This is Gisele Bundchen at age 16 in a Macy’s catalogue:
This makes me extremely uncomfortable. I think it’s a pretty twisted world we live in when a fashion director dresses a teenager up in fishnets and a velvet bra to try to convince other women (presumably Macy’s catalogue-receiving women in their 30s and 40s) to buy this underwear.
Selling clothes is always an exercise in aspiration. Wear this and your thighs might look slimmer! Wear this and hunky men will drape themselves all over you. Wear this and you’ll want to go to the gym! Wear this and other women will admire your style! Whatever you want to happen will happen if you only for the love of God buy these clothes!
What’s so bizarre about using underage models is that the aspiration you create in the minds of your consumer is impossible to fulfill. 30-year-olds will never look 16 again. Instead of building a vision about looking and being your “best self” (what brands like Dove do with campaigns like Real Beauty, manipulative in its own way), this ad creates impossible dreams. And what strange dreams to have!
See? Ann Taylor uses extremely attractive but age-appropriate models
You would never use a 16-year-old to sell a power suit, right? Because women who want to look powerful don’t want to look juvenile. They want to look attractive, and sleek, and put-together, but nobody aims for “junior prom” when they want to rock an interview.
But when you’re trying to look sexy (as anyone who is purchasing fishnets and velvet pushup bras likely is), looking youthful is part of the aspiration. We’ve conflated “adolescent” with “sexy” for so long that it seems natural for a teenager to model underwear the way it would never seem natural to put her in a skirt suit. That’s kind of scary, and we’re still doing it.
I feel like every party here is wronged in some way, the 16-year-old model who’s been tarted up, the rest of 16-year-olds who don’t look like this model and are intimidated, the 39-year-olds flipping through this catalogue and wondering why a girl their daughter’s age is being used to sell them underwear, any men who might catch a glimpse and lust after her, however briefly, not knowing she’s not even legal, teenaged boys who end up with bizarre expectations of what women wear under their clothes (hint, it’s usually not this).
Who wins? Macy’s, probably, if this ad sold a lot of tights. Sigh. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.
Related Post: But how old is she really?
Related Post: Bras for 9-year-olds