Hot on the heels of the announcement that Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition is including an ad featuring the magazine’s first-ever plus size model, online retailer ModCloth just released a game-changing swimsuit campaign of its own. The photo series, snapped to promote its collection of quirky, vintage-style swimwear, features ModCloth’s own employees modeling its beach-bound buys. And since the brand has taken a pledge to use Photoshop and other photo retouching processes minimally, you can be certain: this is what real women look like in bathing suits.
The latest of ModCloth’s trailblazing body-positive initiatives, including the release of an all-size-inclusive clothing line with blogger Nicolette Mason in 2014, the photo shoot features a variety of sized employees — from petite to plus-sized women — all suited up for summer in some the brand’s most popular pieces, including company co-founder Susan Gregg Koger. Styled minimally with everyday hair and makeup just polishing each beach babe’s features (so not bronzed beyond recognition) and with all kind of curves (and tattoos) on full display, these swimsuit models look shockingly relatable. According to Domonique, ModCloth’s Merchandise Stylist and model, that was the intention of the photo shoot. “I hope [other women] look at it and can see themselves in the pictures in the campaign,” she said. “Instead of saying ‘Hey, that looks like something I wish I could put on,’ they could be like “I can wear this. This girl looks like me. I can do this too.”
But what that comes across even stronger from the images is that these women, plucked from their desks to model swimwear in the dead of winter, look like they feel good in their own skin. “I think whenever you hear ‘bathing suit in January,’ you always get a little bit nervous,” Domonique said. “But I think when you’re in a group like that and you see everybody in suits you get more comfortable as it goes on.”
“We just fed off of each others’ energy and once you realize that everybody has their own struggles, big or small, with body image, you can really just…shed those worries,” said Christen, fellow model and ModCloth Merchandise Copy Editor. “Banding together helps empower each other.”
While the idea to use real women of various sizes in a clothing campaign isn’t anything new for ModCloth, it’s far from an industry standard. Considering both professional straight- and plus-sized models’ bodies are often manipulated to meet certain societal body ideals, most ads don’t reflect a realistic portrayal of body image anyway, and that’s a major problem. While industry acceptance to meet that very real demand is slow moving, ModCloth will continue its advocacy for all-inclusive, body-positive sentiments among its peers and customers with more ads just like this. “The real hope around this is that we are putting the idea in everyone’s heads that every size and shape and body, every single person — every woman — is just beautiful. And as long as she is trying to be the best version of herself, which we say a lot here at ModCloth, that’s perfect,” Christen said. “We hope that this is eventually the regular mindset in our society: that the best version of yourself is the best version there is.”
What ways do you want to see brands promote more body positivity? Tell us in the comments below.
Editor’s Note: Thank you all for sharing your thoughts with us on this post. We have been following (and celebrating!) many media outlets’ decisions to stop Photoshopping and to feature a more diverse range of women in ad campaigns and editorial spreads. The “realness” referenced in this post (as one commenter pointed out), doesn’t refer to size, but to the women in this campaign not being Photoshopped — and not being pro models (you know, just like us ;). Thank you again for sharing your comments with us; we love to hear from the Co in Brit + Co.