American Apparel x The Ardorous

Some of you may have already seen the menstruation t-shirt designed for American Apparel by The Ardorous. It has now sold out online and in stores, but it caused quite the kerfuffle when it was first released, and the images publicized.

In particular, The Daily Mail seemed to have a huge problem with the design of two t-shirts that The Ardorous made in collaboration with American Apparel; not only the aforementioned menstruation t-shirt, but also one that depicted a  wet topless female torso, to the extent that they blurred out the ‘offending’ portions of the shirts before publishing them on their website

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The designer behind the t-shirts, Petra Collins, spoke to VICE after the controversy, and I think that she’s pretty spot on in her assessment of why the menstruation shirt, in particular, was met with the reception that it did. From her interview:

“Menstruation—and also pubic hair—really freaks people out. There’s pubic hair in the drawing, which I guess is super shocking to people, even though I cannot get over that. I feel like I’m so sheltered in a way. I always forget that people are so close-minded.

Grown women are taught to repress their postpubescent body or hide it. When you start puberty and you start growing hair you’re taught to shave it, because no one’s supposed to see it. With your period, it’s something that you conceal—no one’s supposed to know. It’s almost pedophilic—and I don’t want to throw that word around. But this feminine ideology we have, of the woman being a prepubescent girl, is how we’re taught to change our bodies.”

Although I agree with Collins on why the shirt was met with disagreement, especially by those who prefer to think of women as magically beautiful hairless creatures who never secrete anything but the scent of roses, I must admit to having an issue with the pairing up with American Apparel as the distributer of these t-shirts. American Apparel, for those of you who aren’t aware, have a shady history of sexual harassment abuses within their workplace, opposing unionization for their employees, fat-shaming, and constant sexualization of women, whilst depicting men (in the same clothes!) in a non-sexual manner. In relation to the latter, I have never seen anything that convinces me that the male gaze is alive and well as much as an American Apparel advertisement for women’s clothing does.

Do you lose feminist street cred when crying out against repressive ideals of womanhood whilst also producing content for a company that seems happy to use women (that is, women of a certain ‘look”) sexually in order to sell clothes? Perhaps.

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3 thoughts on “American Apparel x The Ardorous

  1. I’ve noticed American Apparel’s constant sexualization of women but I did not know they’ve had so many indiscretions. When I first heard about this shirt, I thought it was an interesting idea. Society is so scared of women’s bodies and the reality of our biological functions. I liked that Collins was challenging that.
    However, I feel like she made a decision between publicity and her “feminist cred”. She may have chosen American Apparel because of its popularity factor amongst teens and young adults. It was probably a tough call to make, but I am not sure I agree with it.

  2. Unfortunately, I think this is a situation where Petra Collins had to ignore the bad things that happen within American Apparel’s company and advertising structures in order to get a really important message across to a very, very large audience. Although it seems exploitative on American Apparel’s part, there are not many other clothing companies that would be willing to distribute such controversial images–maybe because American Apparel is shrouded in so many controversies of its own at any given time–especially affordably.
    In a way, these shirts remind me of a line of t-shirts Marc Jacob has been producing for the past 10(+?) years where he uses images of naked celebrities on relatively affordable t-shirts to raise money for the NYU Cancer Institute. Similarly, this campaign raises awareness about the unbelievable censorship of female bodies and we might have to let it slide that people like Dov Charney are benefitting from it.

  3. Pingback: Platforms for Dialogue | Girlpower

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