular size. “One size fits most” is the company’s statement regarding their sizing. Brandy Melville’s clothes aren’t just aimed at teenage girls–they’re aimed at SKINNY teenage girls. Their tiny tank tops, skimpy skirts and dainty dresses are no problem for stick-thin teens. For everyone else who happens to like their trendy merchandise, the little “S” stitched into all of the clothing tags presents a major problem.
Confession time: I own several pieces of clothing from Brandy Melville. I love its style, but not its ethics. Brandy Melville’s body exclusivity gnaws at my conscience, and it’s not just about whether or not I fit into their clothes. My problem with Brandy is that it is absolutely unaccepting of diverse body types. I have seen how horrible the store makes girls feel about their bodies, and I’ve felt it myself. I’ve seen my friends scroll through Brandy’s Instagram feed, gaze discontentedly at the gaunt, digitally-edited models flaunting the store’s cute clothes, and say, “I wish I could look like them.” I’ve walked into the store, regretfully picked up a doll-sized shirt that would never fit me and, bam, my self-esteem is automatically lowered for the rest of the day. I try not to let the store get me down, but when you’re a teenage girl full of insecurities, that’s hard to do. Brandy Melville preys on teen girls’ self-doubts, and instead of encouraging us to love our bodies and wear clothes that make us feel good, they promote an exclusive, 90-pound ideal for all of us to worship. I want to love my body. I want my friends to love their bodies.
Brandy Melville is not helping.
Luckily for us teenage girls, other clothing chains are rebelling against these tactics. Aerie, a lingerie company owned by the same company that owns American Eagle, announced last year that they will no longer photoshop their models. Many Aerie models would still be considered slim, but their “flaws” are not smoothed over. You see freckles. You see tan lines. You see tattoos. You see wrinkles. Most importantly, not every model is stick-thin. Messages such as “love the real you,” “#aerieREAL” and “the real you is sexy” are often found in their ads. Their un-retouched models present such a positive image for teenage girls. They show that all bodies are beautiful, and that there’s no need for everyone to conform to the same ideal. They let girls know it’s good to be confident in themselves.
Aerie’s website makes me smile. I know that the company still has a long way to go in terms of representing the whole spectrum of body types; however, the fact that they’re quietly rebelling against the fashion industry’s set-in-stone standard of stick-thin, heavily photoshopped models is a small step forward for the whole industry. I feel good buying Aerie products, and I gain confidence when I try something on in their store. In stark contrast to how I feel when I shop at Brandy Melville, I’m proud to support Aerie.
Body positivity in the fashion industry is important for teen girls. I wish every store could be accepting of all different shapes and sizes, and let adolescent girls know that every body type is beautiful. I want stores to promote loving yourself over trying to be something you’re not. I’m not without hope, though. Stores like Brandy Melville, with their one-size-should-fit-all mindset and heavily photoshopped models, show that the fashion industry still has a long way to go. However, I know that with stores like Aerie taking the lead on promoting body positivity, change is on the way.