Selfridges ad featuring “unhealthily thin” model cleared by watchdog

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A Selfridges marketing email sent out in January attracted a complaint from a customer due to an image within the mailing of a model in a blue dress who was said to be “unhealthily thin”.

While the reader claimed the company was being “socially irresponsible” by using the image, the Advertising Standards Authority decided the model did not appear to be “significantly underweight” after an investigation.

The ASA added that the outfit chosen and the way the model had been posed emphasized her slenderness but that she appeared to be in proportion.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We considered most people, including young children and women, would interpret the ad as focusing on the design and fit of the dress, rather than on desirable body image.”

Selfridges said that the intention of the photograph was to showcase the outfit, and they did not purposefully exaggerate the slim figure of the model. They also noted that while they accepted the model was thin, the general public’s perception of weight and associated health was a subjective matter.

Denise Hatton, chief executive of the National Council of YMCAs, and a founding partner of the Be Real Campaign, said: “We’ve seen positive advances in the fashion industry over the last few years, including from Selfridges themselves, which shows that there is a shift towards more responsible advertising and portraying of diversity. However, the recent advert is another example where a slim body is still favoured over others, despite the fact that it doesn’t reflect the majority of customers.”