Kit Steinkellner
January 01, 2015 6:03 am

Ridiculous and unrealistic photoshopping is NOT being tolerated anymore—at least not in the U.K.

On Wednesday, the British Advertising Standard Authority ordered Urban Outfitters to remove the an image advertising “Polka Dot Mesh Underwear in Fig” from their website (pictured below, center), after receiving a complaint arguing that the model pictured was “unhealthily thin” and that a major retailer celebrating this body type could fuel eating disorders as well as unhealthy eating habits and negative body image.

After investigating, the ASA agreed that the photo used to market this underwear was in violation of one of their rulings that insists advertisements must not be “. . .misleading, harmful, or offensive. . .”

The ASA laid out just why they believed Urban Outfitters was in violation of policy with this particular photograph:

“We considered that the model was very thin, and noted, in particular, that there was a significant gap between the model’s thighs, and that her thighs and knees were a similar width. We understood that Urban Outfitters’ target market was young people and considered that using a noticeably underweight model was likely to impress upon that audience that the image was representative of the people who might wear Urban Outfitters’ clothing, and as being something to aspire to. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.”

Urban Outfitters has challenged the ruling, insisting that the model featured was booked from “most successful and well-respected model agencies” and has “a healthy waist measurement of 23.5 inches.” The retailer also dismisses the charge that the model is “underweight,” arguing that the model is really just “naturally tall and thin.”

Unfortunately, just removing this one picture is not going to change the fact that some retailers still promote a very narrow standard of beauty that is, for many women, unrealistic. While there is nothing wrong with being naturally thin, but the lack of diverse body types in fashion is a major problem that needs to be tackled on a broader scale.

Retailers need to recognize their responsibility to young, female customers and provide consumers with a variety of images of body types that reflect how diverse we all are. They also need to be aware that by promoting “thigh gaps,” they may be sending the message to young women that they need to look a certain way—even if that standard is unrealistic for their body type, and damaging to their health and self-esteem.

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