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A Tale Of Two Stores

A woman holds a tape measure up to her midsection

Brandy Melville, a wildly popular clothing store aimed at teenage girls, is everywhere nowadays. The Italian brand’s classic stripy t-shirts, muted colors, and clean-cut styles are all the rage with many middle to high school-aged girls. Even celebrities (for example, Taylor Swift) are frequently spotted wearing the company’s cute little crop tops, skirts, and dresses. As a female high school student, I see Brandy Melville (commonly referred to as simply “Brandy”) all around me.

Brandy’s clothes are appealing to girls like me who prefer a simple look. However, there’s one important thing that separates Brandy from the other clothing chains for teenage girls—their one-size policy. Yes, all of Brandy Melville’s clothes are only available in one, miniature, singular size. One size fits most is the company’s complacent statement regarding their sizing. Brandy Melville’s clothes aren’t aimed at all 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. As further proof of their exclusivity, Brandy Melville’s Instagram account—with over 3 million followers—features the thinnest, and likely also the most photoshopped models across the whole fashion industry.

Confession time: I own several pieces of clothing from Brandy Melville. I love their clothes, but each time I buy a new tiny striped shirt I feel a sharp twinge of guilt. Although I can fit into many of their clothes, I definitely can’t fit into everything they sell. However, that’s not even the big problem. Brandy Melville’s body type 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 countless instances of 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 the tactics practiced by Brandy Melville. Aerie, a lingerie company owned by the same company that owns American Eagle, announced last year that they will no longer photoshop their models. Looking at Aerie ads or visiting their website, you can see many models who 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, especially compared to that of Brandy Melville. 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. Aerie’s warm vibe that promotes loving your body and having self-confidence truly works for me, and for other teenage girls I know. I feel good buying Aerie products, and I gain confidence when I try something on in their store. Aerie makes me love my body and feel like I look good, and I’m proud to support them. This is in stark contrast to Brandy Melville. When I try something on there I feel an uncomfortable sense of shame and disappointment in myself for supporting their store. I also feel that same sense of shame in my body for not always fitting into their tiny clothes that represent an unrealistic ideal.

I think body positivity in the fashion industry is so important. 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.

This article was also published on Teen Voices at Women’s eNews.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

1 Comment
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"When I try something on there I feel an uncomfortable sense of shame and disappointment in myself for supporting their store."
You pay lip service to the idea of body positivity and including different body types, but you vote with your wallet. The discomfort you feel is useful-- it shows you that you are being a hypocrite. If you really support these ideals you write about, you need to stop giving Brandy Melville your money. Simple as that.

How to cite this page

Richmond, Abby. "A Tale Of Two Stores." 23 December 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 27, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/tale-of-two-stores>.

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