Google uses the term ‘racy’ to describe skimpy or sheer clothing, strategically covered nudity or provocative poses.
Online fashion companies are more likely to use ‘racy’ images while promoting their brands/ One of the companies analysed was Missguided, said its site reflected what appealed to its customers.
The findings come as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned adverts from Missguided and Boohoo.
The ASA said Missguided advert featured “highly sexualised” images and “objectified women”, while it told Boohoo to make sure its advertising was “socially responsible”.
How Search Engine Google Defines ‘Racy’
Below images scores given by Google Vision AI
In a research, conducted by BBC It’s found that on a typical UK High Street fashion retailer’s website, 8% of women’s modelling images were “racy”, compared with 16% for online-only sites. The online-only sites analysed were: I Saw it First (21% of images were “racy”), Asos (7%), Missguided (16%), Boohoo (16%), Pretty Little Thing (22%) and Nasty Gal (11%).
More traditional retailers covered were: Topshop (9%), River Island (7%), New Look (4%) and Urban Outfitters (25%).
Officials of Missguided said, “Our website reflects what appeals to the young women who love to buy from us – sassy, empowered, unafraid of what others think. We run our website for them, not an artificial intelligence algorithm.”
The images analysed were posted in the “new in” sections of retailers’ websites.
Seven of the companies analysed also had men’s sites. Of the 6,200 images gathered from these, only 2% were classed as “racy”.
Role of Social Influencers
Online-only sites may have racier content because they use social influencers to promote their clothes, suggests Lexie Carbone, who works for Later – a US company which advises businesses on how best to use the photo-sharing app Instagram.
She says brands invite influencers to formal photo shoots, and these produce a different kind of picture, more reflective of different body shapes and skin-tones, but also potentially in more provocative poses.
“For the audience to be able to look at that influencer and imagine themselves in that outfit and kind of aspire to be living that life, it’s really captured in a different way than maybe a still traditional model pose.”
Racy Images Works!
But all the students agree the racier images aren’t necessarily a bad thing, because online-only fashion sites are more likely to use models of different body shapes.
“I buy it, so it works!” Natalie laughs. “It is empowering because you can feel sexy, whatever your body type, and that is the message being brought out to younger girls and it works. I know that I’d buy it.”
Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Mental Health Foundation director for England and Wales, said: “The trouble with fashion advertising is that it is ubiquitous, it uses models who represent a very narrow stereotype of ‘beauty’ and it often targets young women.”
He added: “Fashion imagery can make many people feel worse about their bodies and themselves.”