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Aerie Real campaign stops Photoshop use, brings out natural beauty in models

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Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014 12:43 am

The next time people see an underwear ad, the woman featured may actually look like she does in real life.

That’s right, no retouching. The women in the new “aerie Real” campaign will be in the ads, imperfections and all.

That is, if they have any imperfections.

Aerie, a lingerie company owned by American Eagle, is “walking a tightrope” of balancing beauty norms, ideals and imperfections, said Becca Cragin, associate professor of Popular Culture.

“There is some tolerance for people different from the norm, provided they conform in all other ways,” she said.

In an effort to make young women realize that “the real you is sexy,” aerie is no longer retouching the models in its photos and advertisements, according to a press release from the company.

“The purpose of ‘aerie Real’ is to communicate there is no need to retouch beauty and to give young women of all shapes and sizes the chance to discover amazing styles that work best for them,” said Jennifer Foyle, aerie’s chief merchandising officer, according to a press release. “We want to help empower young women to be confident in themselves and their bodies.”

Lori Liggett, a lecturer in Telecommunications, said the absence of photoshopping in the ad campaign may be a good start, but it needs to transfer into broader changes in society.

“I tend to think the culture at large is much more powerful than any given media image,” Cragin said.

And the wider culture is still operating with this narrow definition of what beauty is, said Melinda Lewis, a Ph.D. student in American Culture Studies.

Women in advertisements embody a “beauty ideal” of being thin, white, able-bodied and meant to please heterosexual men, Lewis said.

Liggett said she thinks aerie’s campaign sends the same message advertising and media have sent to women for the past 100 years: “To be happy … you need to look a certain way.”

“If they really wanted to address the issues of body image, they should actually use real people, not just models,” Liggett said.

The reason the company may not use real women or women who are less close to the beauty ideal may be because “they want to sell a fantasy,” Cragin said.

“They’re not stepping too far away from perfection,” she said.

The company said that “by challenging supermodel standards, aerie is poised to spark a conversation with consumers about the true meaning of beauty,” according to the press release.

Cragin said the company may be “gently” challenging super model standards, but not going too far with it, possibly because of their focus on the bottom line.

But Lewis said, “we shouldn’t be surprised when people aren’t photoshopped ... it just shouldn’t happen ... It is a nice step ... [but] if they’re still going to use size 2 women who don’t really need airbrushing, it’s still an issue.”

Aerie’s new advertising campaign includes “models of all sizes,” according to a press release from the company.

The release also reads that it shows women in bra sizes A to DD. But there are women who wear sizes larger than DD.

“The average-sized woman in this country is size 14 or 16 ... we have all these twisted bizarre ideas of what’s plus sized and what’s not,” Liggett said.

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