What You Should Know About Aerie’s Body-Positive Revolution

Ah — it feels like yesterday that my middle-school-self was walking out of Claire’s with my silly bandz and into an Aerie for some cute bras. But because of their sizing, I haven’t been able to shop at Aerie since middle school. Though now it looks like sizing and circumstances may have changed with their #AerieReal rebranding.

If you don’t already know, Aerie is owned by parent company American Eagle and has an audience of preteen to adolescent women. That’s a pretty large demographic for such small sizes. It launched in 2006, which was peak preteen season for most of us in college right now. Not only did I love browsing the bras and undies but I also loved the pajamas and accessories they sold. It was the perfect place to find something I thought was cute and my parents approved of since Victoria’s Secret was a bit risqué for my young age.

However, soon after I started shopping at Aerie I had to stop. Puberty hit me quicker in some areas than others. Let me just say that I was almost a D cup at the end of middle school while my friends were still A’s or B’s. Shopping trips to the mall with my friends always ended with me waiting for them as they tried on cute bras with matching undies I could no longer fit into.

To my surprise, in 2014 Aerie started to change its brand. That year was the start of the company’s “Aerie Real” campaign. The campaign focused on promoting positive body images for women of all shapes and sizes. Aerie then announced their advertisements would no longer feature supermodels or retouched images. It also highlighted women of all skin colors and women with beauty marks and tattoos.  

And! Their products now included bra sizes from 30A to 40DD!

To promote healthy self-images for girls, Aerie teamed up with models and celebrities like Emma Roberts, Iskra Lawrence, Barbie Ferreira and Yara Shahidi. Seeing a more diverse range of women modeling Aerie’s underwear is an inspiring representation for all races and body types, which is important for girls’ self-image as much as their own self-esteem. Plus, I like seeing how women wearing my size actually look in the products.

Aerie didn’t just stop at changing their look. According to the National Eating Disorders Association’s website, the association awarded Aerie with the NEDA Inspires ‘Seal of Approval’ in 2015 for “dedication to unretouched, natural beauty in their advertising.”

Aerie has also teamed up with NEDA as a sponsor for the NEDA Walk, a program raising funds for educational programs and spreading awareness on eating disorders.

Safe to say that Aerie and parent-company American Eagle have taken strides to separate themselves from their previous branding that only catered to a small percentage of small-sized young women. They’ve even added more products to their brand, including swim and foot wear.

Though, some still argue that it’s not enough–and that the sizing is still off.

Journalist Jessica Torres wrote two articles trying out plus-size clothing at re-branded stores that offered larger sizes than they previously did.

Her first article called out Aerie’s use of plus-size models’ images in the store and not offering anything bigger than an XXL, which they deemed a size 18, in store.

In the second article, Torres revealed to readers that while American Eagle and Aerie claim to be “body positive,” American Eagle only offered up to a size 14 in store. She had to order anything sized larger offline and could only hope it would fit once it arrived by mail.

Ultimately, like most brands transitioning from small sizes to larger options, American Eagle and Aerie have some work to do. In the meantime, the company has made more than just visual efforts to become more body-positivity oriented. And, there are definitely more options in larger sizes now than when I was in middle school.

I personally think that Aerie has put in work and earned the right to be called body-positive. Do I still think they need to add bigger sizes? Speaking as a woman with a 34-36H bra size, hell yeah, I do. But, from what I can recall and what their demographic seems to be, the products are for young women. I expect the sizes to be small. But with a demographic ranging into their mid-twenties and women’s body shapes no longer being a stereotypical small size, their sizes in clothing do need to fit the average woman’s body.

With that being said, Aerie, keep being #AerieReal.