Born and raised in New Jersey (not the Jersey Shore, mind you), I was a little hesitant when I decided to move to Los Angeles: the land where beautiful people grow on trees and bad weather ceases to exist. In order to quell my fears and anxieties, I decided to leave my feminist agenda behind and (with my supportive Dad as a sidekick) go shopping. One of my first stops was at a beautifully trendy and perfectly hipster store called Brandy Melville. Now, as an East Coast native, I had never experienced this clothing store before and was beyond excited to see shirts that read “Gangster Rap Made Me Do It” and “Stay Weird”. This was definitely my kind of place.
With my new move came a new climate and I decided to invest in some jean shorts. I picked up the first pair I saw (instantly falling in love with them) and began looking for my size. Just to illustrate, I am 5’ 3” around 115 lbs. and have a gorgeously magnificent booty, which usually puts me around a size four, five or six. When I couldn’t understand the sizing I asked a sales assistance for some help (a young girl who looked as if she were 11 years old and had a body weight equivalent to my left thigh). When I asked her what their sizes were she explained to me that a size 36 is a double zero, a size 38 a zero, a size 40 a two, a size 42 a four…and then she stopped. “Do you carry anything larger than a size 4?” I asked, to which she replied with a puzzled look and gestured to a sign that read “One Size Fits Most”. Did I black out and accidentally step into Baby Gap or did she just point at the “One Size Fits Most” sign with a straight face?
Before I begin my very justified and thoroughly angry rant, let me point out that according to the CDC the average American woman over the age of 20 weighs 165 lbs., which translates to a size 12 or 14. This is a far cry from the double zeros and zeros that Brandy Melville is attempting to sell. The clothing concept that started in Italy and spread throughout Europe is now taking on Canada and the U.S. The demographic of the brand targets teenage girls to young women in their 20's. As the store’s website reads, “Most of Brandy Melville’s clothing is one size”; this includes everything from t-shirts to skirts to (seriously, no joke) bras.
Putting aside that the one size fits most model is completely illogical from a business standpoint, Brandy Melville is unabashedly and blatantly telling young girls and women that if they do not fit these sizes they are the weird ones, the “un-cool” kids, the outcasts. Similar to Abercrombie & Fitch’s “the cool kids are the skinny kids” ideology, Brandy Melville is furthering notions such as extremely skinny is the only beautiful and all women should fit the patriarchal type-cast of a Brazilian model who most likely has a severe eating disorder.
While fashion has always been an exclusionary business, favoring ultra-thin, usually white and always able-bodied bodies, Brandy Melville is taking body-shaming to a whole different level. Unlike Abercrombie & Fitch, which hits a maximum size 10 for women, Brandy Melville stops at a size 4. Not only is the brand rejecting fat bodies, it is rejecting the average sized American female body (cough cough the majority).
The website includes the average waistline measurements of all skirts at 22” and an average bust size of 24”. Now I am no mathematician, but using the CDC’s measurements, an average American woman has a bust size of 34” and a waistline of 27.5”. This means that in order to shop at Brandy Melville the average woman needs to go down a third of her bust size and lose almost 6” in her waist-line. The dimensions of a life-size Barbie are more realistic than Brandy Melville’s clothing.
After the clueless sales associate walked away, I proceeded to take my anger out on my poor dad, since he was the only one around to absorb the nuclear fallout that ensued. Although I had found some very cute jewelry that actually did fit me (I have skinny wrists, be jealous), as a logical human being I couldn’t allow myself to buy anything from that store. With my head held high, I put down all the merchandise that, only 5 minutes prior, I had been so excited to purchase and walked out of Brandy Melville. Unless shorts that show the entire surface area of my ass comes into style, I won’t be returning to Brandy Melville any time soon.
Fat Shaming or Smart Marketing? Check out BUST blogger Hallie Marks' take on Lululemon's refusal to sell plus sizes.
Images via Brandy Melville