Recently, a new campaign “Aerie Real” came out for Aerie, a lingerie and apparel store owned by parent company being American Eagle. The entire premise of the campaign is to photograph women in a “real light” – ie, with no retouching or Photoshop. What-you-see-is-what-you-get fashion. The idea behind the campaign is to battle the unrealistic body standards that today’s adolescent girls are growing up with due to the way media portrays women. In almost every magazine, television show, movie, and advertisement, women are retouched, made up, or wearing waist trainers (shout out to Kim Kardashian).
It’s no secret that this can cause body image issues in young women. It’s also no secret that a young woman’s mind is also incredibly shapeable. Aerie has taken a strong stand against the media’s portrayal of the perfect body, and I applaud them for that. In a world where the perfect woman is everywhere you can see her (except in real life), it can be hard to break away from the norm. I applaud the models who put themselves out there in the most raw way for the rest of the world to see. And I applaud Emma Roberts, the most recent celebrity to participate in the campaign.
I think that what Aerie is doing is great – but I think that it is only great for Aerie. Let me explain. Now that Aerie’s campaign has been seen across many platforms over the past year, many fans of the campaign have ridiculed Victoria’s Secret for continuing to do the exact opposite. In fact, many of these fans have presented Victoria’s Secret with a call to action to follow suit of the Aerie Real campaign. I applaud those fans for trying to change the way the media thinks of women. However, I disagree. Yes, “Aerie Real” shows amazing progress by presenting a realistic image of what real women’s bodies look like. However, the Victoria’s Secret brand represent a different idea: they portray perfection, not “real” women’s bodies, as part of the feeling women may get when they buy and wear the brand. After all, lots of non-perfect-body women are buying VS every day.
Victoria’s Secret models are so unrealistically perfect that they are called “angels” – and at the annual VS fashion show, these angels walk the runway in avant-garde lingerie that costs thousands of dollars. Every year this fashion show causes a spark of controversy among. There is skinny shamming, or ridiculing the angels because they look so damn good. There are the viewers who support the angels and discuss the hours upon hours of work they put in daily to look as good as they do. Then there are those who just spend hours wishing they looked like that. Really, no one should expect to look like that. The angels are women who hit the genetic lottery, and to that luck they add hours of work to maintain their good looks. Mere mortal women will never look like that.
To me, the idea of Victoria’s Secret’s campaigns and fashion show is to show off what dreams are made of – and for many, that means being able to spend thousands of dollars on lingerie and then model it with your size double zero body. VS is at one end of the brand spectrum, and Aerie is at the other. Aerie is your John Green while Victoria’s Secret is your Shakespeare, if you will. Brands should be differentiated – and both of these are. So while we applaud Aerie for its authenticity, let’s continue to let Victoria’s Secret advertise its unattainable goals.
~ Gabby Wilson, Intern, The S3 Agency