It’s almost impossible to go a day at Wilson without seeing a classic striped Brandy Melville t-shirt. And then another one. Then one more. How does one store sell so many striped shirts? Since its launch in 1970, the company has gained a loyal following of mainstream teenage girls. If you’ve heard of Brandy Melville, you’re probably aware of the “one size fits all” policy that defines the store. However, one size does not, in fact, fit all, but rather confines itself to the “ideal” body type that society has imprinted into women’s minds. It’s the same ideal that can be seen throughout all of pop culture; girls who fit conventional beauty standards (tall, skinny, white, blonde…) get the praise, the representation, the envy, and the cute clothes.
Brandy Melville’s website states that their clothing fits size extra-small to small. Upon closer inspection, you will find their 12-inch busts and 25-inch
waistlines most closely resemble a size two. According to Today, the average women’s clothing size in the U.S. is a 16. Good luck fitting into Brandy Melville’s restricting apparel if you wear a size four or above. But don’t worry if you can’t squeeze into the store’s exclusive clothing–there are always accessories! As Jessy Longo, an executive at the company, told USA Today, “The one size fits most clothing might turn off somebody if they don’t walk into the store, but if you walk in you’ll find something, even if it’s a bag.” Ah yes, at least everyone can buy a really cool bag.
Women bigger than a size two deserve to be offered more than just a bag. All sizes and shapes deserve to have cute clothing regardless of what they look like. Your body should not be an inconvenience when it comes to something as simple as clothing. The problem with companies like Brandy Melville is that they are aware of their exclusion, yet still choose to neglect how problematic their system can be.
It’s clear Brandy Melville not only caters to a certain body size, but also to a certain race. Open their website or Instagram page, and you’ll be overwhelmed with the sight of endless white women. Every once in a while, a few token Black models are peppered in there to add diversity, though they still conform to Eurocentric beauty types. And if you think Black representation is lacking, just look at the amount of Asian, Latina or Native American models. Oh wait…there are none.
The models a company uses can send a clear message about who they want their target audience to be. And for Brandy Melville, it’s the white girls with the blonde hair and skinny legs. Seeing diversity in mainstream media is vital, as it indicates who is seen as beautiful, who is worthy, and who is normal under the judgemental eyes of the public. To create a more inclusive society, all sizes and skin colors need to be represented and celebrated.
For those who shop at Brandy Melville, their lack of diversity may seem trivial compared to more blatant forms of racism and sexism, but the company’s rise to popularity despite its ignorant mindset attests to just how normalized harmful beauty standards for women have become in society. Brandy Melville’s fueling of the image of an “ideal” teenage girl that aids in creating unrealistic expectations that are set into impressionable young minds. As long as Brandy Melville’s products remain coveted by mainstream culture, girls will always try to squeeze into their clothing in order to fit the societal image of beauty.
While Brandy Melville is not the only company guilty of problematic microaggressions (think Urban Outfitters’ “eat less” shirt, or H&M using a Black child to model their “coolest monkey in the jungle” tee), it is a perfect example of how prevalent damaging beauty standards remain in our society.
Today’s generation of teenage girls, especially at Wilson, pride themselves on being socially-aware, intersectional feminists. But we become so ignorant when it comes to who we support or what stores we buy from. We need to stop allowing companies like Brandy Melville to pass by as a luxury for skinny white girls while leaving less privileged groups in the dark.