One Size Fits … Some

How can we be more critical and conscious consumers?

In San Diego, filled with constant sun and mirth, lies a pressing problem of unhealthy body expectations, promoted by a major brand called Brandy Melville. Brandy Melville is an Italian based brand that sells inexpensive, Cali-girl style clothing with a customer demographic of twelve to seventeen year old girls. The concept of cheap, trendy clothing worn by peers and major celebrities is a great idea, but there is a major flaw: a majority of their clothing is only offered in one-size.

The brand’s aesthetics revolve around one image: skinny, white girl.
Fig. 1

5.C Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

UN Sustainable Development Goal

I hope my post helps others understand and reach for this UN Sustainable Development Goal. This goal reads as very legislative and related to the court, but the social dynamic that Brandy develops lives in the realm of morality, where instead of searching for something illegal, it is an investigation of status and gender performativity. Some may see my critique of Brandy as a shallow attempt to hit at this goal, but I believe that to achieve empowerment, we need to start at the everyday problems that affect girls. The social problems that arise from Brandy would be hard to tackle with bills and debates, but the solution could begin with us.














From personal observations, I have recognized that over fifty percent of girls in my school at least own one article of clothing from Brandy. The major problem with continually supporting a company that only offers one-size (geared towards sizes 2 and 4), is that there is a toxic, misconceived notion of what is “healthy” and “normal”, and based on that, there is a clear message to those who cannot fit: you don’t belong.

And a lot of times we see the girls who can fit into these clothes, but we seldom see the girls who don’t fit into these size-two clothes. To help proceed in our road to inclusivity, we must empower girls who can’t fit into these standards, and prove to people that it’s not their fault that they can’t fit into clothes, but the manufacturer’s.

This leads into what believe in: I believe that my duty as an ally and friend is to shed light on the reality that majority male executives are figuratively, and literally, putting waist trainers on trends, squeezing girls into unhealthy sizes and marketing it as “healthy and normal”. And my duty as a consumer, along with other consumers, is to make ourselves much more critical and conscious of the brands we are supporting.

My friend, Coco, was my inside source into Brandy Melville. She worked at Brandy Melville, but is planning to not return because of the guilt and pressure she felt while working there. This video is a short overview of Brandy and its boom in popularity.

– Brand Overview –

Out of a 155 articles of clothing I reviewed, only 16 were marked with either a “Fits size Small/Medium” or a “Fits size Medium”. And for 9 of those “Mediums”, the words “oversized”, “comfortable”, or “relaxed” were used. For all 16, the models wore the article of clothing (usually a hoodie or t-shirt) oversized. The remaining 139 articles of clothing were marked as “Fits size X-small/Small” or “Fits size Small”. Not once did I see a “Fits size Large”.

Brandy only offers these sizes for their bottoms, and according to a size converting website, a 00 is a 23-26 inch waist and a 5 is a 28 inch waist. In the 155 articles of clothing, there was not a single bottom (skirts, shorts, pants) that was offered in a size medium. One of the employees I interviewed, my friend named Coco, noted that even though Brandy offers these sizes, the stock for larger sizes are often very limited.

The smallest bust size for “Fits size Small”
The largest bust size for “Fits size Small”
Studies prove that 68% of American women wear a size 14 and above.
Fig. 6
Coco talks about the toxicity of Brandy’s sizing, and gives a short behind-the-scenes description of being an employee.

– The Effects of Gender Performativity and Policing –

“The desire to be beautiful, when combined with personal values and social comparison, originates a self-perception about one’s appearance (Abdala, Ricardo, Rossi, & Alberto, 2008), which is an integral part of self-concept.”

(Nilüfer Z. Aydinoğlua, Aradhna Krishnab, 571)

In our world, a world where many people are much more conscious and vocal of the brands they are supporting, why do people still support Brandy? This can be answered through the terms of self-satisfaction and socially constructed expectations. In the realm of self-satisfaction, some employees agree and note that the simple act of coming up to the register and saying that something fits, is a boost of confidence. A study done at the University of North Texas concluded that, “Smaller subjects had increases in self-esteem and body image after achieving fit in the smaller or expected size and felt their weight was lower after achieving fit in a smaller size. Younger subjects were more negatively affected by garment size than were older subjects” (Kinley, 326). Like this study, many other studies also support that buying small sizes boosts self-confidence. For some, Brandy is beneficial for them and builds esteem.

Also, in conjunction to the ideas of self-confidence, there is a theory which is commonly sited in discussion of clothing size and esteem: the social comparison theory. Tammy Kinley of the University of North Texas defines the social comparison theory as, “the ways one views the self; aesthetic standards are internalized and used in self-evaluation” (Kinely, 318), which revolves around the ideas of self contrived ideas of self esteem. To fit into Brandy’s clothes, even if it gets really tight, is a way to reinforce preexisting self confidence. The social comparison theory, tied with given knowledge about the correlation between smaller sizes and self-esteem, rationalizes why people still buy clothing from Brandy; the ability to fit into a “normal” size “flatters the ego” (Kinely, 319) and supports self-percieved versions of self.

Coco gives her opinions on why people continue to buy Brandy Melville.

“self-esteem may be tenuous depending on the approximation to the ideal”

(Kinely 319)

Other than internal pressures, body image and standards are formed by additional external forces. Brandy sells clothing by taking advantage of the human instinct of bandwagoning and exclusivity. This is because in gender, or any “norm-based” cultural phenomenon, deviating from what is expected is met with a lot of pushback.

Body image is not simply a mirror-like reflection of external reality. Although the body concept includes objective physical attributes, its contents and associated positive or negative interpretations are highly subjective and influenced by one’s environment.

(Phillips & de Man, 2010).

Body image is a large, messy cultural phenomenon, but it can be conceptualized by applying the ideas of gender performativity and policing. Gender performativity is a theory that states that gender is not preexisting in biology or society, but is defined by the repetition of actions we do: the words we say, the clothes we wear, and the way we project ourselves to the world. In this theory, we are actors and we are performing gender, and Judith Butler, the originator of this theory, elaborates by writing, “the act that one performs is, in a sense, an act that’s been going on before one arrived on the scene” (Butler, 526). Gender performativity, although emphasizing the individual choices of expression, speaks about how repetitive actions are heavily influenced by social trends. For teenage girls developing a sense of how to project themselves into the world, it is very unhealthy to be influenced by unhealthy, normalized views on the female body. Butler also writes that “gender is a basically innovative affair, although it is quite clear that there are strict punishments for contesting the script by performing out of turn or through unwarranted improvisations” (Butler, 531); which is an obvious indication that even though the theory of gender performativity is much more liberal, it still acknowledges the affects of social pressuring and identity shaped by society.

Gender is not passively scripted on the body, and neither is it determined by nature, language, the symbolic, or the overwhelming history of patriarchy. Gender is what is put on, invariably, under constraint, daily and incessantly, with anxiety and pleasure, but if this continuous act is mistaken for a natural or linguistic given, power is relinquished to expand the cultural field bodily through subversive per-formances of various kinds.

Butler, 531

And to address the more direct affects of society on body standards, the term “gender policing” is used. Gender policing is integrated with the ideas of gender performativity, and is critical on how people adhere to the norm. Gender policing is usually enforced by peers, who devalue, in our case, teenage girls deviating from the norm. It may seem that the root of the problem is at our human inclination to police gender, but in reality, it is not the phenomenon itself, but what is being told to us to police. The norms that are being enforced by large brands, such as Brandy Melville, are the cause of skewed body standards and exclusivity; the way we view and treat others is a relative concept that goes beyond ourselves, but is at the authorship of major influencers in fashion and media.

– What Can WE Do? –

In a commentary of a series of interviews of plus-sized women, it is said that, “Every culture has its own particular nightmares. In American society, being larger than the normative expectation is a nightmare, one particularly pronounced for women… A body, or body type, that is severely stigmatized in modern society is the body of size” (Sissem and Heckert, 155). I believe that these “normative expectations” are made too small, too unforgiving, that the concept of what is “large” is false. We can pave our way to inclusivity and empowerment by initiating ethical imperatives onto major brands.

However, my goal is not to bash Brandy Melville, nor am I trying to attack their customers, but it is to raise awareness for the underlying problems that arise from it. Brandy is only a case study of how select brands promote social exclusivity through their sizing. Given the scale and how deeply rooted in society it is, the only way we can reach some form of change starts with you and me.

Our first steps to influencing those who influence us is that we must start by being more critical of the brands that exploit insecurity and promote unhealthy norms. So often you can get caught up in trends and fashion that you forget the moral affects of what you are supporting. I hope that this post has sparked some inspiration to take a step back and take note of the trends and brands you may be supporting.

Some steps you can take to become more conscious is by asking: where does our money go? Nowadays, with the aid of the internet, it is so much easier to know more about a brand through a simple Google search. Maybe you feel like something is wrong with a brand, or you’ve heard controversy– don’t just ignore it– just type it into Google to see if others feel the same way as you do. And in the case where you find something problematic, simply look around and you’ll find a wide variety of brands and clothing that are much more socially conscious.

All in all, every person has a role in changing the tide of society. If you don’t fit into norms, it is important for you to truly embrace who you are and speak out. And even if you do benefit from certain norms and body standards, it is important for you to be considerate of others and actively make sure that everyone is included. If they’re not going to change, it’s time for us to change.

– Call To Action –

If you feel inclined to make some change, please leave a little note in the attached Google Docs. I will anonymously compile all your comments into an email to Brandy Melville. It can be a question or a constructive comment, but please be courteous! The purpose of this is to make our voices be heard – not to attack.

And if you guys have any comments, questions, or suggestions directed to me, fire away!

– Reflection –

This experience of debunking the effects of Brandy Melville’s one-size-fits-all policy has let me see a large scale phenomenon through a gendered lens. I would have never thought of examining Brandy through the theories of gender performativity and policing, if it wasn’t for this class and this project. By having a more in-depth knowledge of underlying dynamics, I have understood more about being an ally. I found out that the exculsitivity Brandy supports is not just a product of bad marketing decisions, but it is also a product of our own decisions as a society and as consumers. A lot of these social problems we identify in our everyday lives are deepy tied to how we impact society, and as allies, we must be aware of how our decisions impact others in different situations. It never, ever hurts to empower others.

Share this project
  1. April 26, 2019 by Rebecca Malamud

    this presentation is amazing! i thought your critical analysis of brandy melville’s sizing and how it fits into our society’s culture as a whole in terms of supporting one another and empowerment. not only this, but the formatting of your presentation is also very well done and easy to navigate! 🙂

    • April 27, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks so much! I’m happy that you think that my analysis of Brandy’s sizing goes in line with my intention to empower girls! What we can do to make institutional change is

      • April 27, 2019 by Sean Kim

        I didn’t even finish my sentance… what was I even thinking?? Anyway, what I way saying was that we can make insitutional change by first making people proud of who they are, and then we need to grapple with the embedded messages of society that enforce gender performativity.

  2. April 26, 2019 by Noa.Fay

    As a girl who shops at Brandy very frequently, I have to say I felt a little embarrassed reading this! I knew that they had this trend but I’ve basically ignored it; though, now, reading about your investigation makes me really inclined to boycott Brandy! Because it’s so popular you really tackled a hard issue, but you did it so successfully. Absolutely amazing!

    • April 27, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks Noa! I’m glad that my project had put into light something that had been floating around, but not fully grounded and taken in as a truth. It’s very nice to know that you were moved by my project that you are now inclinded to boycott Brandy!

  3. April 26, 2019 by Madi

    Hey Sean! I love this project and your perspective on the matter. I’ve never personally shopped at Brandy, mostly because in my head I always think I probably won’t be able to fit anything. I suppose that doesn’t upset me per say, but it does make me a little more aware of societies ideal standards of beauty. I love that you added a way to reach out to Brandy and I left a question on the docs! I also liked that you encouraged us to be kind or constructive in our message and I agree that spreading negativity towards them won’t change anything, but our true concerns might!

    • April 27, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Hey Madi! Thanks for telling me that you’ve become more aware of the social ideals of beauty – because that had been my intent all along! I hope that my project has moved you to be even a little bit more concious of how we, as consumers, affect society! And thanks so much for leaving a quesiton in the doc!!

  4. April 26, 2019 by Hadleigh

    I really love this. I used to have an eating disorder and I still struggle with body-image issues. This can really make a difference and I hope all goes well for you. Thank you for this!

    • April 27, 2019 by Sean Kim

      You’re comment means so much to me – thank you so much. I hope that this project has inspired the thought that no matter what major brands enforce, or what the media portrays, the truth is: every single body matters. And speaking from a place that goes beyond this GOA conference, I believe that there is so much unbridled beauty and power behind each body. We all have each other’s backs because empowerment transcends race, religion, gender, and body type.

  5. April 27, 2019 by India.Soranson Way

    Sean – I love your catalyst conference! Your super specific and scientific data on the brand is really impressive and shows that you put a lot of hard research into this project. There is definitely a pressure to conform into this “one size fits all” and I am so glad you are addressing the ways WE can confront this archetype of a body. What was your favorite part of creating this project?

    • April 27, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks India! I would say that my favorite part of creaitng this project was that I was able to have moments of self-reflection, where I could think about my place in the greater scheme of things, as an ally and as a consumer. I think that this project was oriented around trying to navigate the complexities of gender, consumerism, body image, and I thought that it set up a nice challenge for me to tackle and understand.

  6. April 28, 2019 by Casey Abernethy

    I found this article interesting and affected me personally. And as I’m writing this, I am wearing brandy melville clothing. I can’t lie – I love the brand. However, after reading this article I realized how toxic supporting a one size fits all brand is. It’s normalizing this societal norm stating that only girls wearing 2’s and 4’s are ok – which 100% not true.Also, it’s important to state that a lot of times, I can’t fit into their jeans, because I have bigger thighs; and when I used to try on their jeans I would get really upset thinking I was fat because I couldn’t fit in them (which is not true). Their brand is toxic – if I truly believe in everyone is perfect as they are, I need to start showcasing that in what I’m buying and wearing. Great great job!

    • April 28, 2019 by Sean Kim

      It’s so nice hearing this from you! Thanks Casey! I think that what we buy and support is a clear reflection of what we believe in, and I think what you said rings true, because if we truly believe that everyone is perfect just the way they are, we can show that through what we wear and buy!

  7. April 28, 2019 by Minea.Hill

    Great presentation! I really appreciated how you commented on celebrity and media influence on body image and I agree that healthy body image is an important factor in achieving your desired outcome. Do you think a positive change in the way customers view themselves will be brought about if Brandy Melville were to start making multiple sizes?

    • April 28, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Hey Minea! Thanks for liking my presentation, and to answer your question, I would say that there definitely will be a positive change if Brandy started making more sizes because – not only will they have a larger pool of customers – but they will directly tap into everyone’s self-esteem, and prove to them that they, indeed, are loved and included. Self-love and appreciation for all body types comes through institutional change, something that can only happen if people really understand what matters and make actions to change. Also, another step that Brandy would need to take is to make sure their media image is much more inclusive, that their models (famed for their petite frame) are sourced more from different body types.

  8. April 28, 2019 by Margot Hulme

    This is probably my favorite presentation ever. It is SO well done and brings light to something that is normally dismissed today, especially by teens. Thank you so much for writing about this issue!!!!

    • April 28, 2019 by Sean Kim

      AH, thank you!! So nice to know that you really liked it! Thanks Margot!

  9. April 28, 2019 by Karina Ravipati

    This is such a good webpage! I really enjoyed the interviews and I found it very interesting what she said about how the employees treat the customers. Usually in retail, the employees want to create a good experience for the customers, but at Brandy they don’t need to because people will still buy it. Overall, really great research and explanation!

    • April 29, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Hey Karina! I think what you just said is really valid because people, somehow, keep on buying Brandy’s clothes, even if they know how detrimetnal it is. Also, something I learned the other day that actually isn’t in this project, is that apparently Brandy asks employees to work there, not the other way around. Employees don’t even apply for jobs, it’s all on the company to invite people. Interesting, right?

  10. April 28, 2019 by riley

    This is such an important topic and this presentation had a really important message that I think all girls need to hear. This idea of “one size fits all” is becoming more and more popular in clothing brands. However, one size does not fit all. Girls should not feel this expectation that their body needs to fit one size. Everyone has a different size and that okay!

    • April 29, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks for finding this important too! One size really doesn’t fit all – and like you said – that’s completely ok!

  11. April 28, 2019 by Amalie Getz

    This was a really great presentation! I especially love how you incorporated the interview clips, and addressed how toxic the body ‘norms’ that Brandy Melville enforces are. I frequently shop at Brandy Melville and I really support your effort to raise more awareness about how the brand (and other brands with similar sizing systems) can seriously affect the self-esteems of so many young people. I wonder why Brandy has not heard the opposition to their “one size fits most” sizing system and changed the way they make and sell their clothes. Awesome job, I really enjoyed reading your page.

    • April 29, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Your question is something that I, along with many others, grapple with. I think Brandy definitely has heard opposition to their “one size fits most” policy, but they decide not to change it because it’s the selling incentive for many people. Many brands, including high-end brands, make money off of exclusitivity and scarcity. Thanks so much for your comment, Amalie!

  12. April 29, 2019 by Mai

    This was a fascinating presentation – it touches an issue many girls including myself are passionate about and I think the insider features make it all the more worthwhile. Delving into the psychology behind the mental validation some might get when purchasing their products was something I hadn’t even stopped to consider. It’s an old brand but do you think this, including their whole philosophy, is something the brand is *consciously* profiting off of?

    • April 29, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Hey Mai! I think that Brandy is consciously profiting off of the exclusitivity they enforce through their sizing policy. It’s definitely something that is not good, and should be changed through what we can do as consumers. Thanks for you comment!

  13. April 30, 2019 by Frieda

    I love your presentation!!! The interview with your friend who worked at Brandy Melville was a great way to discuss some of the issues Brandy has in an insightful way. Incredible job!

    • April 30, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks Frieda! So awesome that you enjoyed my presentation!!

  14. April 30, 2019 by Catherine.Rosenbaum

    I thought this was a fascinating project, and it is so important to bring awareness to this. I thought that the way you looked into why people play into the consumerism brought up in stores like Brandy Melville was something very new and not very heard of, and that this project was a great method to bring awareness to the problem. I was wondering, do you think Brandy Melville, or brands like it, purposefully exclude sizes? Is there monetary gain from marketing clothing to/for smaller women? Again – awesome project

    • May 01, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Hey Catherine! Thanks for liking my project! To answer your question, the word “exclude” answers it all. The exclusion mentality is what sells their products, where companies construct an elitist system that people blindly follow in and support, but the solution to this problem is that we must not be so blind in our following. Many times we get so caught up in trends and what’s “cool”, that we often forget the problematic aspects of what is happening. I personally believe that fashion trends are fun to be a part of, but many times these trends can create unhealthy dynamics in our society. It’s time to make some healthy, long lasting trends we can follow.

  15. April 30, 2019 by Alexandra Polverari

    This was super interesting! I had always noticed Brandy’s sizing being “one size” or xs-s only. I have been out shopping with friends who have refused to go into Brandy because they won’t fit into any of their clothes, and this is upsetting to see. Everyone should feel comfortable with their body and not feel the pressure to fit into a tiny top.

    • May 01, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Exactly! Everyone, no matter what large brands endorse, should always feel comfortable in their bodies because every single body is valid and loved. Thanks Alexandra for your comment!

  16. April 30, 2019 by Abigail.Dutta

    I thought this was a amazing project. I have personally bought into the brandy Melville ideals and after reading your project I realize the toxic message they are sending to girls. They promote “one size fits all” but define “all” as girls who are a size 2 or a 4 and as you showed that is not anywhere near the average size of women in America. It spreads a harmful message to girls to be a certain size. Great project!

    • May 01, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks Abigail for your comment! It really is harmful for girls across the world to be indirectly told that their bodies are not “normal”. Brandy’s ideals all snowball into something that is much more harmful than it seems.

  17. April 30, 2019 by Madison Gearin

    You’re presentation is amazing! I love the interactiveness of the videos and your ideas on “normative exceptions” for the body are really interesting. Most of my closet it brandy Melville and I knew it promoted an unrealistic body image, but your presentation has changed my views on social exclusivity and the ways brands promote “one size fits all” image.

    • May 02, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Hey Madison, thanks for liking my project! So glad that my project has been able to change your views on social exclusitivity and how you can promote or protest against a brand!

  18. April 30, 2019 by Levith Andrade Cuellar

    Hi Sean!
    I commend your incredible success at tackling this important and complicated topic, I can definitely tell that it wasn’t easy bringing all of this information together, congratulations! I love the way you formatted your text by highlighting important things in bold and by making your text bigger than the normal sizing, your choices definitely help readers like me, better understand your topic and avoid missing those important facts! Your conversations with Coco were also very interesting, I love the fact that your research went beyond what you were finding online.

    • May 01, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks so much Levith! It’s nice hearing that you enjoyed my formatting choices and my interview excerpts of Coco! I’m glad that my research went beyond what could have been available online – which was a goal I set from the beginning of my planning. Thanks!

  19. May 03, 2019 by Daisy.Huang

    Congratulations on your award! And thanks so much for shining light on this issue–I know too many girls that would benefit from a change in the way fast fashion views body image in how they size their clothes and market them.

    • May 04, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks so much Daisy! There really is so much to benefit from changing this unhealthy dynamic that fast fashion creates. Hope that it’ll change soon enough, and the good thing is, there already is change happening around us!

  20. May 04, 2019 by Georgia.Farmer

    This presentation is so well done and organized. It presents the incredibly relevant issue of the One Size Fits All model in an educational way! I definitely agree with the pressure of the unrealistic body type/image which is pushed by so many of these brands today. A great explanation into the way which the negative body image affects society!

    • May 04, 2019 by Sean Kim

      Thanks Georgia! I’m so glad you agreed with me!

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