Much like you, I have a body.
Perhaps like you, I feel that my body isn't represented in the advertisements of companies that sell me clothing.
Unfortunately, because I am a plus-size woman, I face routine attempts to persuade me that I should be happy with the options available to me: Happy with the clothes, happy with the size range, and happy with how it's packaged and sold to my fashion-hungry soul and perpetually unsatisfied closet.
Enter Lane Bryant’s recent #ImNoAngel lingerie campaign.
We can start with the name of the campaign, which takes direct aim at Victoria's Secret and is undeniably snarky. Most media picked up on the snarkiness, creating headlines that echo its nastiness and unnecessary aggression:
Lane Bryant jabs Victoria's Secret...
Lane Bryant bashes Victoria's Secret...
Lane Bryant targets Victoria's Secret…
Lane Bryant’s new campaign states #MenLikeMeat, #BonesAre4Dogs
Okay, so I just made up that last one, but you get the idea. For me, it sends the exact opposite message than the one I'm about: That is, I don't think it's particularly healthy or progressive to pit fat bodies against thin bodies.
I also take issue with the fact that although Lane Bryant has been a plus-size retailer for the better part of a century (save for a period of time early on, when they sold maternity clothes); they still chose to shoot this campaign with very little body diversity. All of the models have similar, proportional figures, and all of them are around sizes 12 or 14, despite the fact that Lane Bryant's customer base are primarily women who wear size 20 and above. I've been buying bras at Lane Bryant for years, and I have never once seen a Lane Bryant customer with a body that is represented, even a little bit, in any of Lane Bryant's advertising campaigns, myself included.
Which brings me to my next point. When was it decided that stomachs, bellies, or guts do not look good in clothes? With the advent of more plus-size options and a wider acceptance of diverse bodies in fashion, somewhere along the way, the belly got left behind. Coincidentally, bellies are what many plus-size women (and straight-size women, for that matter) want to learn how to dress. And when I say "learn how," I don't mean "dress it to make it go away or appear slimmer" I mean actually see represented by models and campaigns so they can get a better idea of what would look awesome on their bodies. Isn't that what advertising is supposed to do? Present an idealized look at something so that consumers feel compelled to purchase? Why not have an idealized look at a fat person with some different types of fat person parts?
All of this is to say that my overarching criticism is the fact that I don't understand why Lane Bryant can't opt for more diversity in their advertising, given that it's what plus-size women want and what they have been quite literally begging for on social media. And if you do happen to see yourself in these images, wouldn't you want your fellow plus-size consumer to feel the same?
And actually, that’s exactly where I’m at. I am a size 18. I am white, young, able-bodied, cis-gendered, and fit most of society's "acceptable" beauty standards. I'm no model, but looking at me isn't looking at something particularly different or unusual. For all intents and purposes, I operate at the same level of privilege as a woman you'd see in a Lane Bryant campaign, the only difference being that the fat on my body isn't as "correct" as theirs. No, my body isn't proportional. No, my stomach isn't flat. Yup, I've got stretch marks. Uh-huh, my one boob is smaller than the other, and nah, I'm not particularly busty for my size.
Sure, these are absolutely minor differences, between these models and myself. But when I look at their pictures, the minor differences are what keep me from seeing myself, from seeing my body. If I feel that way, I can't imagine what the legions of other women, the ones who are strikingly different from these models, must feel.
And so I decided that as a small offering of solidarity, I would take photos of myself, a non-model, in my Lane Bryant underwear, and upload them to my Instagram. I'm not posting these to claim that I am some true representation of diversity or have a remarkable appearance that is totally ignored by mainstream media - as I mentioned before, my stats are really quite pedestrian.
No, I'm posting these to point out the fact that because of the TYPE of fat body I have, Lane Bryant would never, ever use a body like mine in a campaign. All things considered, I think that means they've still got a lot to learn. Luckily, our voices and criticisms as consumers will be the ones to teach them. Don't be afraid to keep pushing, questioning, and calling shit out. That's how we're going to really do this thing.
OKAY ENOUGH SERIOUS STUFF, HERE'S ME NEKKID.
For all the lingerie lovers out there: both bras are from Lane Bryant, along with the underwear and silky robe that needs a chaise lounge and a stiff drink to go with it. I put these photos in black and white, like the campaign, but I didn't alter them at all beyond that (yup, those are my stretch marks, I didn't Photoshop them in or anything). I took these alone so some of them are not great quality, and no; I don't know what else to do with my hands besides grab my boobs.
If you feel comfortable enough to take your own photos and upload them to Instagram, I'd love to see them. Use the tag #ImNoAngel - so Lane Bryant can see you in your glory, and #ImNoModelEither – so other women who have already participated (or want to participate) can see them, too.
This submission was reprinted with permission from www.amandakater.com.