'Being fat is not beautiful. It's an excuse': Revolve accused of fat-shaming with sweatshirt meant to shine light on horrors of trolling

Revolve is being dragged through the mud for releasing a fat-shaming sweatshirt. (Photo: Revolve)

What started out as a well-meaning sweatshirt has led to an uproar on social media over mixed messages about fat shaming and body positivity.

Social issues advocate and artist Florence Given found the sweatshirts on Revolve’s website on Wednesday, with the featured image showing a straight-size model in a pullover that read, “Being fat is not beautiful. It’s an excuse.” Disgusted by the message the sweatshirt sent, Given shared photos of it on Instagram. She also showed another sweatshirt the brand had on its website, emblazoned with the phrase, “Too boney to be boned.”

In tiny print below the quotes, the sweatshirts say, “as said to” beside an Instagram handle, giving the impression that these were comments pulled from someone’s Instagram account. The accounts attributed on the sweatshirts belong to models like Cara Delevingne and Paloma Elsesser.

According to Fashionista, the quotes were comments reportedly said to famous women — but the campaign backfired when the apparel was released early without any context. Since the $168 sweatshirt went up on Revolve’s website on Wednesday, Twitter has been awash with comments bashing the brand for the offensive message.

The sweatshirt got the attention of outspoken actress Jameela Jamil, who posited a rhetorical question for the brand.

Tess Holliday, a plus-size model who recently faced backlash from haters over her history-making Cosmo UK cover, also called out Revolve for being “a mess.”

“They have a huge following that’s mostly young women and they are perpetuating the toxic idea that our worth is tied into our size,” Holliday said in a statement to Mic. “They must have never seen me, because I’m fat and beautiful.”

Instagrammers were just as angry. “I am actually disgusted and bewildered….. who in the design meeting thought – “hey – I know a good idea” … and what idiotic team agreed with them!!??????” someone commented on Given’s post. “This can’t be real,” another pleaded. “BEING DISRESPECTFUL ISNT BEAUTIFUL ITS DISGUSTING.”

Revolve already has a reputation for its lack of diversity (remember #RevolveSoWhite?) and this sweatshirt is just fanning the flames. According to Fashionista, the largest size available in the sweatshirt was an XL. And that’s a stretch for Revolve, since the brand usually doesn’t sell anything beyond a size L. Just look at its size guide.

The fact that the sweatshirt is modeled on a slender woman is just a slap in the face to curvy girls everywhere.

“Can’t believe this is real? Why wouldn’t they just hire Paloma or another model who has been a victim of this kind of thinking. Do better @revolve @lpa,” someone suggested on Instagram.

As for plus-size representation? If you Google “Revolve plus size” you’ll find it. You won’t find anything in it though; there are “0 items” in the section. Not even the sweatshirt in question.

Revolve’s plus-size section is empty. (Credit: Revolve)

If this was Revolve’s foray into size inclusivity, it appears the brand missed the mark.

Given got a hold of LPA founder Pia Arrobio on Instagram, who explained the idea behind these sweatshirts, which was a collaboration with five women to “shine the light on how horrible trolling is.” The plan was to launch the sweatshirts on Thursday, but they “went up early on Revolve for some reason,” Arrobio tells Given on Instagram, before the context of the quotes was made clear.

One of those women, actress Lena Dunham, distanced herself from the project Wednesday afternoon in a statement, citing Revolve’s presentation of only “thin white women.”

“As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way,” Dunham wrote in part. “This doesn’t take away from my love or respect for what Pia has done with LPA, but I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm.”

Social media users were unhappy with more than just the way the top was modeled.  “[O]kay but why would they sell a shirt like that???” someone commented on Instagram. “Even with the explanation, those shirts are an awful and poorly executed idea.”

“This morning, images of a forth coming LPA collection were prematurely released on Revolve.com,” Revolve told Yahoo Lifestyle. “The capsule collection – originally conceived by LPA alongside Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse and Paloma Elsesser – was set to debut tomorrow as a direct commentary on the modern day ‘normality’ of cyber-bullying and the shared desire to create a community for those most affected by the epidemic.” Proceeds were set to benefit “Girls Write Now,” a charity focused on mentoring underserved young women and helping them find their voices and tell their stories through writing.

“We at Revolve sincerely apologize to all those involved – particularly Lena, Emily, Cara, Suki and Paloma – our loyal customers, and the community as a whole for this error,” they added. “The collection has been pulled. We are proud to donate $20,000 to ‘Girls Write Now’ in the hopes that those who need it can still benefit from what was to be a meaningful, insightful and impactful collaboration by LPA.”

While the brand admitted the promo shots were poorly executed, they would not comment on how those photos came to be.

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