Aerie, a brand owned by American Eagle, is centered around embracing yourself. They sell athletic wear, underwear, swimsuits, and pajamas, all while focusing on the idea of “being real.” They make clothes to make you feel amazing, that can be dressed up or dressed down, and they encourage authenticity and for women to be unapologetically themselves. In their mission statement, Aerie states they not only want to promote body positivity, but encourage their competitors to do the same.
For most of my time growing up, stores didn’t have this same message. Victoria’s Secret Pink was one of the first ‘teen’ stores that I started shopping in during middle school. The models in these stores looked so different than me. Growing up with the idea that this was what I was ‘supposed’ to look like never made me feel good about myself. For the average-sized teenager or woman, Victoria Secret Angels represented what everyone wished they could look like. Victoria Secret’s message was that you could only be beautiful, mysterious, and attractive if you were less than a size 4. With the average size of a woman in America being a size 16, this message hurt many women.
Shopping in a store where your body type has absolutely no representation can be harmful. With so many young girls developing body insecurities that lead to harmful behaviors, it is important that this change. Finally something changed in 2019, when Victoria’s Secret canceled its fashion show, stating “it needed to evolve and be rethought for a new media era.” Twenty four years after the Victoria Secret Angels first hit the runway, its time had come to an end. This made way for a new era of models and body positivity.
This is the moment where Aerie got put in the spotlight. One of the first brands that I can remember of its kind, it started getting attention. Aerie’s body positivity campaign came at a time when the movement was just starting to go through the world. It was a time when many young girls and women needed encouragement just to love themselves for a change, as it was a store that finally embraced women of all different shapes and sizes. The photos of models in the store represent all different types of women. In addition this this, Aerie also has an ambassador program. Each ambassador has brought change to the world through their career or philanthropy. One example is Aly Raisman, who went from Olympic gymnast to advocate.
One of my favorite parts about shopping at Aerie is their dressing rooms. On the mirror in every dressing room are inscriptions with the words ‘you look great!’ on them. In previous years, they have had post-its where you can write and stick them on the mirror. Strangers write messages like, ‘you look beautiful’ or ‘you totally rock that.’ Soon, both sides of each dressing room mirror are filled with encouraging words. Such simple kind words like this from strangers can make people feel loved.
Aerie has not only achieved their mission in their stores but has brought about change as well. Stores that used to have so many regulations on sizes for models have now expanded those rules. Victoria’s Secret Pink has now completely changed the way in which they advertise their clothes; they include all different women who embrace themselves. If I was growing up right now, I would be much happier walking into a store knowing that people in the advertisements looked like me. This movement is a step in the right direction by making more people feel included, which is a wonderful thing. Aerie has made a positive difference for so many people and has changed the messages that businesses send to women.