I don’t know about you, but when I try on my new bra and underwear from Target or those cute new pajamas I decided to treat myself to from Victoria’s Secret, I know the first thing I need to do is check myself out in a full length mirror to see how close to the model in the picture I look. Over the years I I’ve grown wise to the inevitable disappointment I will feel, but I still slide over to the mirror with a feeling of dread. I saw the woman in the advertisement; I know what my body ought to look like if I dare to wear what I just brought home. When I see that I have fallen short of looking photo-shopped, I do the little modeling game.
Well maybe if I just turn sideways like this it will look better.
Mmm…maybe if I strategically place my arms to cover the parts of my body that don’t look so right.
This game usually ends in me taking off the purchase I had been so excited about and changing into something else, feeling like a failure. But really, who here has failed? These clothing companies have made me feel so self-conscious about how I compare to the model in the advertisement that I don’t feel worthy of wearing their clothes. Let me tell you it is awhile before I pluck up the courage to buy another bra and you know what? Target has lost my business. Target has lost my business because they chose to create an unattainable standard and I was somehow surprised and disappointed that I didn’t meet this standard. In another sense I have failed as well. No, I did not fail Target. I failed myself for believing that I could meet a photo-shopped standard but also that I needed too.
Recently Aerie, the underwear and apparel section of American Eagle, created their Real campaign using the hashtag #aerieReal. As a consumer of Aerie products I was pretty excited to hear about this, and I went right to the website to check it out. I had a mixed bag of feelings about this after scrolling through their pages.
Let’s start with what Aerie got right. Women in these pictures have thighs that touch each other and creases on the model’s stomach. Yes, there is no doubt when looking at these pictures that these women are not photo-shopped.
Here is what Aerie missed. Eliminating Photoshop does not mean that you only pick models who don’t need Photoshop to begin with. Yes, the models have thighs that touch and freckles on their skin. I do still, however, look at the models and feel the same intimidation that I don’t measure up. Aerie has given us “real” but really they’ve given us a snapshot of real. They have given us a wider perspective of real, but this perspective is not the whole picture. In fact, it’s a small part of the picture.
So Aerie, thank you for taking out photo-shopping because now I feel a little more comfortable when I look in the mirror. Let’s take this a step farther now, how about someone who has more than a little crease on their stomach or a girl who hasn’t had her hair styled by a professional? It’s time to get even more real.