Since launching their REAL campaign in 2018, Aerie has doubled down on efforts to promote female empowerment and body positivity, ditching airbrushing and photoshopping and partnering with a diverse group of women's activists. The company is known for its #AerieREAL campaign and using an advertisement to shine a light on how women's bodies actually look, minus the digital reshaping. In May 2018, Aerie and its parent company American Eagle experienced a record-high 38% increase in sales. It's had nothing but positive feedback. Women feel like their voices are finally being heard, and they no longer feel like they need to change to fit in. Aerie teaches women that all body shapes and types are beautiful and that all you need to get a "bikini body" is to simply put on a bikini.
There's no better way to combat the rise of diagnosed eating disorders than to change how women are shown in advertisements. Originally, the most common age of onset of eating disorders was in young women from 14 to 19, but since then the number of those diagnosed has skyrocketed. Now young women from the ages of 12 to 25 are at risk, and anorexia nervosa is the leading cause of mental health-related deaths. That's why brands like Aerie and its messages of female empowerment have been their biggest weapon to fight against advertisement exclusivity.
Thanks to Aerie, 2019 has seen a dramatic increase in body-positive campaigns and pushes for diversity. The definition of "sexy" has changed and is still changing. Meanwhile, Victoria's Secret is experiencing its biggest loss in sales. Their own customers are complaining that its ads, which all feature scantily dressed models, are targeted more toward men than women. Despite the fact the many Victoria's secret locations also feature Pink, their teen-centered brand, there is only one area to check out, and that's in Victoria's Secret. Their most obscene photos are shown behind registers, featuring women posing provocatively.
The message featured in their Instagram bio is "Confidence is sexy." I find this very hypocritical since they seem to advertise only one body type: long legs, smooth, tan skin, and flat stomach. Victoria's Secret seems to market more toward men and intimacy than women and the empowering message it thinks it has, and its ads and marketing have not changed. It is firm on not including women with different body shapes and types in their fashion shows because they claim that it is all meant to be a "fantasy." Victoria's Secret is still very much behind and out of touch, and because of that customers are abandoning it and taking their business elsewhere.
For me, swimsuit season is a stressful time. Whenever I try on swimsuits alone in other stores' dressing rooms, my eyes are immediately drawn to every flaw I have and my mind goes to a really dark place, wishing I could just change things about my body. I'd pinch the fat on my stomach, wanting it to be flat like all of the models I'd seen. I'd try my hardest to cover up my red and purple stretch marks and my flat hips, wanting to hide. I felt like my body shape wasn't normal since it wasn't represented. However, Aerie is much different.
Another way Aerie inspires women is their dressing room setting. The company has made an impression with its "REAL ME" message by hanging inspirational quotes written on sticky notes all over the mirror. When I first walked in the Aerie dressing room, I was surprised to find empowering artwork posted on the walls and a large, brightly-lit mirror covered with sticky notes written by previous customers. The sticky notes featured personalized, positive messages like: "love yourself" and "Yes, girl!" When reading these positive messages, my eyes filled with tears, feeling so moved and empowered by the messages. It was something I had never seen before. That experience I had in the fitting room helped me realize for the first time in my life that the way I viewed my body was toxic and that I need to love the skin I am in.
Since then, I noticed that Target learned a thing or two from Aerie. I noticed an ad where the model had a similar body type to mine and had stretch marks that were not airbrushed away. I hope things continue to change and more brands do what Aerie is doing. It just shows that we need to help change the industry and how the fashion industry works. Instead of marketing toward one type of person (ahem, Victoria's Secret), all brands need to promote every body type and shape. It is so important that the young women of this generation understand that all body shapes and sizes are beautiful.