The first time I encountered Brandy Melville brand clothing, I was at a PacSun in California with my sixteen-year-old cousin Justine. Several crop tops and skirts from the brand’s summer fashion line were on display at the front of the store, and Justine immediately reached for one of the crop tops and started cooing to my aunt about how cute it was.
It was a simple black crop top. It probably took less than one square yard of fabric to make. The fabric was a blend of cotton, spandex, and rayon. It was nothing special, and I assumed that Brandy Melville was just one of those elite California brands that charged twenty bucks for something I could get for four dollars at Forever 21 or H&M. I figured that the value was in the brand name, not the clothing itself.
Being the adamant nonconformist that I am, I determined that Brandy Melville was not the fashion line for me. I perused the clearance rack at the back of the store until my aunt told us that it was time to go. Justine didn’t buy any of the Brandy clothing; my aunt assured her that they would order the clothes online later. Noticing that Justine hadn’t even tried on any of the clothes, I asked, “How will Justine know what size to order? Maybe she should just try on one of the skirts.”
Justine just smiled. “No, Brandy does this really cool thing where it’s all one size!” I furrowed my brow, surprised that a ritzy California brand would sell their clothes one-size-fits-all, but I thought it was pretty cool. I assumed that was some positive statement about body image.
I didn’t realize how wrong I was. Six months later, I was at a PacSun in Denver, and I decided to go in just to see if anything caught my eye. There was a Brandy Melville display right at the front of the store, and on the display sat a cute cream-colored skirt. Even though I was hesitant to try on anything from the designer line, it was cute enough that I decided I would set aside my self-righteousness and see if I liked it. After all, it’s not like it isn’t going to fit, I thought. They’re one-size-fits-all.
The skirt didn’t fit. It was too tight. I was confused. Maybe I had picked up a skirt from a different brand that was in the wrong place and it was a size too small for me. Maybe Brandy Melville had started using sizes. I pulled off the skirt and looked at the tag. “Brandy Melville,” it said. “One size.”
One size. Not one-size-fits-all. Just one size. In that moment, I felt strangely offended. The tag may as well have said “one size is the only valid size worthy of wearing our clothing, and you are not that size.” I was disgusted. I couldn’t imagine how my little cousin, who is about my size, must have felt when the Brandy Melville clothes she had ordered online showed up at her house and didn’t fit.
I find it offensive that a line of clothing is essentially telling their target audience of girls between the ages of 14 and 22 that they can only wear Brandy Melville clothes if they fit the company’s supposed “right” size. And it’s disappointing to know that rather than getting angry about it, teenage girls consider Brandy Melville a status symbol: “I’m skinny enough to wear Brandy. My body is the perfect size.”
I don’t mean to assert that all girls who can fit into Brandy Melville clothes are superficial or without compassion. Girls who fit into Brandy Melville clothing and like the look have every right to do so. We should all be able to wear clothes that fit us and make us feel good. But there are a lot of girls who are beautiful and worthy who will never be able to wear Brandy outfits, and some who will hurt their health trying to get to that “ideal” weight, so that they can.
So while exclusivity might be a good marketing strategy to sell clothing, I think it is irresponsible of the company to contribute to body dysmorphia in teenage girls by making them feel like they aren’t worthy of “being in the Brandy club” because they weigh more than 115 pounds.
It makes me sad to think that Brandy Melville is telling my little cousin that her body isn’t good enough, but it makes me feel a little bit better when I hear her refer to the line as “BM.” As much as I hate to resort to toilet humor, I can’t help but feel like in this case, it’s well-deserved – and honestly, they walked right into that one.