Dressing and Addressing the Crisis: Confronting the fashion industry on body image

Victoria’s Secret’s ‘The Perfect “Body”’ campaign, promoting their “Body” bra has sparked a heated conversation. 26,000 people signed a change.org petition that asked the company to revise the slogan “to something that does not promote unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty, as well as a pledge to not use such harmful marketing in the future.”

Victoria’s Secret reworded the official ad but never released a formal statement apologizing. The lingerie company has committed a PR infraction by not addressing the crisis. Taking responsibility for misconduct is the first step to amending a damaged relationship with consumers. Owning a mistake says that a company is willing to compromise and move forward.

Calvin Klein recently faced a similar controversy after it launched its “Perfectly Fit” campaign that featured Myla Dalbesio, a size 10. Many were outraged that Calvin Klein’s plus size was a size 10. Klein handled the crisis much more eloquently than Victoria’s Secret. Klein was quick to point out that the model was never labeled as plus sized. The company later released a statement that says,

“The Perfectly Fit line was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.”

The statement verbally addresses the controversy and the concerns in a respectful and responsible way.

It isn’t news that body image is distorted in our culture. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 24 million people suffer from eating disorders in the US and 69% of girls 5th– 12th grade said magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body.

A handful of progressive companies have received a lot of positive feedback for promoting healthy body image. Dove has pioneered this cause since 2004 when it launched the successful Real Beauty campaign that features women of all shapes and sizes as part of project to restore self-esteem. In the last year, Mod Cloth and Aerie adjusted their Photoshop policy by deciding not to retouch models.

While Victoria’s Secret is not the only retail company guilty of harmful advertising, it is notorious for the portrayal of thin, retouched ‘Angels’ who set the standard for an unhealthy female body image.

PR professional, Jason Mollica, who recently spoke to UD’s PRSSA chapter, said that by avoiding the discussion, Victoria’s Secret has done something wrong. “Anytime a company doesn’t apologize that speaks volumes,” Mollica said. “I love it when a company says we screwed up.” After all honesty is what consumers want in a brand. Instead of taking this crisis head on, the lingerie company turns down the opportunity to make a change and perhaps make the ultimate PR move—to use their power and influence to revolutionize the standard.


By: Margaret McNamara

Margaret McNamara is a sophomore Communications Interest and English double major at the University of Delaware with a minor in Journalism. You can follow her on twitter @marmcnamara

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