Are we all good and settled on the whole body image campaign debate yet? Nope, certainly not. For many decades we’ve seen one type of woman that was deemed beautiful, successful and the definition of happiness. Generally she is a size zero, fair skin, and appears in the majority of advertising and fashion/beauty campaigns. Over the past few years there has been a considerable shift toward being more inclusive and accepting of plus size women, as is evident by the huge popularity of certain plus size models and even plus size fashion bloggers.
But have we just swung the pendulum 180 degrees in the opposite direction? The only problem with the influx of plus size campaigns is that they sometimes claim to be “all-inclusive” and body positive, as opposed to brands like Victoria’s Secret.
We have to be aware that some women just naturally are a size 0-4 and happen to have fair skin and look like the average women in an advertising campaign. There should be no judgment on the body type, only on the advertising world for perpetuating such a narrow ideal for so long.
If plus size and other body positive campaigns truly want to walk the talk, they need to show a range of body shapes and sizes, not just all plus-size women and claim it is inclusive. There is a fine line.
A recent example of how problematic this can be is seen in the Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel campaign. While we loved the images, and what it stands for, it seems many were unhappy with the specific reference to “angels” because it seemed as if they are trying to compete with Victoria’s Secret. It shouldn’t be about that at all. And if a brand is specifically geared to just one certain type of body, that’s ok, we just don’t want that body type to be the only thing pushed on us as an “industry standard”.
Which is why we are huge fans of Smart Glamour, the label out of NYC founded and run by designer, feminist and badass businesswoman Mallorie Carrington whose new campaign ‘All Bodies Are Good Bodies’ is kinda giving these bigger labels a run for their money.
Mallorie doesn’t cast models the way other brands do, and she doesn’t go the traditional route when it comes to promoting what her brand is all about. She casts everyday women as well as more traditional models and lets the clothes do the talking. So it seems fitting that she released the ‘All Bodies Are Good Bodies’ campaign in the wake of the Lane Bryant discussions.
“We have three main goals: to empower women through clothing and help them on a road to body acceptance, to make good quality clothing that is sold at affordable prices, and to cut away at women on women hate that stems from insecurity and the belief that beauty and brains can not go hand in hand,” says the campaign site.
The great thing about Smart Glamour is the sizing range, going from XXS-6S, but because the clothes are customizable they aren’t limited to just that range.
“A customer at my store just last week asked, ‘Why did you decide to have your clothing extend to a 6X?’ My answer was simple – because all women deserve access to fashion and clothing. All women deserve to feel beautiful – whatever that means to them. And we are using clothing as the tool to help them get there,” Mallorie writes.
One of the core beliefs in the Smart Glamour brand is that the misrepresentation of women by the media plays a huge part in how women feel about themselves, which is why they are adamant to go a different route than what other brands do.
Smart Glamour made custom clothing for 12 women who were all different sizes, and walked the streets of new York City to show the world (and the fashion capital) what body diversity looks like.
Their message has been resonating with many big media sites, as well as one of the more well-known plus size bloggers Tess Holliday who wore one of the ‘feminist’ pink bomber jackets and wrote about the brand on her blog, calling it “genius”.
But Smart Glamour aren’t the only group of awesome ladies trying to show was real diversity and body acceptance looks like. Body image advocate, blogger and speaker Jes Baker, whose popular site The Militant Baker is a go-to space for all body positive messages, decided she needed to show Lane Bryant what real diversity looks like in a campaign, and that if you are going to claim diversity, you gotta show it.
She teamed up with photographer Jade Beall to re-create an inclusive campaign called ‘Empower ALL Bodies’ which states diversity is “more important than you think”.
In a blog post, Jes actually addressed Linda Heasley, the CEO of Lane Bryant who she has met with in the past and talked about how the brand can better serve the plus size community of women.
“When we, as a society, fail to include diverse bodies in our media, the message becomes clear to those excluded: you are unworthy of taking up space. It’s a powerful message that settles into the core of those who aren’t represented. #ImNoAngel, seemingly attempts to convey empowerment for plus-sized women, but instead has continued to perpetuate this exact same message. This time, though, with a specialized addition for the bodies not pictured: not only are you unworthy of taking up space, but you are also not invited to feel sexy,” writes Jes. Ouch! But it is a confronting truth that deserves to be discussed publicly.
“When a person is constantly bombarded by images of one “ideal” body (plus or otherwise) it wreaks havoc on their psyche. The continual exposure mentally trains them to believe that only ONE body is worthy and this unfortunate social conditioning is one of the largest contributors to low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and other severe body image related issues- all of which affect daily living. Visible diversity is a solution to these problems, and asking for it is anything but egotistical. It’s absolutely necessary.”
Her argument is that by only using 6 models in the Lane Bryant campaign, there is no way that they can claim they are representing all body types, which Linda was quoted as saying: “Our ‘#ImNoAngel’ campaign is designed to empower ALL women to love every part of herself.”
Even Jes admits her own Empower ALL Bodies imagery doesn’t cover every diverse array of bodies out there, but she urges a brand that is well-known, has money and influence and can do better, to actually do better next time.
“While I appreciate your conscious inclusion of varying skin tones (and Elly’s scar), I’m going to ask you to consider including some of the following next time: cellulite; 90% of women have it. Bellies; many plus women don’t have flat torsos. All abilities; we’re all inherently sexy. Transgender women; they’re “all woman” too. Small boobs and wide waists; we’re not all “proportional.” Stretch marks and wrinkles; they’re trophies of a life lived,” she said.
Jes and Jade’s images show a range of ages, skin colors and even abilities.
It is vital that Lane Bryant take the lead on this, especially if they want to be known for a body diverse brand, because they are the largest plus size lingerie brand in the country. Victoria’s Secret is the largest lingerie brand on the market, period, holding 34% of sales. That’s a big deal.
There are two key messages here: if you have brand influence, use it to lead the way. And if you claiming diversity, represent it authentically, not just in a different type of narrow ideal that happens to be different from the dominant idea and pass it off as empowering all women.
What Smart Glamour are creating with their clothes, and what Jes Baker is creating with her message and imagery is what is going to enable great change in the fashion industry when it comes to body image. No longer is it about how major corporations and big brands dictate ideals to us, it is how we as everyday women can speak up and show the world the world who we are and what we want to see.