The popular teen clothing store Brandy Melville and its "one size fits most" approach to fashion — "small," being that one size — has been in the news a lot recently. Mostly, the commentary has been negative, and with good reason. After all, aren't we already living in a skinny girl world? Why do we need stores that only cater to the thinnest of teenagers, thus putting even more pressure on young women to try and starve themselves into a Brandy Melville-sized dress? The simple answer is... we don't.
In a recent piece for Slate, entitled "The Very Popular Store That Only Sells Clothes for Skinny Girls," Laura Bradley says:
More than half of [teenage girls] use unhealthy weight control methods, including skipping meals and purging, in obsessive pursuit of bodies that Brandy Melville implies "most" people already have. In an ideal world where body size, character, and worth were not conflated, perhaps a store like Brandy Melville could coexist with the department stores and plus size stores. But we do not live in that world, and girls above a certain size are already taught they’re not good enough.
Precisely. Perhaps this exclusivity is what made Brandy Melville the number one brand among teen girls, according to Business Insider. It's the same principle that helped Abercrombie & Fitch rise to fame. One size may not fit most, but when a store makes girls feel like they're part of the cool crowd, they'll keep going back.
The average American woman is a size 14. Brandy Melville is clearly not catering to The Average, and, like A&F before it, the company is not remotely sorry. Of course, plus-size only retailers exist too, but, as Bradley points out, stores like Torrid were created to fill a need that was not previously being met. "Brandy Melville isn’t a specialty store for the girls who are so skinny they can’t find clothing at an average department store. Sizes 00, 0 and 2 can be found in most teen stores."
Plus-size only stores are designed to create inclusivity for girls and women who often can't find what they are looking for in regular shops. Brandy Melville's entire ethos appears to be the exact opposite. It's like a secret club for girls who wear small sizes — no "fatties" allowed. This Mean Girls mentality is reflected in the company's Instagram account, which features young girls frolicking around in Brandy Melville wares, most of them white, all of them thin.
There's no deny that this type of marketing is damaging to the psyches of all young girls, even those who might fit into the Coachella-ready offerings Brandy Melville peddles. Pressure on women to get thin and stay thin is pervasive and nothing short of disastrous. I've seen countless otherwise smart and interesting women (myself included) absolutely lose their minds over some extra weight. That is the fault of a system that allows stores like Brandy Melville to flourish.
But it's important to remember, always, when participating in this discussion, that we shy away from skinny-shaming. The girls and their bodies (yes, even the ones who model for Brandy Melville) are not the problem and we should not treat them that way. Every body is a beautiful body. Instead of working to fit our clothing, how about we only buy clothing that fits us? One size doesn't fit most, nor should it.