Written by Molly Codyre
Illustrated by Prince Pretzl
“Welcome to Brandy Melville!” Years later, this phrase – uttered by influencer Lauren Servideo in a satirical Instagram video – still fills me with feelings of imminent dread accompanied by flashbacks of hot tears streaming down my face in a changing room.
This memory doesn’t sit in isolation, and I’m sure it’s one echoed by women and young girls around the world. Fashion, at its core, is a decidedly non inclusive industry. It’s built off the back of exclusionary practices of all forms ranging from size to racial discrimination.
While recent years have seen a reckoning of sorts, with brands being held to account for their blueprint models and failure to diversify, there are still strongholds that seem impervious to the societal shifts taking place around them. One such place is Brandy Melville.
The brand formerly labelled their clothes as ‘one size fits all’. Innumerable complaints led them to change this to ‘one size fits most’ – arguably an even more exclusive statement – before they recently settled on ‘one size’. This ‘one size’ tends to encompass tops with a 32 inch bust, and bottoms with a 25/26 inch waist – or, in sizing terms, a small UK 4-6.
A quick flick through the Brandy Melville hashtag on TikTok shows this is seemingly no barrier to the app’s regular teenage users. Videos showing Brandy Melville outfits or hauls rack up views into the millions and users are celebrated for their collections. Equally, on Depop, Brandy Melville items cop resale prices as high as £130 (for reference, dresses tend to be priced around the £30 mark in store).
What seems like a recipe for total boycotting, especially in the increasingly brutal world of social media, has instead become a phenomenon. According to The Fashion Law, the brand made around $300 million in 2018. The Cut published an article in 2019 that discussed how Brandy Melville is a much-loved secret for many fashion industry professionals (one Vogue staffer labelled it her “guiltiest pleasure”).
It seems almost laughable that in a society ever-focused on holding people to account, that one of fashion’s most poisonous pillars has somehow managed to remain largely unscathed. That seems to be how influencer Lauren Servideo sees it. Through a series of videos posted on Instagram, she blatantly mocks the brand’s homogeneous approach.
She wears a Brandy Melville tank and pants that definitely won’t do up and riffs on the teenage employees’ purposefully off-hand attitude. It would all be funny if it wasn’t for the frightening statistics around eating disorders in young women and the way homogeneous sizing play into this.
The experts agree: “A ‘one size fits all’ concept is deeply damaging not only to young women, but to all people.” Says Nerys Hughes, founder and clinical director at Whole Child Therapy. “This form of attack on our psyche is absolutely aiding the imagery that those who are not one ‘perfect’ size are not good enough, which then bleeds into forming our perceptions of others and worst still, of ourselves.”
Searching through the Brandy Melville selection on Depop, the effect is starkly obvious. So many young girls are being applauded in the comments for their tiny bodies and hefty Brandy collections. Young women for whom fitting into this aesthetic – and therefore fitting into these items of clothing – is something to be celebrated.
The Department of Health estimates that up to four million people suffer from eating disorders in the UK. Of this, around 75% are female. The average age for the onset of an eating disorder sits at around 16 for anorexia and 18 for bulimia. Meanwhile, 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24. So not only are young women most susceptible to eating disorders, they’re also more likely to be exposed to content on social media that provokes these illnesses in the first place.
It’s hard to explain the mildly soul-crushing feeling you get when trying on an item that doesn’t fit. No matter how much we unlearn our subconscious fat-shaming, or educate ourselves around the cunning diet industry and its deep permeation of our psyche, there’s still an underlying feeling of failure when an item that should fit, doesn’t. Pair that with not squeezing into ‘one size’ that purportedly ‘fits all’ and you have a much darker and more insidious impact.
My experience in the Brandy Melville changing room many years back only exemplifies this. I was a UK size 10/12 at the time and I barely fit into any of the items. While I managed to squeeze into one top, its restrictive circumference made me look like a rolled roast pork. All bulging bits and punctuating seams. Mortified, I fled the store in tears.
Homogenous sizing works to exclude those that don’t – quite literally – fit within its idealistic parameters and Brandy Melville is simply the tip of the iceberg. “The notion of one size fits all is a pandemic that is savaging young people’s right to good mental health.” elaborates Hughes. “One size does not fit all and should have no place in our world.”
Molly is a London-based Kiwi who graduated from LCF with a Masters in Fashion Journalism at the end of last year. She’s currently working as a copywriter and spending too much money eating her way around London.
Edited by Stephanie Kleanthous