By Sheereen Charles
67% of all U.S women are size 14 to 34, but they are hardly ever represented in the media. Lane Bryant’s ‘Plus is Equal’ campaign is working overtime to change that. In the past, the company has worked tirelessly to empower ALL women of any race or size through multiple campaigns. So it was no surprise when, in late 2015, Lane Bryant started a new ad campaign focusing on the body positive movement.
When the movement first began, people were elated, using the hashtag #PlusIsEqual on all their social media handles to express their support. Lane Bryant’s CEO, Linda Heasley, spoke openly about the campaign’s “everyone deserves to be celebrated” message and the need for great diversity in fashion. Many women, including celebrities and politicians, joined the cause body equality. A devoted website was even formed; plusisequal.com called for plus-sized women to be represented more in the media and fashion industry.
However, others were not amused and saw the campaign as just another marketing ploy. They argued that the ads (one pictured above) still reflected only one size – the shape of fuller-figured women. Many plus-size women felt their concerns still were not being heard. They sensed that even though the message had started out great, it had become diluted when marketed by a huge corporation.
The debate came to a head when Lane Bryant held a “Plus is Equal” rally in New York. Slimmer, hired people were seen chanting ‘plus is equal’ while wearing their Lane Bryant T-shirts. Yet full-figured women in attendance were unable to wear the same t-shirts because Lane Bryant had run out of sizes above extra-large earlier (some claim there were never bigger sizes to begin with). A female comedian also headlined the rally, talking about how she lost weight and making numerous fat jokes. For some women, this raised the question, “how can we stand behind a project that holds an event to support women of every size, yet effectively keeps certain-sized women from enjoying the experience?”
Despite these apparent contradictions, Lane Bryant has uplifted women of all sizes, and CEO Linda Heasley has made it clear that she hears the complaints and is always looking for feedback. In an interview with Refinery 29, she said, “I would love your readers to send us their thoughts. Just tweet it to get online and let us know.” In the past, Lane Bryant has modified their advertisements based on suggestions and grievances, showing customers that they really care about what we think. Hopefully, they will improve and ensure that the message “Plus is Equal” comes across in the right way. Moving forward, future campaigns need to show that all plus bodies are equal to one another. Advertisements should show a range of different sizes, races, and ages. People want a brand where they are allowed to truly celebrate their bodies, a brand they can truly relate to.