Lane Bryant’s “I’m No Angel” Campaign: A Benefit for Diversity or a Barrier?

All photos courtesy of Lane Bryant.

Lane Bryant #I'mNoAngel Campaign - Photo via Lane Bryant

You’re likely seen it by now, but in case you haven’t, Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel ad campaign has been flooding the news wires this week. A variety of media outlets remarked on the similarity of this campaign to Victoria’s Secret’s “Perfect Body” ad from several months ago – an ad that featured a line up of tall, thin, mostly White women in The Body bra. While the VS ad technically referred to the bra style, many people saw a perpetuation of a single standard of beauty in the media. Given that Victoria’s Secret is almost synonymous with lingerie in the United States, there was no avoiding that ad’s message. Some might think this history makes the Lane Bryant campaign even bolder for “breaking the mold.” But does it really?



lane bryant im no angel ad campaign ashley graham

Some critics challenge #ImNoAngel for “not being original” and merely repurposing the Victoria’s Secret ad. However, one critique takes the position that the ad campaign doesn’t challenge the status quo enough! Some argue that these images are not as overtly “sexy” as what’s usually associated with Victoria’s Secret, and that this is a problem. The women are smiling and they all look like they’re having fun… but there is no underlying sexual current. No hair twirling. No “come hither” stares. No pushed out butts and pushed up breasts.

Fellow TLA columnist Holly and I decided to tackle the questions raised by this ad campaign in an article tackling what it means for the lingerie industry and diversity.

lane bryant im no angel lingerie ad campaign

Krista: My first impression of the ad campaign was “This is great!” For me, I love seeing different representations of beauty or sexy in the mainstream. I’m not a plus size woman myself, but as a woman of color, I don’t always see women like me represented either, so I applaud any opportunity to show greater diversity of women. What was your first impression?

Holly: I love how so many lingerie ads focusing on plus size women have come out lately! I think retailers are starting to realize that plus size customers can really drive profits – even some designer brands like Kate Spade have been extending their size range.

lane bryant im no angel ad campaign 2

Krista: Good point! I was thinking so much about what I want to see represented in media that I neglected to think about what is most important to businesses at the end of the day: profit! You’re so right. Plus size customers want options, too, and are willing to pay for them.

Interestingly, prior to this campaign, Lane Bryant had already started to make some changes. According to Bizwomen, the brand recently relaunched their active wear line, Livi Active, after over a year of designing and testing. They’ve also incorporated more fashion forward designs through a new runway-inspired collection, 6th and Lane, and they’ve recently collaborated with several high-end designers including Lela Rose, Isabel Toledo, and Sophie Theallet. It’s a solid decisio- making strategy. What else did you think about the ad?

Holly: The diversity in this ad is great, as is the fact that all of the women represent different body types and weight distributions. That said, this ad isn’t as overtly sexy an ad as the recent Sports Illustrated campaign (which has an insanely sexy Ashley Graham throwing her top at the camera!). To me, this reads as a cross between a Victoria’s Secret ad and something like a Dove ad.

Krista: I can see that. Maybe this ad isn’t provocative enough. While they are showing more diversity in body type and ethnic background, I think it’s still playing it safe. It isn’t that same overt, flirtatious, inviting kind of sexy like the Ashley Graham ads. Which reminds me, I still can’t believe that there have been plus size ads banned because they showed “too much skin.” I think that’s absurd, especially in light of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show! I wonder what impact that ban may have had on this and other similar campaigns.

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Holly: Obviously, sexy is in the eye of the beholder. However, I do wonder if, in light of those banned ads, companies are opting to play it a bit safer to get wider television access. I also do think there’s still a stigma about showing plus size women as sexual objects when it isn’t in a fetish context. I’m not sure we’re at the point where we’re going to see more explicit ads featuring plus size women on television – at least in the near future.

Krista: I agree there is a stigma. The only time I ever see plus size women portrayed as sexual beings is in a more fetishized or exoticized context, mostly driven by the male gaze. There’s no ownership or empowerment over their own sexuality. It’s more about being relegated to the margins specifically for the consumption of someone else behind closed doors. As a single, dating woman, I immediately thought about how I’ve seen this reflected in online dating! Between my friends’ experiences and horror stories shared on blogs, I’ve seen more than my fair share of the derogatory messages plus size women have gotten. For some men, it’s about “insert any plus size woman here” vs. “let me get to know this unique woman who happens to be plus size.”

I also found it interesting that they don’t use the term “plus size” in this ad. In doing some research, I found that when Lane Bryant CEO Linda Heasley took the job, she changed the internal  terminology to “her size” to be more inclusive. Language is so powerful. Now I’m questioning what the right term to use is. What are your thoughts?

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Holly: I’m also fascinated that they don’t use “plus size” as a term in this ad. There’s definitely a debate within the plus size community about what terms are appropriate, as we’ve seen with the debate around “curvy”. I’ve heard lots of heavier women refer to themselves as “fat” in an everyday context lately without judgment. In fact, I’ve referred to myself that way frequently with no judgment implied. I think plus size women are starting to embrace their bodies more and with that comes a desire to stop talking around their size with terms like “plus size.” I’d love to know how non plus size people feel about that shift, since it seems like a major step forward within the community. What do you think, Krista?

Krista: Great question! I am acutely aware of the power of words and identity and for me, I always want to use whatever is the most respectful and body honoring term. Frankly, the word “fat” feels the most stigmatized to me as an outsider. I would never use it! It makes me uncomfortable thinking about how I’ve heard it used in derogatory ways in the past and I have a visceral reaction. I’m glad you and other women are able to embrace it and own it, but I feel like it would inappropriate for me to use. It’s along the same lines of how women can own and use the word “bitch” (whether or not that has implications is another conversation!), but if a man uses it, it’s a different story. One thing this whole controversy raises for me is that regardless of our viewpoints, we need more of a dialogue.

That said, how do you think social media will influence this conversation? Do you think we’ll be able to have a dialogue that effects change?

lane bryant ad campaign 5

Holly: Yes! I think any company that isn’t looking at ads like this trending online is missing out. I think seeing how popular these ads are will help designer brands expand size ranges, both in lingerie and in fashion. I also love how the support I’ve seen for this ad online has gone beyond the plus size community; I’ve seen women of all sizes sharing it, talking about how great it is and saying how beautiful these women are. 

Krista: Agreed! It seems to be a high priority for Lane Bryant and is catching on elsewhere. What I appreciate about the Lane Bryant CEO is that she is not only promoting a dialogue around a more inclusive standard of beauty but is also providing the options plus size women desire to be on trend. I look forward to seeing how the conversation develops.

Fellow lingerie addicts, what are your thoughts on the ad campaign? Do you think this is a step in the right direction or do you think more can be done? Have you or will you engage with #ImNoAngel? Why or why not? We want to hear your thoughts.


Krista

34 Comments on this post

  1. mbreen says:

    I would love to find the T-shirt in stores!
    Get on board, I am proud of myself. People are so quick to judge you if you’re overweight, you are automatically lazy, slob…..well I’m NOT!!! Remember everyone has a back story, don’t judge.

  2. Ellen says:

    My love life has been severely damaged by the message sent through the media about what a sexually desirable woman should look like. My only complaint about the laneBryant ads is that age is not embraced. As a plus-size middle aged woman … well.

    However, when I saw a color ad with a model MY SIZE on the site, I became hopeful.

    I’d like to introduce one thought: men get a tough break in all this too. Typically we think of men as either wanting young, skinny women, or as fetishists who want ANY larger woman. We don’t see them men who find skinny, overly made up women unattractive. My husband looks at them and always says “High Maintenance” or “High Mileage.”

    Men’s desires are portrayed as arising from the “male gaze,” or purely visual stimulus. The idea that immediate desire may be so, but men’s deeper desires are stimulated by love, affection and friendship never enters into the advertizing paradigm.

    We need men shown in these ads desiring these women of all color, sizes and AGES before they will have full credibility.

  3. Billy says:

    My problem with all of these campaigns is that they conflate diversity with tokenism. More and more brands are attempting to appear diverse when really they’re just running campaigns with a few token models – and those tokens are now running the range from plus-size to overly tattooed to transgender to congenital anomalies. But in the end, they’re still choosing overtly stunning models that are still nothing more than tokens – use once and discard. If they really want to embrace diversity, it has to be an all-or-nothing embracing of all types.

  4. As a male designer I’m still struggling to find terminology that; accurately describes my market (fuller bust but not necessarily plus-sized body) without jargon, doesn’t have embarrassing or negative connotations and can be used with potential investors who aren’t a part of the clothing industry (often SUPER conservative and male). In the last case, it’s even awkward to mention breasts at all!

  5. Sam says:

    Just an observation on terminology, notice that men’s clothes are NOT branded as “plus size.” Seems a simple, accurate, and consistent sizing (looking at you Agent Provocateur) without extraneous labels would help everyone.

  6. Ohhh, well for VS they decide to hire the model based on some required measures or etc. I think that they made the same filter for plus sizes models. Whats the difference?! Where r the models with average size bodies?!

    • Mich says:

      Exactly! We now have brands promoting skinny and plus size models, are there no brands using models in the normal size range?

      • Cora says:

        How are you defining normal? For example, I’m a size 10US, which would actually make me the same size as or slightly larger than the average plus size model, and I’m probably on the thin side in terms of what most people conceptualize as “average.” I find that words like “normal” are slippery. Your version or my version of normal may not match up with someone else’s.

        • Mich says:

          Hi Cora, the WHO defines the normal weight range as a BMI between 18.5 and 25, what do you think about this?

          • Cora says:

            I think it’s very difficult to tell what someone’s BMI is from a photograph, and that the BMI metric in and of itself has some well-recognized issues that make it not very suitable for this kind of discussion.

  7. Chung says:

    Personally speaking, I found the ad campaign different, but not necessarily fresh or innovative because there has been a niche movement and trend over the years where models of different physiques have been utilized in a variety of ad campaigns not just for lingerie, but other products.

    Generally speaking, advertising campaigns are purposely done to aim for a particular target audience by utilizing the ideal representation of what is being pitched in terms of visuals. This would explain why a bevy of attractive “ideal thin” models are used when advertising lingerie which Victoria’s Secrets have proven them to be very adept.

    However, women not necessarily or purposely targeted by Victoria’s Secrets in terms of different physique have proven themselves to be an untapped consumer audience resulting in growing awareness of lingerie aimed at them.

    It’s basically about the money and not necessarily a cultural or social message of greater awareness or diversity. It’s being driven by money (the desire, need, and want for it by the said companies).

    With that, speaking as a man who enjoys seeing women dressed in alluring and exotic lingerie there was a time (in my younger years) when I have fallen for the biased, chauvinistic, and stereotypical attitude that the majority or virtually all men are classified in when it comes to visual pleasure and stimulation of such.

    However, being older and hopefully wiser as well as being aware of one’s own appearance and physique or lack thereof (honestly speaking) and having experienced the clichéd, but true saying beauty is only skin deep.

    As awkward as this sounds, the look in a woman’s eye of a different physique compared to the idealized physique when wearing lingerie in terms of her attitude, confidence, sense of empowerment comes across more so than the typical Victoria’s Secrets model. The pictures speak for themselves.

    No. I didn’t spend time writing all this just to impress or whatever.

  8. MJ says:

    I love the idea and I think these pictures are beautiful! However, and I think this has been mentioned above, I don’t really like the tag line of “I’m no angel”, it makes it seem more of an Us vs Them and I don’t feel that that kind of mentality helps to be inclusive of all women.

  9. Ael says:

    I agree with the sentiment that “I’m no angel” sort of suggests a division between women who are slim and women who are larger. It’s a sort of “I’m not like those girls; I don’t starve myself; I’m not vapid and shallow and desperate for attention” rhetoric (assuming that women who like Victoria’s Secret, or women who aspire to have that sort of body, are those negative things). I totally understand wanting to support all body types, but I don’t think criticizing other women, however subtly, is the way to do it.

    This skews close to the ‘real women have curves’ foulness I see in so many so-called body-positive communities. I’m ‘no angel’, either: I’m downright scrawny, all visible bones and ribs, size 0 hanging off me like a tent, and I will never see my body type portrayed as sexy. I really wish we could move past the dichotomy of ‘Victoria’s Secret model’ and ‘plus-size goddess’…there are so many different body types, and they all deserve love without shame.

  10. Tamara says:

    I love my under 5 feet tall and A cup body. I have looked VS models many times with out feeling insecure. Although I know that the VS ad was technically referring to a bra style, the perfect body in big bold across the models just really rubbed me the wrong way. I applaud Lane Bryant, Dear Kate, and Curvy Kate for taking on something that should have been edited before publication.

  11. Candice says:

    I also feel a bit rubed the wrong way by this add. I really wanted to love it but the more I look the more I disagree with it. It’s almost become an ‘us or them’ kinda thing. That sexy and empowered is a certain body type not a mind set. The use of the line ‘I’m no angel’ is what makes me think this. It’s almost asking you to choose sides.

    Why do we have to be labled and seriotyped into a category based on our clothing labels or bra sizes. Can’t we all just be beautiful, strong, powerful and sexy woman! I think woman and advertising need to stop competing with each other. Istead of dragging each other down we need to support each other and honor our differences.

    And while this add does show more diversity then the VS add it is still not enough. All woman want their bodies represented. I feel like at the moment we only really see tall slim woman and tall curvy woman in advertisements, What about all the different body shapes – pear and apple are hardly ever seen. Different skin colors and types. Different heights. Different nationalities ect.

    As for are they sexy question, I agree they are playing it safe. Get rid of the black and white. Add some color and lace to the lingerie and it would change the tone of the image.

    I would respect this advertisement more if there was more diversity between the woman and the ‘I’m no angel’ line was dropped.

  12. Lara says:

    I also think that a lot of the individual shots from this campaign ARE overtly sexy! The second paragraph says there are no ‘come hither’ stares, but to me the picture directly below that is of a gorgeous woman with a come-hither stare. The beautiful model with the scar is definitely feeling and projecting sexy.
    The group shot may be less so, but it does show plus-size women feeling comfortable and beautiful in lingerie, which is a stage that many women aren’t at yet, let alone feeling like a sex bomb in their lacy bits in front of other people.

    Honestly I get a little annoyed by the focus on ‘sexy’ in lingerie. I have no particular interest in being sexy, I prefer comfortable and pretty and cute. I want to wear something that makes me feel good, but not necessarily something that makes me sexually appealing to others. Super-sexy lingerie ads do nothing for me, and honestly the ones with the very exaggerated poses mostly look silly in my eyes. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    • Krista says:

      Thanks for sharing. I was referring to the full group photo in that comment. And yes. There’s a lot of folks commenting here about not loving the overtly sexy, exaggerated ads. Our point was less about loving them and more about them being equal opportunity in that lens. I personally love the ones that show true ownership on the woman’s behalf.

  13. Rowan says:

    I really do love the diversity shown here but something about the whole add campaign just rubs me the wrong way. By using the term” angel” in the marketing it becomes a clear reference to VS and has a sort of I’m not like ~those women~ feeling. It reminds me a bit of that graphic with the quote “Only dogs want boes, real men want some meat.” Given the stereotypes and public images regarding both companies saying “I’m no angel” feels like a jab at women who would fall in to the perceived “angel” category. I love both the idea and the action of bringing up women of all sizes andbackgrounds but not jabbing at or knocking down other woman to do so.

    • Krista says:

      Definitely a critique I’ve heard. In thinking about this more, I wonder if that was strategic and intentional. Obviously playing off the angel ad would provoke people to have an opinion. Perhaps if it were more neutral, we wouldn’t be talking about it and having the larger conversation.

  14. Loved the debate style in this article, was an enjoyable read! I actually think they look sexier than the VS version because they are happy and having fun, not putting on this fake pouty lip you find elsewhere. I personally (sure a few men would agree with me) find women are sexiest to me when they look happy.

    After all with the media and ads being how they are it is quite rare to find a product marketed that the mass sees as “sexual” where people are smiling and not pulling a serious, I’m sexy and trying too hard face. So it actually makes a nice change in that regard, I will give you that it looks very Dove like in the group shot! Individual shots look sexy as hell though and actually made me notice the product more.

    I always struggle to close comments so urmmm love the blog and rock on? \m/

  15. Katrina says:

    These ladies look great. The models in the VS ad looked great, too. But I don’t understand why the only two options for lingerie campaigns are: tall and thin with big boobs, or tall and curvy with big boobs. Can we get some short, small busted ladies up in here? (By small busted, I mean B or smaller.) I am noticing a distinct lack of Asian women in these campaigns. Or redheads. Or freckled women. Or disabled women! The problem with these diversity campaigns is that they really don’t accomplish what they set out to accomplish. Both the Lane Bryant campaign and the VS campaign are pretty homogeneous as far as body types go (though VS’s was definitely worse).Obviously Lane Bryant’s campaign caters to their target audience (plus size women who are likely on the bustier side), and VS was catering to their demographic (women in the size 0-12, B-D cup range), but even Dove’s beauty campaign featured a fairly narrow range of body types.

  16. Mich says:

    It seems like ‘fat’ is another of the words that can be used to refer to oneself but not others, at least within earshot! Is ‘overweight’ less loaded? I’m also curious what proportion of plus size people are happy the way they are relative to those who’d like to be thinner?

  17. Jeanna says:

    Sexy is totally in the eye of the beholder, cause to me, this is a really sexy set of pictures with some really hot, femme women. But what I find sexy isn’t VS – or even AP or editorial – sexy. I really appreciate this kind of stripped down aesthetic that is going for a more “natural” look (even though it’s still, obviously, completely constructed). I also very much appreciate lingerie ads in which women appear to be active agents – subjects rather than objects. There’s a difference between staring at the camera to elicit desire and staring at the camera like you’re taking it on. All of these women seem to be doing the latter (at least in my eyes), and that sense of agency, of control, of *power*, is much more erotic to me on a personal level than the alternatives we see represented far more often.

    But, again. It’s personal. And I also don’t wear plus size lingerie, so I can’t speak as a participant. Third party observer/industry person here.

    As a side note, though the brand is obviously engaging directly with VS b/c of the tagline, I do long for the day when we can see large groups of/lineups women in lingerie ads without immediately comparing them to VS. (And when brands are confident enough to just do that kind of thing without needing to bounce off of VS’ momentum.)

    • Krista says:

      Great points! I would love to see a mixed line up, too. Guess we hav to start somewhere. And yes, sexy is definitely based on point of view. I am all for ownership and as you said, having agency. I think based on that overt version, it seems that plus size women are very often excluded so these types of ads start to challenge that perception.

  18. virginia says:

    I do wish the ad was more sexually overt. I’m tired, as a chubby lady, of basically being told I can’t be sexually attractive. That’s simply not true. It would be really nice to see that stigma broken.

  19. Estelle says:

    What I like most about this ad campaign is that they’ve used a model with a big scar (and haven’t Photoshopped it away). So many women have had surgery of some kind, but you never see it in a lingerie ad.

  20. Avigayil says:

    I just wanted to comment on terminology. I border the size 12 – 14 range and rather hate the term ‘fat’ and ‘plus size’. You mention that women seem to use those terms to describe themselves, primarily ‘fat’. However, I find that the terms I would use to describe myself are not the terms I would want someone else using to describe me! I can say fat without judgement (about myself) because I am describing a physical state of being. However, if someone called me fat… the stigma of the word and the inherent judgement in society about being overweight is attached to the word, in most cases, and thus it becomes abhorrent. Plus size is just not a term I like… as if I went outside the ‘normal’ size range and they had to start adding on sizes. I am personally in the camp that all sizes should be ‘normal’ or ‘standard’. Women above a certain weight or measurement should not be treated as a separate group. As a ‘border size’ – I always felt horribly guilty when my weight fluctuated up to the point I had to shop at ‘plus size stores’. I felt like less of a woman, and certainly less of a desirable woman. A good portion of my teenage years were spent over such anxieties.

    • Krista says:

      Thanks for your comment, Avigayil. As I shared, as a non plus size woman I don’t feel comfortable using the term fat to describe anyone. Just like you said. What you use describe yourself vs others should be different. And I agree. The term plus size infers that it is beyond “normal” which doesn’t seem fair. Arent we all women?

    • Holly Holly says:

      I just wanted to jump in and add some thoughts here, as it’s my comment that you were replying too! I’m always interested to hear about what terminology women want used who are outside the standard size range – it’s definitely not a one size fits all deal. That said, for me personally, I wish more women who were fat were willing to use it in a factual way. I’ve spent most of my adult life having “fat” thrown at me as a negative term and it’s stupid – we’ve allowed nasty people to imbue it will all of these assumptions, and I feel like the only way we can make it neutral again is using it ourselves. To me, being heavier than someone else is just a descriptor (like being shorter or taller). I think taking fat back to that neutral meaning would do a lot to help fat people be treated as part of the standard size range.

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