For decades, leggy supermodels were the ultimate ideal of feminine beauty.
Designer brands all over the world relied on statuesque characters like Kate Moss, Gisele Bundchen, and Heidi Klum to sell apparel.
But now, a shift toward “real” beauty is challenging American conventions, and retailers are taking note.
Consumers are clearly demonstrating that they like seeing people in advertisements who aren’t traditional models cast by an agency.
Now, Aerie is taking things a step further.
In its most recent campaign, Share Your Spark, the company featured numerous women who aren’t models. Some models, like Aerie spokes model Iskra Lawrence and popular curvy model Barbie Ferreira are featured, but the campaign also features a bevy of designers, bloggers, and “regular people”.
The idea is that women don’t need to be classified as models to be beautiful.
Consumers are clearly buying into the idea; in Aerie’s most recent quarter, comparable sales soared 32%.
Many other retailers are also capitalising on a more inclusive version of beauty.
And recently, Chris Weller of Tech Insider reported that up-and-coming fashion brand Orin announced it would let its customers decide what sorts of models they’d see for two weeks — with variables from race to size and more.
The company will also crowdsource what sort of products consumers would like to see, what factory workers will get paid during the process, and where the merchandise will be made, too.
When women are told that they need to look a certain way, they revolt.
Look no further than Protein World’s “Are You Beach Body Ready?” campaign. New Yorkers were repelled by the idea that advertisers could think that they wanted to shift the way they looked. The only way their bodies could be prepared to go on a beach would be to simply pack a bag with a towel and a swimsuit. (The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, even had said he wanted to ban these sorts of body-shaming ads.)
Even Kayla Itsines, the woman behind the viral Instagram workout sensation Bikini Body Guides, told Bloomberg that she regrets calling her business that exact name. That, she said, is why she named her app Sweat With Kayla.
“Do I regret calling my guides Bikini Body? My answer is yes,” she said to Bloomberg. “That’s why when I released the app, I called it Sweat With Kayla. Sweat is so empowering. I love that.”
Further, there’s been a shift to prioritise being strong over being skinny.
US gymnastics Olympian Simone Biles recently gave an interview bringing attention to the trend. The 4’9” muscular gymnast told The Cut that she used to hide her muscles.
“I always hid it with a jacket, I was always wearing a jacket,” she said to The Cut. “Once I started going to the gym more, I realised that … it wasn’t weird. I have these muscles because I do the sport that I do.”
“Now people are like ‘do you lift? Are you a gymnast? You have a good body,'” she said to the website. “People just appreciate it more.”
Even the muscular ballerina and Under Armour spokesmodel Misty Copeland has spoken out about this shift (which is obviously a huge boon to ballerinas, who have long been known for their pin-thin figures — consider Mila Kunis’s frail figure in Black Swan, for example).
“I’ve struggled with body-image issues and finding a way to fit in and create a new path for the typical body type of a ballerina,” Copeland said to The Cut.
She also told The Cut:
Over the course of different generations, the ballerina body is constantly evolving. In this day and age we do a lot more contemporary and athletic movements that create a more athletic physique. With the conversations that I’ve opened up, people are more open to expecting the different body types that exist. Also, if you go back to the 1930s and ’40s you’ll see these ballerinas that had really soft physiques — they didn’t have muscles, they weren’t six-feet-ten, and had big breasts — but that changed through the ’60s and ’70s when ballerinas got really thin. Now people are more open to the concept that dancers come in all shapes and sizes.
And even brands like Victoria’s Secret is departing from the typical model ideal.
The lingerie brand is increasingly marketing its models as athletes, as Megan Garber of The Atlantic pointed out in December.
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