'Yeah, yeah, yeah, she's a lady'

Rory Ellis and Eleanore Wallace review H&M’s Fall video attempting to redefine what it is to be a lady in 2016

24th October 2016

Rory: I had mixed feelings about the new H&M advert. I’d asked my female friend’s friends about the short clip before writing this and on the whole, they liked the premise. Despite H&M’s recent PR failure with clothes sizing’s and assumptions that the advert was an attempt to regain customers, it still functioned as an entertaining and meaningful advert that showcased a great deal of variety and made certain success in expanding views of female models.

It’s a pleasing celebration of this concept, using women of different sizes, sexual orientations, gender identities and races to subvert the evidently outdated 19th century word ‘ladylike’. However, the advert does, in places, fall victim to the traditional shortcomings of the fashion industry. All of the women chosen for the advertisement are good-looking. I’m fairly sure there is nothing abnormal about the gorgeous frizzy haired woman picking something from her teeth, or the beautiful and expressively dressed lady dancing by herself in a karaoke bar.

While it was refreshing to hear the lyrics of Tom Jones’ ‘she’s a lady’ repossessed by Lion Babe celebrating women in a way that is not totally objectifying, the soundtrack was belied somewhat by the use of beautiful models, albeit unconventional, but beautiful none the less. The advert held back from showing the real women, plus size in the ‘wrong way’, lacking inclusion of deformities and such that don’t usually make it into the world of fashion.

Though the advert is a step forward for the acceptance of diversity, I felt it had been undermined a little by its overt political drive and a lack of tenacity to push the boundaries even further. And unfortunately, I was left with the sense that this clever and beautiful video was the work of a company with business motives at the heart.

“It’s a pleasing celebration of this concept, using women of different sizes, sexual orientations, gender identities and races to subvert the evidently outdated 19th century word ‘ladylike”

Eleanore: H&M, like most brands, typically boasts an array of tall, slim, symmetrical faced models in their adverts, strutting down a runway, being admired by male on-lookers or posing awkwardly in rooms filled with flowers.

However, 2016 is here and despite some obvious setbacks *cough* Donald Trump *cough*, we’d like to believe ‘ladies’ are breaking free from their traditional roles as pretty little accessories to men. That’s what H&M’s advert achieves, rather than objectifying its models and having them do little more than a mannequin does, we see them spread-legged on trains, dancing embarrassingly at karaoke bars and eating fries in bed with their jeans undone.

Tom Jones’ ‘She’s a lady’, sung by Lion Babe, plays in the background. With lyrics like ‘she’s the kind I’d like to flaunt’, and ‘she always knows her place’ the 1972 track is undeniably misogynistic, depicting what a ‘lady’ was considered to be in the 70s. H&M juxtaposes this with what a ‘lady’ is, in 2016. The head of a company, a lesbian couple, 72 year old Lauren Hutton looking really grumpy; H&M shows us what women really look like, and not what society dictates. Unlike most body-positive ads, it celebrates not only ‘plus size’ models, but also trans women and women of various ethnicities and ages. Muscles, body hair, afro hair and shaved heads are also honoured.

However, I do question the ad’s sincerity and wonder how quickly we’ll go back to the norm. Are H&M simply following a trend or are they truly changing the game to make real women the face of fashion? Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction; I hope that one day all ads will look like this.

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