“I hate everyone” is boldly printed on a white cropped-top hanging for all to see as soon as you step into the world of Brandy Melville. This shirt, like the rest of the clothing at Brandy, comes in one single size labeled “all.”
But, what if your body type doesn’t fit into an “all?”
American flags grace the Pacific Beach location where a dad roams around the store quizzically. His teenage daughter stands in line for the fitting room with trendy clothing thrown over her forearm. Racks of basic clothing pieces in an array of blacks, whites, grays and hints of plaid surround him.
The Italian brand came to the United States in 2009 in Westwood, California, a block from UCLA’s campus. Today, there are 11 retail stores in California, three on the East Coast and one in Hawaii.
The mannequins lining the window display are dressed in T-shirts with strategically placed holes, halter-tops and short shorts. The girls who walk in and out of the store aspire to mimic these mannequins at any cost.
Former PLNU student Alyssa Dalhberg, 20, felt that Brandy’s clothing were triggers to her body image issues.
“Every time I went in the store, I wanted the clothes to fit looser and looser,” she said.
Alyssa has suffered from an eating disorder and is currently attending a program with counseling to help her recover. Subsequently, she is not attending PLNU this semester. Standing at 5-foot-8, she targets the ill-fitting shirts and sweaters and avoids the tight dresses and T-shirts.
PLNU senior Jessica Johnson, 22, walks into the clothing store ruling out certain sections automatically knowing that they will not fit her 6-foot, curvy stature. The denim on the left side of the store is a no-go because of the non-stretchy fabric. The cropped-top hanging on the rack to the right is too cropped for her D-sized breasts.
“You have to try everything on before you buy it,” Jessica said. “You never know what is going to fit and what isn’t.”
The two girls grabbed a black-and-white striped dress and a pair of shorts and headed to the fitting room.
Despite the “one size fits all” tag on majority of their clothing, the fit part is the least of the customers’ worries. It has to be flattering, wearable.
Alyssa and Jessica both felt uncomfortable leaving the dressing room in their dresses. Jessica’s was so short that she had to continuously tug on it to cover her butt. Alyssa said hers was so tight and form fitting that she wouldn’t wear it in public.
In an interview with USA Today last year, Jessy Longo, an executive at Brandy Melville, addressed the one-size policy, saying that if customers can’t fit in the clothes, at least they can buy an accessory.
“We can satisfy almost everybody, but not everybody,” said Longo to USA Today. “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.”
Floral shorts slipped off the hangers and the two girls proceeded to slip them on one leg at a time. Alyssa revealed her shorts being a decent length, loose around the leg yet tighter in other places. Jessica’s were suffocating and the spilt on the side did not help the situation either. After looking over her shoulder to face the mirror, she simply uttered, “No way.”
On BrandyMelvilleUSA.com, blond-haired size zeros grace the flipbook, joyously modeling their clothes. The dresses, shirts and shorts lay on their bodies effortlessly. Alyssa added that the lack of diversity in size (and race) is a stark realization of who exactly this brand is targeting.
“I would say our target audience is anywhere from 18 to late 20s,” a Brandy sales associate explained. “But most people think that we cater to 12 and 14 year olds. Yeah, they can fit our clothes but I think our graphics are too inappropriate for them.”
The brand’s graphic T-shirts use vulgar language in hip fonts with random full moon clip-art.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 95 percent of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26. This varied age group could find themselves in the checkout line waiting to purchase the same items. Both Jessica and Alyssa said that the sales associates sway their decision making on buying clothes—in a negative way. The employees fit the Brandy girl that they are trying to reach by wearing the newest clothing and strutting around the hardwood floors.
“I think the teenagers are just so obsessed with our brand that whether it is clothing or jewelry, they need to have something, anything,” the sales associate said.
On Instagram, the trend continues. Brandy markets to this specific, thin American girl with long hair and even longer legs. Their 2.4 million followers are hooked.
Comments on the picture posts read, “Body goals,” “Why don’t my legs look like that?” and “She’s so perfect, I’m not.”
“I had to unfollow them on Instagram,” Alyssa confesses. She precedes to pull up the account on her phone. “I mean, look at this.”
With each scroll, there were clones of this Brandy girl to reciprocate the notion of buying the clothes will give you this fun, flirting, free-spirited life. They are attempting to sell the American teen dream, she said.
“You are seeing the world as this one size,” Jessica said through a closed fitting room curtain. “I just don’t understand.”