What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word, “lingerie”?
What do you picture in your head when you think about the intimate apparel industry and the companies that represent it?
For most of us, we immediately envision a woman, tall, skinny, white, with long blown out hair, zero blemishes on her skin and not an ounce of fat on her body. It’s not really our fault, as a society, that our minds don’t go to an image of a non-white woman, or a woman who’s bigger than a size 0, or a woman who doesn’t have flawless skin, hair, boobs, legs, and everything in between.
This is the standard and the norm that intimate apparel companies have fed to women everywhere for years. It’s no surprise that now, after decades of being shown the ideal image of beauty through these lingerie ad campaigns, that most women, who of course, don’t look like that, struggle to feel beautiful in their underwear. They look at their body in the mirror, wearing that lingerie set they bought from that Victoria’s Secret ad they saw on Instagram, and yet they don’t feel good and they don’t think they look pretty, because they don’t look like that girl from the ad picture.
But of course they don’t. Because that girl isn’t real. The photo that we see presented to us on Instagram, or in a magazine, has been retouched, edited, and filtered a thousand times before we see it, so that girl looks perfect and probably far from what she actually looks like, in real life. The model likely hasn’t eaten much in weeks to prep for that photo, and she probably doesn’t feel as beautiful in that moment as we think she looks. It’s all an act, a show, a performance of sorts, but it’s one that most girls in society believe, and it’s damaging millions of people’s self-esteem.
The brand most known for putting on this performance, recognized all around the world for their lingerie products, is Victoria’s Secret. Year after year, their ad campaigns as well as their highly anticipated yearly runway shows, feature the same, stereotypical models of perfection and beauty. And while this image has been the face of the brand for as long as it’s been around, only more recently has it begun to receive some backlash from the rest of society. People have begun to critique their lack of diversity and inclusion, but yet they stand firm in their belief that their lingerie is not made for everyone, or every body. This issue really came to the forefront of the lingerie industry when, in 2018, the brand’s chief executive resigned after the chief marketing officer, Ed Razek claimed that “transsexuals” shouldn’t be included in the fashion show because the fashion show is “a fantasy.” While Razek later apologized, it was a little too late for many people who were appalled by this insensitive and offensive comment, and it has led to a huge reduction in sales and support for the Victoria’s Secret brand, who reported a 7.6% drop in sales from 2018-2019 alone. This fall, fittingly, has been synonymous with the rise in popularity and sales of other, inclusive and diverse lingerie brands, like Aerie, which has quickly become known as the most inclusive fashion brand, always featuring models different body types, skin colors, disabilities, and vowing to never retouch or edit a single photo.
Aerie has undertaken numerous campaigns that aim to highlight the beauty in every individual, including one of their first campaigns, Aerie Real, that was started in 2014, which worked to showcase both models and real girls.
While the primary ads from this campaign featured models of any race and body type, with blemishes and tattoos showing, now girls around the world can share their story with the brand for the chance to be showcased as well. This passion for inclusivity is inherent in everything that Aerie does; every release, every photoshoot, every ad campaign shows a group of women, untouched and without airbrushing, of every size, every shape, and race. Athletes, like Aly Raisman, a famed U.S gymnast is one of the most well-known ambassadors and ‘models’ for Aerie. Her body is all muscle, from years of training to become an Olympian, and it’s a body that would never be featured in a Victoria’s Secret show. But her body, like the bodies of all of the other women Aerie includes in their ads, is beautiful. It’s strong and it’s healthy and it deserves to be represented.
The more images that people see of people who look like them advertising for these lingerie companies, whether it be for their race, or their shape, or their disability, the better.
Representation is so incredibly important, and in lingerie, where it’s often more about the body than the clothes themselves, this importance is even greater. Brands like Aerie are taking control of the intimate apparel industry, as so many more women are finally seeing themselves being marketed towards.
It wouldn’t be surprising if in the not too distant future, Victoria’s Secret and other brands like them, find themselves in trouble, while Aerie and other inclusive and diverse brands have replaced them as the leaders in lingerie.
Aerie Lingerie – showing women with different body types and ethnicity