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are you buying aerie’s ‘real’ beauty?

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Image: Aerie/Huffington Post

American clothing and accessories retailer American Eagle’s sister lingerie store, Aerie has recently launched its newest advertising campaign for Spring 2014 entitled ‘Aerie Real’. This campaign features all un-airbrushed, un-retouched models. In a statement released on Friday, Aerie announced that the ads are supposedly ‘challenging supermodel standards by featuring un-retouched models in their latest collection of bras, undies and apparel.’

The un-retouched campaign is not a new one, although many fashion brands and magazines rarely make the move to avoid Photoshop in the presentation of their models. There have been powerful moments in the history of fashion photographs in which celebrities are featured both sans-makeup and in un-retouched photo-shoots, including Cate Blanchett’s 2012 appearance on the cover of Intelligent Life, Marie Claire’s 2010 cover with Jessica Simpson, Verily Magazine’s total ban on airbrushing, as well as numerous other magazine specials featuring candid shots of celebrities without makeup.

What makes this advertising campaign so different from these other examples is that the brand, which was founded in 2006, has named as its target demographic females aged between 15 and 21 – i.e. young women in high school or at college age. It is widely held, as well as proven by numerous studies, that young women’s sense of body confidence is often influenced by images of female beauty seen in the media. These images are manipulated by technology, clever use of makeup by seasoned professionals, airbrushing, Photoshop and even taken at angles which could never be recreated in a non-professional modelling environment. This video which has been rapidly circling the Internet and social media spheres only goes to prove this point further.

The intent behind this campaign is great, in showing real bodies with the aim to reduce young women’s insecurities about their own bodies. As this article which reports on the advertising campaign states, ‘one ad campaign won’t solve the complicated relationship between young women’s self-esteems and images of women in media. But when a brand beloved by teen girls shows off its cute bras and undies on bodies with real rolls, lines and curves, it can certainly help.’

This is where the issue with this campaign arises. Taking a quick look at some of the images for the ‘Real’ campaign, we can see women with un-airbrushed tattoos, tan-lines, and atypical supermodel type bodies modelling the lingerie. However, despite the fact that they are not airbrushed, the angles and positions of the women still depict extremely flattering bodies. And ‘bodies with real rolls, lines and curves’? The models are all physically beautiful, in a traditional sense, with beautiful bodies – and I don’t see one roll or line on any of their bodies. They clearly don’t even need to be retouched (which, I suppose, only serves to highlight the non-necessity of Photoshop technology). The tagline across each of the photos reading ‘the real you is sexy’, accompanying the qualifier that they are not supermodel women nor have they been retouched.

There’s no doubt that this move by Aerie has drawn a lot of attention to their brand. I know that I would never have been looking at their advertising campaign had my attention not been drawn to the fact that they are using un-retouched images. It’s great publicity, and I have little doubt that this was a factor in the decision behind this campaign. It will certainly be interesting to see what Aerie does next once the sales figures from the Spring quarter arrive.

[Image Credit]

3 thoughts on “are you buying aerie’s ‘real’ beauty?

  1. So now the brand should just not feature anyone conventionally attractive ever? Should conventionally attractive women also be discouraged from walking in the streets in case they offend the sensibilities of a sensitive teenager?

    Not sure if brands can win against internet feminism at all, no matter how they change their practices.

  2. Ahh, Zoe, did we read the same article? Because I read and reread this article and can’t see the part where the author says conventionally attractive people shouldn’t at all be featured in magazines, or that they are in some way offensive.

    I think the idea that this ad campaign is promoting young women’s confidence in their own ‘real’ bodies is totally ridiculous. Worse than I thought it was going to be after first reading the article. I showed my boyfriend for a second opinion and he was confused. He said “What are you saying? Maybe they naturally look like supermodels”. He thought I was doubting they weren’t retouched. I wasn’t. So much for “no more supermodels” as the ad claims.

    I totally agree that publicity was a factor in this, if not THE factor. That is the most disturbing part. As a survivor of anorexia, this sort of thing is infuriating. I think it is just as damaging as retouching models to boast that their models are ‘real’ and feature only women who essentially look like conventional supermodels. This is giving a very narrow impression of how ‘real’ women look, which is unrealistic for most women. This is exactly the effect of retouching! It is no better. No, I think it’s worse because it’s veiled with this seemingly progressive “we only feature ‘real’ women” marketing scheme. Horrible. If the ad claims to feature ‘real’ women, there is no problem with featuring conventionally attractive women when women of all different shapes, sizes, appearances, colours etc are also featured. Because this is how ‘real’ women actually appear.

    Great article BTW!

    • Oh my, we had the exact same reaction upon seeing this ad. I also consulted my boyfriend for his opinion, and he said something to the effect of “so they basically just chose the most ‘perfect’ females they could find, so they didn’t need photoshop”. This ad enraged me. I tried to see other points of view by actually examining the campaign in depth, but when you I did go to the website I noticed the campaign marginalizes women of color and larger women even within it. There are far more pictures of thin ‘whiter’ women, and you actually have to look to find many of the pictures of larger women.

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