The Real You IS Sexy: In Which I Have Thoughts about the Aerie Real Campaign

Okay, internet people–if you’ve ever seen me, or a picture of me, or somehow chanced to look upon my closet, it’s probably no surprise to you that I have been a customer at American Eagle since, well… since I learned that these hips would not be contained by the tiny waistbands many juniors sizes were sporting. For the longest time, AE was the only brand that fit me. And when I realized that Aerie was a thing that existed, I felt sad about all the years I’d missed out on bras and underwear that would fit me properly, too. Needless to say, I’ve got some serious brand loyalty going on in this department, so my feels definitely exploded with joy when I chanced upon the #AerieReal campaign.

Now, you can guess what it’s about, but let me just give you a little link in case you need to see it for yourself, both in the actual pictures on Aerie’s website. And also, this news release on ABC. Finally, go to Twitter, type #AerieReal into the search bar, and enjoy the positivity.

The premise is simple: Aerie is using models who are, yes, still posed to the best advantage and still wearing makeup, but who are not touched up or enhanced in any way. That’s right, folks–no photoshop for these girls. One of the taglines of the promotion is “the real you is sexy,” and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Looking at the photos of the smiling girls in their bright Aerie bras and panties, we see something that is lacking in other lingerie ads-actual stomachs, like we all have. And those folds and creases that NATURALLY HAPPEN when we bend forward or lie in certain positions.

Scrolling through the #AerieReal tweets, I’ve also noticed that Aerie stores (to which I, sadly, don’t have access) have put up the words “The girl in this mirror has NOT been retouched. The real you is sexy” on the mirrors. The dreaded dressing room mirrors that have probably reduced almost all of us to tears. I know I’m a little biased, but can we get a round of applause?

Now, this isn’t the first step of its kind (we all remember the Dove Beauty campaign, right?), but it’s nevertheless a wonderful step toward embracing body positivity, especially in the dangerous world of lingerie advertising, which usually boasts giant, perky breasts which may have once been real but are now augmented in “retouching” and perfectly rounded butts. And not a crease or tummy or wrinkle to be seen. We shouldn’t be looking, in this case, for the novelty of the thing–we should be looking for a trend towards body positivity that sticks and replaces the scary combination of purposefully malnourished supermodels being shaved and retouched to be even more impossibly thin in the name of unobtainable and unhealthy beauty standards.Yes, the girls in these photos are still pretty thin, but I think I’m okay with this as a first step towards a trend that I’m hoping will continue to embrace the reality that we are all beautiful, in all our shapes and sizes.

And of course, there are plenty of rumblings about this just being a big PR move. Of course they’re getting attention for this, but who CARES if that was part of the motivation when the effect is largely positive? There’s no way that a company getting attention for telling us our real bodies are sexy can be a bad thing.

Naturally, like so many posts and blogs have pointed out, the campaign maybe isn’t perfect. But that’s okay, because neither are we, and isn’t that kind of the point? Sure, the girls are still wearing makeup–but hey, I wear makeup most days, and that’s a lot better than showcasing women who are not, in fact, even remotely real women and are ALSO wearing makeup. And then touched up. And retouched. And slimmed down, down, down. Sure, I’m not seeing any girls who would fit the “plus size” category (which, since it starts at size 10, shouldn’t be that hard to find models for). And yes, none of these models are sporting any stretch marks, which I have very personal reasons to think should also be considered as a very real part of some of our bodies  (ahem, Aerie, if you’re looking for a stretch marked model to pave the way, I volunteer). But come on, guys (or shall I say, girls), this is a step in the very right direction.

I’ve always shopped at American Eagle because their clothes are cut in a way that accepted my body at size 12 the same way it embraces it now at size 8. I actually hugged my first Aerie bra when it came in the mail and I realized that not only did it fit, but it was actually comfortable. After seeing what Aerie has to offer both with product quality and with a quality message, I’m happy to say that from now on, I’ll be sporting that little eagle underneath it all, too.


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