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Aesthetic Diversity in Fashion and the Media

The Internet is blowing up about body diversity in the media, finally! This has been years in the making, and ladies and gentlemen, we are finally trending! Last time we talked about shopping, sizing, and the importance of body diversity in the media. In case you missed it, here is a refresher.

To be honest, while I was researching and writing the last post, I totally geeked out. I fell down the endless click-hole of online shopping, hashtags, advertisements and campaigns that have set the internet ablaze. What I found was an overwhelming demonstration of inclusion and marketing that is geared towards diversity in every sense of the world. In other words, people are trying! On the other hand, the fact that a body positive platform is a rare and controversial statement for a company to make illustrates that inclusion is definitely not the norm. It does create buzz because it is new and different, but haven’t bodies have come in all shapes and sizes since, I don’t know, the dawn of time?

What is more interesting than a company who rocks the boat with a body positive message? One that unintentionally sinks their own ship with an ad that contains a strong undercurrent of body shaming. It’s like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic. They never saw it coming. Once upon a time body shaming was a staple advertisement tactic for major companies. Advertisements would iconize a specific body type, implying that only a certain type of woman is fashionable and beautiful enough to wear mainstream fashion. You want to be that kind of woman, don’t you? The rational is the same as a high school clique: things that are exclusive are always more desirable. Social media however has become the de facto body shaming police, and it is oh so entertaining to see these brilliant and real live people bring some of the most popular clothing companies in the world to their knees.

Let’s talk about you, the consumer. You have a super power and that power is to spend your money where you please. Clothing companies spend millions of dollars annually to employ a team of marketing professionals and their sole purpose is to get you to spend your money on their brand. So I ask, as a consumer, what do you value? Long-lasting fabrics? Empowering advertisements? Style? Good consistent fit? Most people go into the dressing room and try to decide if a garment is simply cute or ugly. What you may not consider is where your money will go if you purchase that dress and whether it is going into the pockets of a company that matches your values or one that goes against what you believe in.

So, what do you believe in? Are you a plus size babe who wants to spend your dollar on a company that works with plus size designers to make incredible fashion for a curvy fashionista? Are you a petite beauty who is sick and tired of the so-called “petite section” being limited to three or four ill-fitting tops and having your jeans hemmed for the 15th time? Are you a chic person of color who feels a lack of inspiration to buy anything based on the lack of ethnic diversity in advertisements?

If any of this rings true for you and you desire to use your super power as the consumer to benefit companies that are leading the charge towards a more inclusive future, let’s talk about who to shop and who to stop!

Who to Shop:

Plus Sizes

Lane Bryant
Lane Bryant has been way ahead of the curve when it comes to body positive campaigns. As a plus size retailer you would expect their market to empower plus size women, but Lane Bryant has gone above and beyond. Their campaigns have drawn national attention and gained real momentum for plus size women in the modeling industry, most famously Ashley Graham! The Lane Bryant “I Am No Angel” lingerie campaign featured women of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds declaring that all women are “size sexy.” This was a direct stab at the Victoria’s Secret “The Perfect Body” campaign that received some heated press for featuring exclusively slender white women. For more on this check my Victoria’s Secret section below.

Melissa McCarthy Seven
Melissa McCarthy is a plus size celebrity who is doing AMAZING things as the designer of her clothing line Seven. Not only are they true to the plus size woman in their advertisements, but their fit is fantastic because they fit on real plus size women! Melissa has brought many interesting and fashion forward shapes and silhouettes to stores that have been previously completely off the table for plus size women!

Ashley Nell Tipton at JCPenney
After her win on Project Runway Season 14, Ashley Nell Tipton was obviously going to set the plus size fashion world on fire! Her designs quickly found a home with her new line Boutique+ available at JCPenney. Let me just tell you, it is adorable and affordable! Some people may scratch their heads and wonder why JCPenney of all places, but the move makes total sense. Recently after a huge loss in sales, JCPenney has completely rebranded, dropped the “s” and updated their image. Taking on a celebrity designer to create a trendy and affordable plus size collection is a risky move, but for a company that is trying to rebrand and elevate itself back into the competitive market, it could definitely have a high pay off. The best part is that it’s working! Some of the most popular plus size fashion bloggers love her collection and take part in her fashion shows!

Petite

Anthropology
Anthropology is a haven for the petite shopper, especially online! Many of their bestselling pieces (including the coveted Carissima Sheath dress by Byron Lars) comes in either regular or petite fit options. This is a perk not offered by many brands and sets Anthropology a notch above the rest. Their selection is large but their prices are high, making it the ideal choice for a special occasion or splurge! Shop away!

Ann Taylor LOFT
For everyday wear that fits like a glove, I have to give the gold star to LOFT. Their petite line is so well designed. They alter the sleeves, neckline and shoulders to ensure the perfect petite fit. And that’s not all! Typically, petite sizes cater to women below 5 feet 5 inches tall. LOFT strives to include in their fit those who are proportioned differently, for example those who are proportioned differently above (torso) and below (legs). This variety of options and diversity in fits available makes LOFT a one-stop shop for those who are tired of having their clothing altered.

Nordstrom
Department store shopping for specialty sizes can be a headache to say the least, but Nordstrom has a reputation for having one of the best and most extensive petite selections of any major store. Nordstrom offers a variety of brands we love in petite sizes such as Michael Kors, Maggie London, Vince Camuto and introduces us to specifically petite clothing lines like Halogens and Caslons. If you are a petite lady looking to shop around with your girlfriends in a physical store, I highly recommend Nordstrom!

Diversity

Rebdolls
Rebdolls offers a beautiful dose of diversity, not only in their large variety of clothing, but in the models used in their advertisements. I guarantee that you will have no trouble identifying with this diverse group of women and seeing these adorable clothes on a girl who looks just like you will definitely make you want to shop!  Their sizes range from 0-32, which is one of the largest ranges available on the market today! Best of all, they feature the #sexyforall FREE worldwide shipping. No girl can feel left out of that!

THINX
THINX has been highlighted on Forbes, Bustle, Buzzfeed, Nylon and NOWTHIS as the most exciting new brand for women. Their revolutionary period proof panties are offering women “mental and physical freedom.” Not to mention they are tackling the terrible stigma against women and their periods. Their advertisements and website proudly and purposefully features African American women, Asian women and Latina Women. What unifies all women of different ages, races, cultural backgrounds? Menstruating of course! Everybody does it! THINX ads are sure to make you laugh at generic tampon commercials and will add a smile and some much needed diversity to your day.

Cover Girl
Cover Girl has proven to be the cosmetic company that cares about diversity inclusion especially when it comes to matching your skin tone! They came out with the Queen collection advertised by Queen Latifah which offers free money back guarantee if they do not carry a foundation that is perfect for your skin color. Last week they even announced their first MALE Cover Girl – seventeen-year-old makeup artist James Charles. This was a huge step towards gender diversity and reversing ancient stigma of makeup gender norms. This shows that Cover Girl is not only trying to fulfill their customers’ needs, but also update their advertising to be current and groundbreaking!

I had every intention of wrapping this up with a quick write up of what companies should be avoided based on their demonstrations of body shaming and exclusion. To be honest, there are simply too many to narrow it down.

For those who are truly interested, my focus was on the extreme backlash against Victoria’s Secret and their The Perfect Body campaign, the Lululemon thigh gap scandal of 2013 and the Abercrombie and Fitch fat shaming that sparked Jes Baker of “The Militant Baker” to take a very public stand against their refusal to carry women’s size XL. (They don’t want plus size women to be able to wear their brand.)

This is all incredibly fascinating and I urge everyone to do your homework when it comes to the brands that you support with the ever-powerful dollar! In the end, I decided NOT to focus the energy of this post towards those who are having a negative impact. Why? Because there are so many people who are making exciting things happen in the world of body positivity! Brilliant people, just like you, expose those companies who are contributing to the bullying and body shaming quickly online and through social media by making their voices heard. In a world where businesses have to fight tooth and nail in competition for every single dollar, it is a powerful time to be a diverse consumer. We have the power to inspire change, by refusing to support a brand that goes outside of our values and lifting up those who are changing the world for the better. It’s a liberating feeling to learn the value of your dollar!

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Katie Finan- a mid twenties character actress, body positive advocate, and plus sized model who is currently living, working, and running her mouth in NYC. Hustling in the fashion and theatre industry by day, and passionately writing and coaching by night, she is dedicated to breaking down the body standard status quo and jumpstarting women everywhere to rediscover and fall head over heels in love with their body.  As her love affair with her curves, and her search for the body shaming cure continues, you will always find her being Big, Blonde, and Body Positive.

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