American Eagle foregoes retouching in new campaign

January 29th, 2014

American Eagle Outfitters recently launched a new set of advertisements featuring unretouched models as part of their new “Aerie Real” campaign.


The advertisements, released on Friday, Jan. 17, are specifically for Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie line. The Aerie Real images have phrases like “The girl in this photo has not been retouched” and “The real you is sexy” alongside models wearing Aerie bras, underwear and apparel. These photographs prominently show the models’ oft-hidden “imperfections,” such as freckles, wrinkles and even their tattoos.


Jenny Altman, an Aerie brand representative, appeared on “Good Morning America” recently to discuss the campaign.


“We left beauty marks, we left tattoos, what you see is really what you get with our campaign,” said Altman.


The campaign aims to advertise its apparel in a realistic, relatable way by showcasing women who are similar in stature and appearance to Aerie’s target customers.


Aerie’s chief merchandising officer, Jennifer Foyle, said, “The purpose of ‘Aerie Real’ is to communicate there is no need to retouch beauty, and to give young women of all shapes and sizes the chance to discover amazing styles that work best for them.”


Aerie has also moved away from the standard of only displaying lingerie models wearing the same size apparel. With the launch of Aerie Real, the online store at now displays pictures of its different bra styles as worn by models in every size. Aerie’s director of marketing, Dana Seguin, said that this new feature is intended to allow women who shop online to better determine how Aerie apparel will look on their own bodies. Altman also discussed how different one style can look on two different-size women.

american eagle

Amber Tolliver, one of the models in the Aerie ads, spoke about her past experiences with seeing herself in retouched photographs.


“They cut out my ribcage, they shifted my waist to an inch within its life, lengthened my legs, lengthened my neck, raised my cheekbones and filled in my hair because it wasn’t perfect enough,” she said in an interview with “What they’re able to do in retouching is incredible, like they liquify your entire body and remold it into whatever they want.”


When asked whether she prefers retouched images of herself or the new, non-retouched Aerie ads, Tolliver said, “I do like to see slight retouchings on my flaws, sure, but the beauty of the Aerie campaign is that all of my flaws are out there.”


Aerie Real is not the first marketing campaign to abandon Photoshop. In 2011, Make Up For Ever released notary-certified, unretouched photograph ads of models sporting the company’s makeup products. A Brazilian swimwear company, Lua Morena, advertised its swimsuits with unretouched ads in 2010.


While the Aerie Real campaign has earned praise and positive attention for American Eagle, it has also cast an unflattering light on lingerie companies who have yet to eradicate retouching from their advertisements.


“The difference between the Aerie Real campaign and, for instance, a Victoria’s Secret campaign, is that Victoria’s Secret completely airbrush out every single blemish or stretch mark,” said Emma Bazilian, an Adweek staff writer.


Aerie representatives also expressed a desire to promote high self-esteem in the company’s typically young customers.


Foyle said, “We want to help empower young women to be confident in themselves and their bodies.”


Editor’s Note: Information from this article was taken from, ABC News, Time Health,, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Huffington Post and Plush Swimwear.