By Sharon Haywood, Director of AnyBody Argentina
If I told you I recently came across a boutique where none of its dresses fit over my head would you believe me? If you’re a woman who wears a US size 8/10 or higher and who’s lived in Argentina for any length of time, you certainly would. In fact, you’d probably share a story or two of your own. After residing for more than a decade in Buenos Aires, I should know better than to even consider buying clothes in the country, especially considering I’m fortunate enough to be able to keep my wardrobe topped up on my regular Toronto trips to visit family and friends. However, every once in a while I succumb to the temptation of a pretty piece displayed in a store window, knowing full well I’ll need to shore up my self-esteem before reaching the changeroom. If it doesn’t fit me—and more often than not it doesn’t—I remind myself that my body isn’t defective, it’s the Argentine fashion industry that needs reform. And that’s something my team, AnyBody Argentina—the Argentine chapter of Endangered Bodies, an international organization that challenges the culture that teaches us to hate our own bodies—also understands.
On January 11, AnyBody Argentina launched our most recent campaign, “El talle único no es el único talle” (“One-Size-Fits-All Is Not the Only Size”), in which we recognized five national fashion brands for committing to stock a minimum range of seven sizes in the majority of its jeans and/or trousers, those being the items that Argentines have the most difficulty finding in their size as confirmed by our annual national surveys. In this first phase of Summer 2016, we congratulate Portofem, Taverniti, Florida Chic, Portsaid, and Yagmour for their wide range of sizes, the details of which can be found online in the voluntary agreement each brand signed. The public is able to identify these body-positive brands via a store window sticker, which carries the same name as our campaign.
AnyBody Argentina’s recognition sticker is displayed in 144 shop windows throughout the country
Our focus on sizes isn’t anecdotal: approximately 65 percent of Argentine women have difficulty finding clothes in their size, a percentage that has remained more or less constant since 2012. The country’s first Ley de talles or Size Law, created to guarantee consumers an ample selection of sizes, was established in the province of Buenos Aires six years ago, a positive step toward eliminating weight discrimination in society.
It would be if the law were effectively enforced.
To complicate matters, additional size laws have since emerged in nine provinces and two municipalities, each mandating different norms, making it next to impossible for national or international fashion brands to fully comply.
Although offering a variety of sizes forms the foundation of our campaign, it isn’t just about supporting brands to comply with an inevitable national size law—the campaign aims to help incite a cultural shift in the representation of women’s bodies. The country’s existing lack of sizes in female fashion is intimately connected to how women’s bodies are presented in the media; more specifically, it’s linked to the glorification of one body type, namely white, tall, and skinny. Unfortunately, the regular exposure to this beauty norm is not benign: studies have established that continued consumption of the thin ideal can negatively impact body confidence in girls and women, in addition to being linked to low self-esteem and eating disorders.
It was with these sobering facts in mind that AnyBody Argentina expanded our vision to not only recognize brands that offer a wide selection of sizes, but to also highlight those which celebrate body diversity. More specifically, we’ve endorsed Taverniti and Portofem for their use of different sized women in their promotional materials, and Florida Chic for its decision not to digitally retouch the size, shape, or facial features of its models. We also officially recognize brands that display different-sized mannequins, but none of the five brands have met this requirement—at least not yet.
Should brands even care about the self-esteem and body confidence of its clientele? In an ideal world, yes, but it’s not as if clothing shops were designed to be altruistic entities, meant to preserve and encourage the mental and physical health of female shoppers. The fashion industry is just that—an industry designed to make money. And they have historically done so by adhering to the advertising model of aspiration in which brands sell their clothing via models with the “perfect” body, implying that the consumer will look more like the model by wearing its garments. Traditionally, fashion brands, within Argentina and globally, have adhered to this aspirational model but a shift has begun to take place.
Brands such as ModCloth, Debenhams, and Target are stepping out as body-positive leaders who recognize the tangible value in presenting their garments on models and mannequins that resemble their consumers. Recent research supports what these brands already know: a 2012 study involving 2500 Canadian and American women led by Dr. Ben Barry revealed that women’s purchasing intentions soared when they saw clothing featured on models that looked like them—especially in relation to size. Conversely, Barry also discovered that women’s intentions to purchase decreased significantly when the female subjects couldn’t identify with the model. In other words, more size diversity translates to happier, loyal consumers and greater profits for brands. Furthermore, female consumers are responding positively to brands that choose not to digitally retouch their models. For instance, Aerie, a lingerie brand by American Eagle, has shown continued increased sales since implementing its no-Photoshop policy in 2014. In fact, the company’s CEO anticipates sales doubling in the coming years simply by selling its clothes on un-airbrushed models of various sizes.
Considering that in less than a month our campaign has garnered ample national press and a growing list of brands wishing to become involved, we suspect the Argentine fashion industry is wising up to the reality of moneymaking in the 21st century: Forget fantasy—un-retouched diversity sells.
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If you’re based in Argentina, support AnyBody Argentina in raising awareness about the importance of real diversity—not just in clothing sizes, but also in the models who sell us those clothes. If you know of a brand who would like to become involved or would like to recommend one (whether they meet the basic minimum or not), contact AnyBody Argentina on Facebook, Twitter or via its website. Take part in creating a truly inclusive culture that not only recognizes but celebrates body diversity.
 Grabe, S, Ward, M.L. & Hyde, J.S. (2008). The Role of the Media in Body Images Concerns Among Women: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental and Correlational Studies. Psychological Bulletin, 134: 3, 460-476. / Groesz, L.M., Levine, M.P. & Murnen, S.K. (2002). The Effect of Experimental Presentation of Thin Media Images on Body Satisfaction: A Meta-Analytic Review. International Journal of Eating Disorders, Jan;31(1): 1-16.