In recent years, we've seen the welcome introduction of body positivity into mainstream beauty and fashion brands. It makes a stark contrast to the stick-thin supermodel-promoted advertising of the 90s, promising consumers that if they bought this particular item of clothing, they too would instantly become beautiful and skinny.
Of course, this type of promotion still occurs, but there are many brands that are becoming more inclusive and body positive in both their designs and marketing.
The issue we have now, however, is distinguishing between brands that genuinely care about their customers' wellbeing, and those which are merely using body positivity to make a profit. Unfortunately, there are some who are jumping on the bandwagon and using what should be an empowering movement to create successful advertising campaigns and sell more products.
That's why we've compiled this list of brands that go the extra mile to enforce body positivity; read on to find out more.
Photo credit: Knix
Knix is an inspiring underwear brand that specializes in leakproof period underwear, comfortable bras.
Since their launch in 2013, Knix have put their emphasis on women being comfortable and confident, whatever their shape and size. As a brand, they don't believe in sticking to conventional women's underwear concepts — usually hyper-sexualised, lacey and uncomfortable. Instead, they've used their innovative design ideas and period panty technology to create revolutionary yet functional underwear products.
Not only are their period undies leakproof, moisture-wicking and anti-odour, but their bras are comfortable, supportive and wireless. Sounds like a win, doesn't it?
Knix really believe in promoting body positivity: they want all women to be comfortable in their own skin and free to be themselves. Choosing underwear products that are specifically designed to make you feel confident and comfortable seems like a pretty good place to start.
Photo credit: @asos
This well-known British online retailer has been paving the way in body positivity for a while now. ASOS have made a deliberate effort to be inclusive and diverse — choosing to work with more than 200 models to represent their sprawling audience across the world.
They haven't stopped at just using models with different body types either; ASOS clothes come in more than 30 sizes, which they've committed to providing at the same price. By being size-inclusive, ASOS have shown a progressive attitude towards body positivity that many online clothing stores unfortunately lack.
ASOS's advertising campaigns and imagery also reflect this attitude: they refuse to retouch, remove stretch marks or digitally alter images of their models. As such a huge online retailer — and one whose core demographic are young women — it's a relief to see that they are normalising practices like showing their models with stretch marks and representing the majority of women's experiences.
Furthermore, they have also partnered with GLAAD, one of the biggest voices in LGBTQ activism, to create a gender-neutral accepting collection.
Sport England: This Girl Can
Photo credit: @thisgirlcanuk
Sport England is a organization dedicated to mobilizing the British nation into taking part in sports and activities — regardless of their age, gender, background or ability. The organization created the “This Girl Can" campaign, which has now turned into an extremely successful, globally recognized movement.
This Girl Can is a female fitness movement that is both body positive and inclusive — celebrating and supporting girls and women of all backgrounds being active. Since the birth of This Girl Can in 2015, they have been inviting women everywhere to join in and get moving, without worrying about how they look.
It's refreshing to see a brand promoting body positivity in terms of physical fitness and the effect that this has on mental wellbeing. Sports and fitness brands can be guilty of excluding women if they don't fit a certain body ideal, making women less likely to want to exercise and impacting both their mental and physical health.
Far from relying on the conventional photos of super-fit sports stars, This Girl Can shines the spotlight on “real" women and put the power in their hands instead. The brand invites their audience to join them on their journey to inclusivity and positivity in exercise by sharing photos of themselves using the hashtag #ThisGirlCan.
Check out their Instagram — it's incredibly inspiring and moving to see the women featured, and how the brand celebrates self-love in such a positive way.
Photo credit: ModCloth
ModCloth is a San Francisco-based online fashion retailer that specialises in quirky, vintage-inspired clothing. Not only do they offer a range of sizes, but they feature models with a wide range of body types and sizes in their campaigns to accurately reflect their audience.
As with the other brands we've mentioned on this list, ModCloth signed an anti-photoshop pledge in 2014, vowing to never change the size, color, proportion or physical features of their models.
They've also made an effort to become much more size-inclusive — in both their product offerings and their language. In 2015, they experimented with removing the “plus size" section from their homepage to create a more inclusive, integrated brand community. Since then, they have reintroduced a plus size section to improve their customers' shopping experience, but they continue to use positive language and have removed plus-oriented language from the site in order to be more inclusive.
All of the above brands have made a conscious effort to promote body positivity through their clothing offerings, messaging and core brand values. As a result, they are championed by their customer communities — and seem to be having a real impact across the retail industry. It just goes to show that the body positive movement isn't just a marketing fad — it's here to stay.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."