A “provocative” fashion advert for American Apparel featuring a model showing part of her nipple has been banned because the model looked like a child.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ruled that the shots for Los Angeles-based clothing retailer were “inappropriate” because the model appeared under the age of 16.

In six photographs the model wore little make-up and posed in a fleeced hooded top and shorts, revealing more skin in each picture until she partially exposed a nipple with the top unzipped.

American Apparel argued the pictures were supposed to show different fashion looks, and the model was actually 23 years old.

But ASA said: “The photographs suggested that she was stripping off for an amateur-style photo shoot.

“Because the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, we concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers.”

One complaint that the nudity was offensive and could have been seen by children was not upheld.

ASA decided the nudity “was not so overly gratuitous as to make it unsuitable for or likely to cause serious or widespread offence to the target audience”.