“Real women” campaigns––promotional efforts aimed at emphasizing the diversity and beauty of women of all races, shapes and sizes––often fall short. While undoubtedly progressive and admirable, anti-Photoshop campaigns like American Eagle’s “AerieReal” still typically depict only a very limited range of body types with their models. Just recently, however, online retailer ModCloth has changed the “real women” campaign game by using their own employees to model their 2015 swimsuit collection. According to research from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, the “ideal” slender, yet toned female body type that bombards media ads and the world of modeling is actually only possessed naturally by 5 percent of American women. Talk about overrepresentation––and inaccurate representation at that. By showing off more diverse models––and ones who aren’t Photoshopped––retailers such as ModCloth can help to positively influence women and girls by emphasizing that beauty doesn’t come in one certain size or shape.
According to Today.com, ModCloth’s chief marketing officer Nancy Ramamurthi explained that the campaign was scheduled for release in March, but was bumped earlier in response to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition controversy over their use of a “plus size” model who was only a size 12. “Fifty percent of women are wearing over a size 16,” Ramamurthi said. “And we had this fabulous campaign showing how swimsuits look great on bodies of all sizes.”
Right on ModCloth’s homepage is the banner advertising their new swimwear line. It reads, “Gorgeous. Our employees step in front of the camera to prove that swimsuit confidence is for every body.” The spread is not only empowering, but very upbeat. The employees––including founder Susan Koger––all look authentically relaxed and happy as they flaunt polka dotted swimwear. It’s fun, refreshing and none of the women are Photoshopped.
There is a sense of camaraderie about these women despite their differences––we see all kinds of body types from fairly skinny to plus size displayed amongst these white, Latina and black women. Swimwear often brings about a lot of insecurity for women, so it’s great to see ModCloth showing that no matter a women’s size or shape, she should have the opportunity to find pieces that make her feel confident and comfortable. ModCloth further promotes the body inclusion that so many retailers fail to strive for with their size range of XS-4XL.
More needs to be done in stores across the country to not only carry sizes that cater to women across all ends of the spectrum of body weights and types, but to promote body diversity in their ads. I’m looking at you, Aerie––your sizes range from XS-XXL but you barely have any plus sized models featured in your advertisements.
Rader Programs research shows that the average American fashion model is approximately 5’11” and 117 pounds, yet the average American woman is roughly 5’4” and 140 pounds. More retailers need to follow in ModCloth’s steps and feature women that aren’t limited to one category of this idealized, impractical model-esque body type.
Fashion can provide a wonderful outlet for self-expression and a means to build confidence, especially for young women. ModCloth has successfully shown that real women––not models, but everyday women––of all shapes and sizes deserve to feel beautiful in their own skin and should have access to clothing or swimwear that helps to bolster that positive self-image. More companies need to actively work to promote that mentality as well.