On Tuesday afternoon, visitors to Ann Taylor’s website had a unique opportunity: they got to see a model being photoshopped right in front of them. What is this, you say? Surely the folks at Ann Taylor realize that if an image is online even for an afternoon, someone will notice it? One would think so, but apparently, this was not a significant enough fear to prevent a tech error that illustrated, once again, the fact that many of the catalogue photos we see have been significantly retouched. The bloggers at Jezebel were the ones who caught this particular piece of airbrushing, but the Huffington Post has the two images side by side; you can see them here.
On Jezebel, Margaret Hartmann explains, “As the page loads, you’ll get to see what the Chiffon Trim Tank looks like on a real woman for a few seconds. Then she shrinks into a awkward creature barely able to support the weight of her torso with her tiny child hips.”
This is all the more frustrating in light of the fact that Ann Taylor took a lot of heat back in May for a particularly egregious piece of photoshopping (people do not have such smooth lines. We are not made of plastic). The company apologized – via tweet, so you know it’s really sincere – and said that they would do their best to “feature more real, beautiful images.” This is not a good way to start.
The fact that many, if not most, of the images we see in popular media are airbrushed to create a very specific kind of beauty, is something that’s been getting a lot of press recently, and that at least is good. Just a few weeks ago, Care2′s Ximena Ramirez wrote a couple of great pieces that touched on the issue – first dealing with the retouching of photos of “plus-size model” Crystal Renn, about which Renn was justifiably very angry, and then exploring the proposal from a British minister that retouched photos carry a warning label.
But just more coverage in the media isn’t good enough – and what’s truly bizarre is that photoshop jobs like Ann Taylor’s are absurdly unattractive, pandering to a kind of “beauty” that doesn’t look remotely human. The scary part is that all of this is showing the normalcy of airbrushing – it’s not like these are the only ones, just the sloppy ones that get picked up. After the incident in May, someone didn’t get the memo that this kind of airbrushing is no longer kosher, and my guess is that it was because there was no such memo. Clothing companies need to take these issues more seriously before there’s going to be actual change – you just have to wonder how many embarrassments it will take.
Photo from Openphoto.