ART BY HAZUKI TONOMURA
By ANA-SOFIA MUÑOZ
You are browsing the racks at your favorite clothing store when an item catches your eye. You make your way over to the rack and begin to look for your size, only to find that the tag reads ONE SIZE. Upon trying the piece on, it does not fit you, which leaves you feeling disheartened.
Of course, this is not an issue for everyone. Yet for the many people who face this kind of situation, the effects can be devastating.
Within the last several years, the emergence of the body positivity movement has had an incredible impact on our society. In the past, representation in the media was limited to a tall, thin ideal; now, as a result of the body positivity movement, there is representation for a much more diverse range of body types.
However, in spite of the strides that the body positivity movement has made towards encouraging confidence and diversity, there is something actively counteracting its progress: “one size fits all” clothing.
In recent years, “one size fits most” clothing stores have begun to rise in popularity. In particular, one store facing much scrutiny for their one-size policy is Brandy Melville.
Brandy Melville is an Italian retailer that markets to young women and infamously sells nearly every item in only one size.
The company launched in the United States in 2009 and rapidly gained popularity, growing to become number one in up-trending brands in 2014. Within the past five years, social media has also played a major role in the company’s expansion: on Instagram, one can find hundreds of pictures of so-called “Brandy Girls” modelling their clothing. These pictures often portray the vintage aesthetic that is extremely popular and highly sought after by young people everywhere.
Consequently, teen girls have turned to purchasing copious amounts of clothing from the chain—that is, the girls who can fit into their items.
Contrary to its name, the supposedly “one size fits most” clothing actually fits only a select few. On the Brandy Melville website, its one-size items are usually described with “fits size extra small/small.” Even the store’s items with multiple sizes typically list only up to a medium, at the largest.
Many have taken issue with the brand’s extremely limited sizing. Countless websites like The Mercury News and HuffPost have published opinion pieces criticizing the company’s one-size philosophy. Authors explain their own negative experiences with one-size clothing and its impact on their confidence and body-image. Such articles provide valuable insight into the adverse effects that selective companies can have on individuals every day.
Essentially, the primary concern that consumers have is not the fact that Brandy Melville sells their clothing in only small sizes, but the way that they market their products. The claim that “one size fits most” or “one size fits all” suggests that those who do not fit into certain items are in the minority group that is “too big” for Brandy Melville’s clothing. This creates a direct focus on a person’s size, typically creating a negative view of their weight. Customers are led to feel as though they are somehow at fault for not fitting into these items, when in reality, the company simply caters only to smaller sizes.
While this may not seem like a major controversy, encouraging such a skewed perspective of one’s weight can have incredibly detrimental long-term effects. For example, the National Eating Disorders Association reported an ongoing study in Minnesota found increasing anorexia rates in females aged 15 to 24. The organization’s research also revealed that the main environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders is society’s idealization of thinness—in other words, the exact ideology that companies like Brandy Melville promote. In turn, this subverts the advances of the body positivity movement. Despite that the present movement in society emphasises confidence regardless of size, one of the most prevalent fashion companies insists otherwise. Most young people, being so vulnerable to adverse perceptions of their image, are likely to be influenced by these companies even in spite of the movement’s attempts to advocate positive self-image.
However, this does not mean that the company should cease to exist entirely. Rather than marketing their clothing as “one size fits most”, retailers like Brandy Melville can identify themselves as a petite clothing company. Doing so would better promote inclusivity by continuing to provide clothing for smaller people, without sending a negative message to those that do not fit their items.
Overall, until retailers with one-size philosophies either change their marketing or expand their range of sizes, this issue will only continue to escalate as more and more companies turn to producing one-size clothing. Those involved in the body positivity movement have worked for far too long to have their efforts undermined by the growing prominence of the one-size philosophy.