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GAP uses skinny model to market 'curvy' jeans

It seems clothing retailer the GAP and the average American have a very different definition of the word “curvy.”

GAP came under fire in social media this week after a Twitter user pointed out the model the company used on its website to sell its Curvy/Skinny style of jeans. Designed for “curvier” types, the photographs of the jeans were accompanied by the description: “This made-for-you jean offers a curvier, body-skimming fit that looks great from every angle.”

But unless the jeans work miracles, the model wearing the pants was quite lean.

“The dissonance of the words and the image is quite jarring. This is certainly not curvy by any definition,” Harvard sociologist Dr. Hilary Levey Friedman told FOX411. “I am going to hope this was the result of an error – either a photo mix-up or language (that the jeans might make you curvier). Either way, the ad is a failure as I won’t be buying what they are selling.”

The photo has spawned some criticism from the public, with women tweeting such things as "she's curvy, there's no word for what most of us are,” and “if these are curvy jeans, I'm not buying them. I typically need a curvy style jean, but seeing this pushes me away.”

Some did offer a counter view however, suggesting that think that GAP “was just saying the type of jeans are a curvy style that hugs the body.”

According to branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev, the retailer seems be attempting to capitalize on the curvy cultural conversation, but the brand needs to make some bold and authentic moves to do this convincingly.

“They need to build a pair of jeans for a curvy figure and be brave enough to use a curvy model,” he continued. “Audiences see straight through inauthentic marketing moves like this. Nothing about these jeans or the model is curvy. Never under estimate the intelligence of your consumer.”

GAP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The rumble over the model selection comes amid a growing movement to highlight retailers for misrepresentation of clothing items. Earlier this year, Target was forced to apologize in response to an outcry over its blatant photo shopping of a junior swimwear model.

So what kind of damage does a company like GAP do with its perhaps unrealistic perception of curvy?

“It is sending the message that is consistently sent – women should be rail thin,” said body image expert Sarah Maria. “These jeans apparently make women look stick-thin, even if they have curves. That is the standard advertising message – thinner is better.”

Follow @holliesmckay on Twitter.

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