One Size Fits Small | Bella Hirst
Whether you like it or not, every teenager has heard of Brandy Melville. The Italian clothing brand was founded in 1994, and the first U.S. store opened in 2009. Brandy Melville is not a typical clothing retailer — despite its rapid gain in popularity, the brand does no formal advertising. Its Instagram page (boasting 3.9 million followers) doesn’t feel like a clothing brand. It doesn’t contain links to buy their clothes, and there are no promotion videos. It feels like, well, a teenage girl’s Instagram page. It’s filled with pictures of girls hanging out with friends, going to the beach, and walking down the street. All the girls in the pictures just happen to be wearing Brandy clothes.
Brandy Melville has faced a lot of backlash for their sizing. More specifically, their lack thereof. The brand claims to be “one size fits all,” but many have complained that that “one size” is too small to fit most people.
“The fact that Brandy Melville is one of the most popular brands among teenagers right now is what makes its ‘one size fits all’ policy so upsetting to many,” says a student at CCA. “It seems that only the slimmest of people can fit into a lot of Brandy’s clothing, and this creates a false idea of the ‘perfect’ body type.”
Others have argued that yes, the brand’s clothes are designed for petite girls, but isn’t that the same concept as plus-sized fashion?
“We can satisfy almost everybody, but not everybody," Brandy executive Jessy Longo said in a 2013 interview. "The one-size-fits-most clothing might turn off somebody if they don't walk into the store, but, if you walk in, you'll find something, even if it's a bag."
Longo may have a point; the Brandy Melville website boasts a wide array of jewelry, bags, scrunchies, and headbands that realistically could fit everyone. The lack of options, however, is not what upsets people — it is the brand’s choice to ignore those who don’t fit their typical body type.
In 2015, American Eagle decided to capitalize on Brandy’s success by opening their “Don’t Ask Why” one-size-fits-all line, which was available in their SoHo pop-up shop, certain retail stores, and on their website. Many were outraged and begged retailers not to continue the trend.
Oftentimes, controversial brands will lose popularity. Gucci’s sales growth dropped significantly after the brand faced accusations of blackface and cultural appropriation. After Pepsi’s ad featuring Kendall Jenner that people believed trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement, statistics showed that people’s consideration of buying the brand decreased from 27% to 24%, according to data from YouGov BrandIndex.
The reality is, Brandy Melville is a popular store. Despite the outrage of its sizing, people continue to buy from it. That is because Brandy’s sizing, while controversial, creates an idea of exclusivity. It is the same reason designer stores stay in business — of course it’s not practical to buy a Birkin bag (starting at $8,500 and going up to $377,000), but many will pay that price for the brand’s exclusivity.
Brandy Melville’s popularity stems from the same concept; however, Brandy’s exclusivity does not come from wealth, but from being thin. It certainly helps that many teenage girls genuinely like Brandy’s clothing — they aren’t wearing their clothes simply because they can, but because they want to. Its exclusivity is what sets it apart from other popular teen brands.
Brandy Melville’s sizing promotes unrealistic body standards for teenage girls and can cause insecurity in girls who do not fit those standards. The brand’s message is not something we should be promoting as a society, but ultimately, it is the consumers who decide which brands are popular. By buying their clothes, consumers are complacent in, if not supportive of, the brand’s message.