Commend Department Store for Banning Airbrushing on Lingerie Models


Target: Debanhams’ CEO, Michael Sharp

Goal: Commend Debenhams for their initiative to reduce negative self image by producing marketing photographs without digital retouching.

Debenhams, the U.K.’s leading department store, has announced a vow to ban digitally airbrushing their lingerie models. The department store, according to the company’s head lingerie buyer, Sharon Webb, “want[s] to help customers feel confident about their figures without bombarding them with unattainable body image.”

Airbrushing, formally known as digital retouching, is a photographic technique used to alter the human figure through programs like Photoshop. These alterations include, but are not limited to, brightening eyes, smoothing hair, and slimming arms, legs and waist on models for both international and national marketing campaigns. The photo to the right is a “retouched” vs. “not-retouched” model provided by Debenhams.

According to “Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem,” commissioned by the Dove Self- Esteem Fund in 2008, “seven in ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.” This self-preception can have negative consequences through self-destructive behavior including self-harm, eating disorders, and depression which is often fueled by a company’s marketing campaign featuring women with an unattainable appearance.

Debenhams is taking a stand against the unattainable images by vowing to ban airbrushing, promising to “‘only airbrush minor things like pigmentation or stray hair and rely on the natural beauty of models to make our product look great,'” according to Webb. As a part of the campaign, Dehenhams is urging their competitors to ban digital retouching as well.

Debenhams is one of the first international companies to ban airbrushing and is setting an example not only to other retailers but for girls everywhere. Sign the petition below to thank Debenhams for taking a step to reform the way companies use models in their advertising campaign and for encouraging other retailers to follow their initiative.


Dear Debenhams’ CEO, Michael Sharp,

I am writing this letter to show my appreciation for your new vow to ban airbrushing on lingerie models. Thank you for taking a step as a leader amongst fashion retailers to reform the way companies are using models in their advertising campaigns. With many young women pressured by the media’s portrayal of the “perfect woman,” Debenhams is showing that women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes.

I would like to additionally thank you for publicly asking other retailers to follow Debenhams’ footsteps. Thanks to your company’s bold campaign, as a society, we can begin to reform the idea of beauty beyond the idea of a size 0 model. Thank you for actively showing how beauty is found in all shapes and sizes.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jezebel

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