Online clothing store Pretty Little Thing has withdrawn a vest after facing backlash for its insensitive slogan: ‘Am I Skinny Yet?’
After being spotted online, the vest was slammed for promoting eating disorders – not only for the slogan but also because of its sizing, due to the sports vest having only been stocked in an extra small size on the website.
The vest first sparked outrage with customers back in January, when writer Emily Rose Grieve wrote an open letter to the brand telling them that ‘fitness is not just about being skinny’.
Unfortunately, the vest was only removed from PLT’s website just recently – after an eating disorder group and former anorexia sufferer hit out at the brand for sending a dangerous message.
Blogger Jess Mell, who has been recovering from anorexia since January 2015, claimed the vest could easily influence their customers to aspire to be skinny when they should be encouraging them to be happy the way they are.
The Nutrition and Public Health student from Howden, East Riding of Yorkshire, said: ‘The best way to describe my feelings towards the vest is I’m disgusted in it. I was horrified when I saw it.
‘I think it really promotes negative thoughts. By using a question like this on the front of a piece of clothing it prompts people to ask if they are skinny.’
Jess dubbed PLT’s decision to sell the vest as being ‘terrible’. She explained: ‘It scares me to think how many people might have seen it and started to question themselves.
‘I think it would make people think they have to aspire to be skinny and consequently promote eating disorders.
‘I think everyone should be trying to promote body confidence and not body shame. This top just promotes negative thoughts.’
Jess is also shocked by the design of the vest – as the word ‘skinny’ is highlighted and is placed right on the waist – an area Jess feels people focus on when losing weight.
‘By placing ‘skinny’ on the waist it draws attention to that area. I don’t know why anyone would really buy it,’ said Jess.
‘I think that fashion retailers need to take more responsibility with the slogans they place on clothing and they need to recognise the influence they have.
‘I used to study fashion at university and I know how easy it is for a piece of clothing to become popular. If a young person saw this on celebrities Instagram they will want to buy it.
‘Anyone can be affected by an eating disorder but young women are very vulnerable and can often be influenced easily, especially through social media.’
A spokesperson for Beat Eating Disorders was also shocked by the vest which had been shared on social media.
Beat said: ‘We are aware the fashion industry can play a big part in how eating disorders are perceived, influencing attitudes, beliefs and actions.
‘Sadly, this vest top is not the first example of how eating disorders can be trivialised or glamourised.
‘We know clothing such as this vest top can trigger negative behaviours in people who are affected by these complex mental health issues, which can cause serious harm.’
They added that the ideals presented within the fashion industry can ‘exacerbate and prolong illness’, and urged the company responsible for the vest top to stop making it, and for retailers to refuse to sell it.
‘Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and their causes are complex,’ said the spokesperson.
‘Anyone, regardless of their age, sex or cultural background, can develop an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.
‘Equally is important to remember, that eating disorders are mental illnesses and you cannot necessarily “see” them – it would be dangerous to assume someone did or didn’t have an eating disorder based solely on whether they appear to be “underweight”, “overweight”, or “normal”.’
‘Over 1.25 million men and women in the UK are affected by eating disorders which can be caused by a variety of factors such as genetic, psychological, environmental, social and biological influences.
‘The stigma surrounding eating disorders prevents many people from seeking help, and trivialising them in this way only makes it harder for individuals to get help.’
As PLT was faced with the controversy regarding the vest, they pulled it from the website – and they say it will not be making a return.
A spokesperson for PLT said: ‘We’d like to apologise to Jess and any of our customers who felt any offence by this.
‘We take these allegations extremely seriously and encourage young girls to be happy and healthy whatever their weight, shape or size.
‘The t-shirt in question has been removed from our website and we will be working with our teams to ensure this does not happen again.’
Metro.co.uk contacted Pretty Little Thing to find out exactly why it took so long to remove the vest, considering complaints were first made in January.
A spokesperson for the brand said: ‘We were not aware of the complaints dating back from January. We acted extremely quickly on this yesterday following the interviews and statements released about the t-shirt in question and will be taking action to ensure our slogan tees do not cause any further offence.’
If you or a loved one have been affected by the vest, or are struggling with any issues around body image, please get in touch with Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity.
Beat’s Helpline can be contacted via phone on 0808 801 0677 or you can email [email protected].