American Apparel expands collection, runs contest for plus sized models

woman with pink flower shirt and black leggings crouches

American Apparel, jilted lover of the hipster fashion elite, recently announced that it’s expanding its collection to include plus sizes, and is holding a contest for new plus sized models.

The company’s history of bullshit is well-documented. They’ve faced criticism from feminists and non-feminists alike for their sexist ad campaigns, accusations of sexual harassment at all levels of the company, and labor practices.

Which makes me quite cynical about this latest maneuver. Has American Apparel seen the body-positive light? Or is it just part of a dying company’s futile quest to maintain relevance with its fickle market demographic? Apart from having a more diverse group of women to add to its cadre of spandex-clad models, will this new move have any positive implications for women’s body image and depictions of diverse bodies in the media?

woman with long curly hair and gold leggings poses

The cynical side of me also wants to point out that their plus size is a size 12-14, which is a size L in most stores, and that most of the “plus-sized” models in their contest don’t look “plus-sized” at all- they look like most of the real-life women I know.

But the less cynical side of me thinks it’s, well, kinda cool that we’ll be seeing a more diverse (and representative) group of women in their ads, and that more women will have access to the designs and brands they want (assuming American Apparel is what they want).

Especially interesting is the fact that many of the women who are competing in the contest admit to having overcome eating disorders. “Heather Hazzan”, the first model pictured above, says:

“After six years of living in a mental prison, obsessively counting calories and working out to an unhealthy size 0, I decided to choose freedom and truly live life. I have accepted my natural size 12/14 curvy body and could not be happier. I hope to inspire women with my story of embracing my body to live life to the fullest.”

So althought it’s hard to separate American Apparel from its creepy CEO and bad business practices, I do think this latest move is overall a positive one. It won’t hurt to have a more diverse smattering of women depicted in the company’s ads. Besides, if I (and the rest of the internet-surfing universe) have to stare at legging-clad women draping themselves all over my screen every time I visit a website with a strong middle-upper class female demographic, at least it’ll be nice to have a few more body types represented.

H/t Emily Gallagher/Permanent Wave

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5 Comments

  1. Posted August 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Wow leggings. A turn for the best? Well its American Apparrel lets wait and see

  2. Posted August 31, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Color me completely unimpressed. Charney gets no pass from me. Forgive my burnt, hard little heart, but all this indicates *in my opinion* is that Dov decided that yeah, sure, he’d fuck a fat chick, if she were hot enough, hyuh hyuh hyuh. The “contest” lets the company build up a nice *free* portfolio of spank-bank images as they look for the women who will be given the “opportunity” to work for AA.

    Unrelated to the fact that Dov Charney is the slimiest slimeball that ever slimed a ball: AA’s clothes are, on the whole, outlandishly and conspicuously ugly enough that I actually suspect it is an art school project at this point.

  3. Posted September 1, 2011 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    It seems to becoming standard that ‘plus sizes’ start one or two sizes below the average size for the target market. I guess that proves poor body image makes money….. how else can you justify it?

    • Posted September 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Maybe fat girls are supposed to feel better about themselves if they’re wearing a range of clothes that “normal women” wear too? I have no idea. Surely if your average range is 4-16 that means plus size ought to be 18+?

  4. Posted September 1, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Oh good, now women over a size 6 can be framed as if they’re 14 year old girls in some paedophiles basement.

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