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How Banning Plus Size Lingerie Ads Can Help Further Fat Acceptance

Criss Cross Lace Quarter Cup Bra by Cacique

Criss Cross Lace Quarter Cup Bra by Cacique

Think back to the last lingerie commercial you saw on TV... okay, can you picture it? Now take a minute and watch these.

The first ad is the latest TV spot from Addition Elle for Spring 2015 and the second is a similar ad from Lane Bryant in 2010 (Note: the second ad has since been taken down). Both star Ashley Graham, a superstar of the lingerie world.

What else do these two ads have in common? They were both banned from major tv networks before they could even air. In 2010, networks cited "too much skin" as the reason, while the 2015 ad was deemed "too racy" and relegated to movie theaters as an ad to accompany "50 Shades Of Grey".

These ads are notable because they're two of the most visible attempts in recent years to show plus size women as sexual beings in attractive lingerie. While Victoria's Secret gets major ad placement and even a fashion show, networks seem to feel that consumers will be either confused or offended by seeing plus size women in similar garments and circumstances.

Lace Underwire Bra (Ashley Graham Collection) by Addition Elle

Lace Underwire Bra (Ashley Graham Collection) by Addition Elle

This is a shame for multiple reasons, but most of all because these ads do a wonderful job of portraying plus size women as real people who are universally normal and attractive. The Lane Bryant ad shows an attractive womAn putting a trench coat on over a sexy lingerie set to go meet a lover, while the Addition Elle ad pairs a plus size women with a slim man. Both ads portray plus size women as sexy, stylish, and attractive to people of all weights and sizes.

Personally and as a lingerie professional, I loved these ads. While I'm no Ashley Graham, the idea of seeing a woman with a body even remotely like mine rocking a sexy lingerie set on television is a thrilling novelty. I also love the idea of mainstream television viewers being exposed to these positive images of plus size people. Studies have demonstrated that frequent exposure to different body types can broaden people's perspective when it comes to body positivity, so what better place to start than in commercials?

Lace Banded Balconette Bra by Cacique

Lace Banded Balconette Bra by Cacique

In reality, all plus size women know that this is true. I've lost count of how many plus size women I know who are with tall and slim partners (myself included) and plus size lingerie is booming - a sign that plus size women are rightfully seeing themselves as attractive and deserving of things like pretty lingerie.

These ads portray strong women who are in charge of their own bodies, who are wearing pretty lingerie because they love it and who are excited about the sexual relationships they are in. So why do these ads keep getting banned?

In part, because while the reality of being a plus size woman is getting a tiny bit better, the conversation about plus sizes and fat isn't. Newspapers still cover the obesity epidemic like it's the plague that is going to come for us all and schools even occasionally send notes home to parents when a child is considered too heavy to be acceptable.

It's impossible to read a positive article about plus size issues on the internet without some commentator immediately accusing the writer of promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Our society has enough conflicted feelings about sex to start with: combining sexual ads and plus size women is enough to make people's heads explode.

Padded Lace Trim Bra (Ashley Graham Collection) by Addition Elle

Padded Lace Trim Bra (Ashley Graham Collection) by Addition Elle

Realistically, ads like this won't be able to air without comment until the entire public conversation about plus sizes, health and the "health at any size movement" changes. Television networks don't want to deal with nasty letters about how they're promoting obesity when they air an ad in a major time slot, so it's easier ban these ads with flimsy excuses like "too racy" and "too much skin."

As you can see, none of these are any worse than a Victoria's Secret ad and both are less racy than those awful Go Daddy commercials that the Superbowl keepS airing. The upside is that banning the ads is part of what got them all the attention and media coverage in the first place, leading to lots of positive press coverage and several thoughtful interviews by Ashley Graham herself. As Ashley Graham points out in one of her interviews, "America is getting bigger, and women want to see themselves instead of the image of what society says they should be."

We need stop conflating "plus size" with "self-inflicted illness" - it's unfair to plus size people and it's unfair to people who are actually sick. Access to pretty lingerie shouldn't be dependent on weight or health: it's something everyone should have without judgement. That includes anyone who is plus size, even if their health isn't perfect.

Have you seen either of these ads? What do you think of them? What do you think needs to change to make plus size lingerie ads popular with television networks?


Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

9 Comments on this post

  1. Unfortunately, I am part of the obese group of women who get stared at and juged when walking.. Arthritis in both hips and stenosis of the sacrum. It’s not easy being like this and I get depresses a lot over it. It also don’t help when the husband looks at you all pretentiously and disgusted because he is a skinny rale who can and does eat more sweets than I do! I feel like I need to ware a T-shirt saying “It’s all my thyroids fault!” I forever hear how “if you just loose the weight and your metabolism will be like that of a skinny person, who can eat, what they want, when they want”. But I know that isn’t true. My sister had the gastric surgery and she went down to a size 12 and she can’t eat what she want when she wants like a skinny person does. If cortisol has any merit to causing weight gain due to stress then that is why she has gained some weight back and why I have gained weight since getting married in 1997. My husband don’t exercise, “he gets enough of that during work”. I go swimersizing, (exercising in the pool) 3 x’s a week for 1.50 hours. (of which he thinks is useless, because I haven’t lost 100 lbs in a week!!!) Exaggerated, I know but it’s how he thinks…Soooo any way, I wish I could look like those women in those adds. They look very beautiful. Curves and all!!!!

  2. le says:

    I see NO fat on these ladies, what I do see is curves. T/A are what make up the curves and I like both, A LOT! Whoever thinks this should be banned because it promotes FAT has forgotten this is a FREE country and they are NOT promoting FAT!

  3. Olive says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve gone on dating sites and had photos rejected or removed for being too revealing when they were MUCH less revealing than thin women’s photos. My mini-dress was ‘too revealing’, hell even a face shot with cleavage was ‘too revealing’ yet thin women in their lingerie and bikinis had those photos up no problem.

  4. Mich says:

    Interesting post Holly on an important issue that I posted about recently too on my blog. It’s tricky because the majority of the population are actually overweight, which wouldn’t be a problem only for the negative health consequences. Do you think any distinction should be made between ‘plus-size’ and ‘overweight’? Does banning these ads interfere with access to pretty lingerie for those who are plus-size or overweight?

  5. I’ve seen these ads online and love the fact that they portray a woman that is sexy and powerful in her demeanour. You’re spot on when you say that these ads need to be aired because having it in the public eye really makes all the difference. There is more skin because the women are not a size zero.
    Ashley Graham’s ad for Swimsuits for All was refreshing as well. Here’s hoping that someone in the media might actually root for the plus size
    body visibility for a change.

  6. Jeanna says:

    I hadn’t seen either of those commercials. Good Lord, are they hot. And I really enjoy that they strongly differ from the VS ads. There’s a story – a narrative – and it’s clearly about a woman with agency in both situations. So cool. I wish they were on TV.

    • KingBushwicktheToityToid says:

      It really doesn’t matter whether it’s plus size Ashley Graham or skinny Heidi Klum.
      All it takes is one Fundavangelical Christian out there to get their noses out of joint over it
      and they’re all upset because it]ll destroy the American family values!!

  7. Sandy says:

    You go, Holly! I admit I am not plus-sized but I’m by no means the “American Ideal”…I have, like most women, my own body issues that I’m still learning to accept as OK even though I’m not a VS model (even at the age of 45…). I can’t identify with the personal and public struggles of a plus-sized lady but I’m all about supporting body-positivity and size-acceptance. Is there someone/somewhere we can drop an e-mail or social media comment to regarding these ads?

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