Ann Taylor LOFT Ditches Models For Real Women

Retailer responds to its Facebook fans' requests by enlisting staff members to model its new line of cargo pants

Last week, when Ann Taylor LOFT debuted their new silk cargo pants on their official Facebook page, a number of its 55,729 friends found themselves wishing for a “Dislike” button.  Advertised as the "new go-to pant…flowy, cropped, light as a feather and unbelievably versatile…with a fitted blazer for work or dressed down with gladiators on the weekend," LOFT fans revolted against the elasticized ankles, impractical material and hefty price tag. If those features weren’t bad enough, dozens of LOFT Friends rallied against what they deemed was an inability to look good in silky cropped cargo pants unless you look like, well, this.

Sample feedback:

"Sure, they look great, if you're 5'10" and a stick like the model in the photo...if you're average height or short, and have curves, these will make you look really dumpy. Especially with the huge cargo pockets to emphasize your thighs, and a leg that tapers and will hit most of us in the widest part of our calf. What are you thinking, LOFT? Your clothes used to have classic lines that looked good on anybody; now they're all trendy and shaped weirdly."

In response to the outcry, LOFT did something very cool: They shot pics of real women – their employees – and posted them online. "You asked and we listened! So many of you reached out to us asking to see how our new silk cargo pants look on real women of all sizes. We hope you enjoy our styles."

Here's Julie, LOFT's Manager of Digital Programs, 5'3" and a size 6.

Lisa, LOFT’ Senior Online Stylist, 5’10” and a size 10.

And Liz, LOFT’s VP of Design, 5'6’ and a size 12.  (Loved that she wrote, "And for all you mothers, I have two babies. In fact, I got a big hand print of yogurt on my thigh as I was running out to work this morning. I took a wet cloth and wiped it down.... It came off, dry really quick and I was able to keep wearing them. :-)")
Readers were thrilled with the company’s direct response, though most still felt the pants were ugtsers. A typical response:  "I love LOFT and I sooooo appreciate you taking the time to 'listen' to our comments and show these pants on real women," wrote one. "I hope you will continue to do this in the future. However, I still maintain these pants are ugly. They don’t even look like capris on #2. I did want to say thank you though and to let you know I shop at Loft, but these pants are a fail. ;)"

What a brilliant marketing move. LOFT took a negative situation and flipped it upside-down in a way that not only assuaged upset fans, but won them over, perhaps even moreson than they were pre-cargo debacle. I suppose if I wanted to nitpick, I could argue that their "real women" are all higher-ups in the fashion industry, so they’re partially self-selected to be attractive and stylish, no matter what their size. But they showed women ranging from size 2 to 12, and from 5'3" to 5'10", and had each one explain why she felt the item worked well for her body.

Another example of a store responding to body image-related customer inquiry: UK department store Debenhams is selling swimsuits with unretouched images of the models alongside the airbrushed pics

The already-superslim model has had her arms, shoulders and legs slimmed, her cleavage enhanced, a slight bra bulge erased, wrinkles, undereye circles and hair wisps removed, and lips glossed. Her "After" waist is only slightly wider than her neck. A sign in the Debenhams window reads, "We’ve not messed with natural beauty; this image is unairbrushed. What do you think?"

I would fall for these types of campaigns hook, line and sinker. Show me those Express pants or that Forever 21 sundress on a woman who looks like me – and looks good in it – and the odds of me purchasing it just doubled.

Well played, LOFT and Debenhams.

Would you rather see real women model clothes? Chime in below.

Love this? Read these:
-What Snooki Taught Me about Body Image
-Get in the mood when your mind's on your muffin top
-Body image advice from Homer Simpson

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