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This Brand's Models Actually Look Like Real People

Shopping is hard. Shopping online is harder. Shopping online with absolutely no clue how a garment looks in your size, much less how it looks on you in your size, is basically impossible. The convenience of e-commerce has given way to the inconvenience of buying clothes semi-blindly and constantly returning those clothes as a result. The reality is, brands haven't really adapted to online shopping culture yet, beyond (sometimes) throwing us the bone that is 360 video views of a product. This first story, by our senior editor Meredith Haggerty, is about a brand that's changing that.

And next, why beauty companies these days are offering shoppable samples of their products, and why that might not be a good thing.

Hey Brands, This Is the Way to Show How Your Clothing Looks on Humans
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Story by Meredith Haggerty

Today, Nashville-based brand Elizabeth Suzann announced their “Diversity Campaign,” a project that aims to solve a problem as old as e-commerce.

In short: Elizabeth Suzann will now show every item of clothing in their Signature Collection on models who represent every size in which the item is available. This is, to put it bluntly, fucking huge (sorry, Mom! But I think you’ve heard me say worse things in an Anthropologie dressing room).

Online shoppers have long-struggled with the whole “can’t try things on” part of e-commerce. To this end, we’ve had high-quality images of an item, usually from a few angles, with the ability to zoom in. Maybe there’s a spinnable 360 view, which is very fun. Some sites even specify the size of the model, her height and measurements, which is, at least, a touch. But when you go to say, Shopbop, and look at a classic, Diane Von Furstenberg dress on a classic, size zero model and try to reason out, “Okay, so, on me that’s uh...” you remember that no one is that good at math.

At a size 12, I personally find that it would be just as relevant to look at a dress I wanted to buy on a notably large banana or a bunch of balloons that have a lot of personality as on a size zero model. Her body has nothing to do with mine. And that’s not a personal failing on my part. Even if I were a size six, her body would have very little to do with mine.

Ultimately, that’s the problem. Most designers and even mall-brand stores don’t want to show their clothing in a non-optimal light, and their clothing looks non-optimal on women of minimally-variable sizes. How this became a problem with the women and not the clothing is a society-wide gaslight that we need to extinguish once and for all. Showing clothing on women of every size, admitting that these bodies are real and not going anywhere and deserve to be dressed well, is a great first step.

To be fair, Elizabeth Suzann did not totally invent the concept of showing models of multiple sizes, whole cloth. Everlane features models of every possible size for their Slouchy Trouser. Everlane says in an email to Racked that they’re happy with how this turned out, and might revisit this concept in the future. And that’s nice! But it’s one pair of pants! To just celebrate this single gallery and not worry about seeing other items of clothing on bodies of every size means accepting the lip service given to non-sample size women; it means not daring to ask for real visibility. And that’s what Elizabeth Suzann is offering.

This doesn’t mean that now all our problems are solved. Elizabeth Suzann only offers up to a size 16, which is just above the national average (I’m at least good enough at math to know that means there are lots of women larger than that). Suzann herself “definitely” has plans to offer larger sizes, however, explaining in an email to Racked, “Grading patterns up and down is an art... I want to make sure that I’m keeping the silhouettes balanced and flattering for every size and reflect women's body shapes accurately. Once we nail it down, we’ll extend sizing on all of our products!” The brand recently expanded from offering up to a size 12, to offering up to a 16, and added OS plus and OS minus sizes to “one size” garments, as well as tall and short pant lengths.

Of course, there’s still every other brand on the internet and beyond to conquer. But in a fashion world that throws plus size women crumbs and acts like that’s not confirmation we’re still being judged on our size, this is real progress.

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Shoppable Samples Are the New Beauty Testers
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As anyone with a Birchbox subscription knows, beauty samples are the gateway drug into exotic full-size cosmetics purchases. But what about the dozens of quirky, independently-owned cosmetics companies that only sell online only and most likely won’t ever see the inside of a subscription box or a Sephora? How do they market their products on small budgets, without the backing and resources of a corporate owner?

In fact, in the world of independent cosmetics, most companies proactively offer samples of as many of their products as possible, selling them to consumers for very low prices. Samples of all of the independent brands mentioned in this story are plentiful and cheap, and you can procure a healthy array of colors by the fistful for less than $10.

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