WARNING: If you are in any way offended by ladies’ bottoms, then this probably isn’t the post for you and I suggest you look away now!
It was earlier this year as I was sitting on the train doing my usual social media scroll to pass the time when I first came across an image on my Twitter feed that made me do a double take. The picture was a screenshot from the women’s fashion website Missguided, particularly of one of their lingerie models. The image was entirely normal…except for the stretch marks which were clearly visible on the model’s derriere.
Now, I’m not exaggerating when I say the picture made me do a double take. I was amazed! I immediately tapped my way onto Missguided’s official Instagram account to see if they had acknowledged it, and they had – there was a similar image on there too with the quite unremarkable caption “Just landed: Velvet lingerie! Green or pink? Comment below!” I double checked the link to their website to ensure this wasn’t all some elaborate prank, and indeed, the picture was equally untouched on there. So I proceeded to screenshot it, sending it to my friends, my sister, anyone who I thought might be equally as astounded as me to see a well known fashion website using images of a model with her stretch marks still intact! How astounding! Groundbreaking! Simply MINDBOGGLING!!
On reflection I realise…isn’t it a little bit sad that I found it so unbelievable to see an image of what is, in reality, just a real girl appear on my social media feed? I wasn’t the only one. While Missguided began to receive massive praise across Twitter and Instagram, they also found themselves on the receiving end of some bad PR, too. Some people began to accuse them of photoshopping the stretch marks onto the model.
Yes, really. Some consumers found it so implausible that a fashion website would use un-retouched images that they would sooner believe the stretch marks were faked.
Missguided responded to the conspiracies by releasing a statement from the model herself, first year nursing student Amanda, who clarified that the stretch marks were the real deal, that she was proud to show them off and happy that Missguided hadn’t covered them up. This still wasn’t quite enough explanation for some people, with many comments still accusing the company of lying, arguing the model was ‘too slim’ to have stretch marks.
Once again….yes, really.
If anything, I believe this negative PR and the scathing comments that the image received highlight exactly why this campaign by Missguided is so needed in society today. Firstly, there’s undoubtedly a serious problem with our culture when the public would sooner believe that a picture showing a models’ imperfections is a fraud, schemed up by money hungry photoshop wielding con artists, than a genuine attempt by a brand to be body positive. Secondly, more education is evidently needed on what real people look like when some individuals truly think that it’s possible to be ‘too slim’ to have stretch marks (news flash: stretch marks can affect slim, curvy, tall, small, female AND male human beings!). Thirdly, the realisation of how brainwashed we are by the media really hit home for me when I contemplated how hugely shocked I was to see a twenty-something year old girl who has stretch marks on social media…when I AM in fact a twenty-something year old girl who has stretch marks. Why was I so stunned to see someone who looks like me advertising clothes that I would like to buy on a website aimed at people my age? Strangest of all, our media and advertising is without a doubt flooded with images of scantily clad girls, so why is it so rare to see a stretch mark when an estimated 80% of women have them? It’s clear that something needs to change to bridge the divide between what we see in the media and what real people look like.
And Missguided are attempting to be that change. Following the use of these unretouched images on their website, they recently launched their #MakeYourMark campaign, as part of their larger #KeeponBeingYou movement. With nine diverse and different body positive ladies at the forefront of the campaign, Missguided’s message is to ‘love yourself, embrace your flaws, and to not strive for what the world perceives as perfection – because f*ck perfection, it doesn’t exist.’ Couldn’t have put it better myself, to be quite honest.
As part of the campaign, Missguided have pledged to never retouch their models’ ‘perfect imperfections’, which is music to my ears. As someone who has spent large amounts of my time (as well as large sums of my student loan) browsing on Missguided and many of their closest competitor websites, I find it extremely refreshing to see normal, dare I say, average girls promoting the clothes as opposed to the usual airbrushed models. We’re used to seeing these sorts of people, whether they’re celebrities or social media influencers, the sort of people who seem to have the faces, features and figures of someone who won every possible prize available in the genetic lottery. And in our modern day culture of self promotion where airbrushing tools and filters are constantly at the tips of our fingers and every image, every video, every caption is edited and fine tuned to within an inch of it’s life, it can often feel like we somehow could never measure up to these people whose lives seem perfect in every way. I know for one I can sometimes end up feeling disillusioned, intimidated and put off by flawless clothing models, thinking to myself…well, I could order that dress, but it’ll never look a bit like that on me! So it’s actually really nice to have a brand say ‘you know what? You don’t have to look a certain way to wear our clothes’, which Missguided neatly sum up in their slogan – “Just keep on being you babe, it’s a really great look.”
So while I’ve always been a Missguided customer, this campaign has definitely managed to make a loyal supporter out of me. I know where I’ll be spending my student loan!
Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq