Nearly every week, my favorite podcast plays an ad for upstart lingerie brand Third Love, emphasizing the company’s accumulation of millions of data points to create the “perfect fit” in an “updated range of sizes”. When you visit the website, the header claims the brand offers “Bras for Every Body” and “more options in more sizes”. While Third Love is the most visible example of a new trend among brands loudly – and inaccurately – proclaiming to make products for “every body, they are certainly not alone. Why are brands using this false advertising tactic and how are they allowed to get away with it?

As someone who previously held a Dove spokesperson contract and has an established career in fashion marketing, I’m not naive to the role I played in the capitalist co-opting of the body positive movement. Although the fashion industry cannot exist without capitalism, the budding plus size niche of the industry owes a debt of gratitude to the fat activists whose decades of work are only now beginning to pay off. Plus size fashion is a category that arguably encompasses anyone over a size 12, but as you move through the options beyond a size 22, the assortment narrows to a point so fine it is almost entirely nonexistent.

When I take Third Love’s Fit Finder quiz, instead of being shown a product grid of bras that are available in my size, I’m taken to a landing page with cheerfully apologetic messaging that my size is coming….eventually. That doesn’t stop the brand from using “bras and underwear for every body” and #brasforeverybody messaging across all platforms, even though their underwear sizing tops out at a size 3x (22/24). The company’s failure to acknowledge that they don’t, in fact, make products for every body is a shameful attempt to erase anyone outside their size range. The fashion industry, particularly marketing teams and investors, are sheep, so all it takes is one brand getting accolades before there’s a company-wide brainstorm on how to join the bo-po herd.

Khloe Kardashian’s brand Good American earned media points for inclusivity, even though the size range comes to a halt at 24. That doesn’t stop “every body” from appearing in the caption of promoted posts on Instagram or copy describing a “full and inclusive size range” from gracing the website. Potentially the longest running offender of them all, Aerie, sells “bras, undies, swimsuits and more for every girl” while excluding everyone above a size XXL. The website is full of saccharine faux positive messaging and slogan t-shirts, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to remind you that they created an entire men’s body positivity campaign that was literally a joke.

Straight size brands ignoring anyone over a size 12 is so common it’s practically expected, but when brands founded by plus size women blithely disregard the 24+ size range, the erasure feels especially personal. YouTuber and Makeup Geek founder Marlena Stell launched a new fashion brand, Marste. The trailblazing entrepreneur has openly shared her numerical size and feelings surrounding her relationship to her body in videos, so I eagerly anticipated Marste’s launch. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the only sizes offered are 0-22, especially when the brand’s Instagram bio describes it as “the NOW fashion brand for ALL women”.

It would be naive to believe that any one brand could offer sizes to truly fit “every body“, but imagine having so little regard for your customer that you’re arrogant enough to claim that you do.

Every body marketing is yet another way for the fashion industry to continue to ostracize the most marginalized consumers. Not including plus sizes within your size range is a choice, but using inclusion as an empty marketing technique without truly being inclusive is dishonest, verging on offensive. Sadly, dishonesty isn’t illegal, but false advertising is. Can these broad marketing claims be considered false advertising?

According to the FTC, “federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence.” For insight into the legalities of every body marketing, I turned to the internet’s favorite fashion lawyer, Julie Zerbo from The Fashion Law. “Bringing an actionable claim for false or misleading advertising is no simple matter. It requires a party to show a number of things, including 1) the defendant brand made an explicit claim – or sent an implicit message (or implicit via imagery) about its own or another’s products, 2) the claim was false or misleading, and 3) that false or misleading claim is “material,” meaning that it is likely to impact the purchasing decisions of consumers in connection with the products at issue.”

Julie went on to explain that average consumers would have to believe that brands are capable of offering sizes for every body and as a result, purchasing decisions were influenced by that belief. “In short: it is unclear whether this could or could not give rise to a merited false ad claim”, she concluded.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem as if this phase of inclusivity marketing is going anywhere. It’s also at most disingenuous, which leaves very little resolution for those of us who continue to be left behind, even by plus size fashion efforts. I hold out hope that brands like Soncy, And Comfort, and Universal Standard will continue to lead the way forward.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on every body marketing and the direction inclusivity is taking within the fashion industry. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Where is the article about this photo on IG? https://www.instagram.com/p/Bv2DQKmneNn/ It cheered me up. With your hair slicked back, the open moto, brief case and sensible shoes – can’t see them exactly, you look like a boss. May I ask, what size is your Geneva? The color makes a splash against the gray backdrop. Like the shoes are athletic, but they’re black and neat looking, so it is a streamlined look. I was hoping to find details here. Nice article. Isn’t it the truth? Good American I thought goes only to 22, but I just checked, and it now goes up to 24 – you’re right! It is progress, at least . . . Am a fan of Universal Standard, and my budget is limited, so I have to hold off on investing in more clothes for a while. But, I like what I have from US. There are two extremes which disappoint me. (1) the talk that plus size advocacy has been co opted by slim, white women (2) when I see fashion bloggers promoting, “inclusive sizing,” and they’re modeling size XXL, the upper size limit of the brand. Just because they can tug and pull to get a 2nd skin garment to look okay in a posed and professionally shot photo, and you know they’re going to pull off that thing as soon as the shoot is over, doesn’t equal appeal to me. I can’t follow those blogs. (1) that talk is often applied to US, and I have to say, US clothes are slimming, even on size 22/24 models on its website. Those models look thick, or healthy, but not extremely fat, like you do in the IG pic. Even the larger models look more streamlined in those clothes. Like, this young model is wearing size 22/24, and she just looks curvy regular size in the Geneva: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0838/4441/products/Vneck_Geneva_Milky_Blue_USDR0374_0123_051_2048x.progressive.jpg
    This model is wearing size 26/28: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0838/4441/products/ThamesFogDress_Black_1030_045_800x.progressive.jpg I’m 26/28 right now, and I like the luxury of extra fabric, so it’s a good size, or I go up to 30/32. Bloggers who squeeze into a 1X – and that’s as high as the brand manufactures do not impress me. BTW, the US website is like a fashion magazine to me. It is nice to see attractive women in the contemporary fashions who range in size!

  2. Ive been disappointed myself going to a store that advertises they carry to size 5x only to go there and find that the racks only contained clothes to size 3x. Did a bus get there carrying 4x and 5x women before I got there and they bought everything in those sizes in the entire store? I didn’t think so!

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