American Apparel: selling women or clothing?

ad critique 2

American Apparel has long been noted for its racy ads; its website features girls scantily clad—even in see-through clothing with nipples and genitals visible—and often comes across as almost pornographic. Their ad campaigns have a history of receiving backlash from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), many eventually banned for their racy content. This advertisement, in particular, is for bodysuits and thigh highs (though you would not necessarily be able to tell) and utilizes fragmentation of the body in order to sexualize the image. The model—headless, and only comprising of a bottom half—is shown in various sexual positions, including with her legs spread apart, her butt in the air, and kneeling suggestively on a bed. By choosing to show only sexualized parts of the model’s body—legs, genitals, buttocks, some cleavage—American Apparel dehumanizes the model as simply a commodified object for sexual gratification. This is a common technique, according to the documentary Dreamworlds 3, in music videos, advertising, and other media to cater to the straight, male viewer; it conveys to young women that this is what men want to see—and, therefore, that it should be imitated—and only perpetuates among men that this is the standard of female beauty and sexuality to be expected. This type of advertising encourages the notion that women should be valued for their beauty and sexuality, specifically individual body parts that are pleasing to men. Indeed, this ad makes one wonder if they are aiming to sell the clothing or the woman’s commodified body parts featured in the photos.


Works Cited

Ellie Krupnick. “American Apparel, ASA oOn The Outs Again With New Banned Ads (PHOTOS).” Style. Huffington Post. April 10, 2013. Accessed October 22, 2013 from


One thought on “American Apparel: selling women or clothing?

  1. virseymour

    You should see this blog post: It is more of the same about American Apparel, but I really like that she says: “American Apparel consistently portrays women as dissected body parts in a type of visual synecdoche that reduces them into something less than human.”
    She also makes a quick mention of not buying an American Apparel dress because she would feel like “a walking billboard.” That really struck me about both your blog post and this article. We all know how bad what they do in their ads is. And yet most of us own something from them, whether it was a deliberate purchase or a t-shirt we got from one of our student groups. I know a lot of girls who hate the ads but buy American Apparel clothing anyway because they like how it looks. I thought that was fine (I’ll admit to eating chik-fil-a even though they support things I disagree with), until I read this article and realized that it wasn’t okay to buy, because they are exploiting the sexuality of the female body in their ads and by wearing their clothes in public, I am willingly associating my body with that sexualization because their clothes are so identifiable and their ads are so iconic.


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