Victoria’s Secret gets a lot of flak within the lingerie industry. “Icky Vicky” is one of their most common nicknames, and I don’t know a single lingerie blogger who’s given one of their bras a positive review. Their sizing chart makes no sense, and even though I wear a size they carry (a C cup), I don’t shop there anymore because the bras just don’t fit. Add in their problematic marketing, child labor issues and, most recently, the hosiery knockoff scandal, and well…let’s just say the VS PR team really earns their paycheck.
But that’s not what today’s article is about. For all of Victoria’s Secret’s problems, I think they fill a vital role within the lingerie industry and also within the lives of individual women.
I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in the U.S., Victoria’s Secret is the lingerie store. And they are most women’s first exposure to pretty, lacy, and (dare I say it?) sexy lingerie. Most department stores (think Macy’s and J.C. Penney’s) sell really boring underwear. Everything’s white, beige, or black. The only nylons are control top pantyhose. And every store carries the same 10 brands (which, coincidentally, are all owned by the same company…but more on that later). I remember being an early 20-something with a budding interest in pretty lingerie (this is pre-Gap Body, pre-Aerie, and pre-Lingerie Addict), and feeling like my choices were extremely limited. Except when I walked into a Victoria’s Secret.
With over 1,000 stores in the U.S., Victoria’s Secret is everywhere. Every mall, shopping center, or downtown district has a VS. I grew up in a city with no lingerie boutiques (which is true for many women in America) and Victoria’s Secret was the only place to pick up anything remotely exciting. Not only did they have a larger lingerie selection than the department stores, the staff was consistently friendly, and, best of all, the prices were within even a student’s budget.
Now I’m not waxing poetic about VS. They’re not one of my top 5 places for lingerie shopping. But when you’re brand new to the intimates and don’t know where else to go or even how to even start, Victoria’s Secret can be a gateway to the world of lingerie.
To illustrate, when I was in college, lingerie boutiques felt very inaccessible to me. I didn’t know a good bra from a bad bra. I didn’t know why Bra X cost more than Bra Y. And I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on any of my clothes, including my underwear. Add in how the lingerie boutique experience can be a little uneven (especially, I think, if the sales staff has already decided you’re not a customer), and well, lingerie shopping can be extremely intimidating…especially for a newbie.
But when I shopped at VS, I felt like it was okay for me to “just look around,” and also felt like it was okay for me to explore all this new stuff I was interested in. I experimented with garter belts and thigh highs and cheeky panties and bustiers and bright colors and sheer lace and so much other stuff I couldn’t find elsewhere. Victoria’s Secret was literally my entry point to lingerie. I picked up my first “sexy” lingerie set from them. I bought many of my first bras from them (and looking back, was introduced to some of my favorite styles this way). I bought a ton of cute panties from them. And before I knew anything about Kiss Me Deadly or Huit or Wacoal or Hopeless or any other of the brands I know and love now, I had a place to buy lingerie that made me feel pretty.
Victoria’s Secret gets a lot of hate for their sizing practices, their over-emphasis on sexy, and the quality of their products (and rightly so), but I think they have another purpose in the industry at large, and that’s introducing women to lingerie. Victoria’s Secret helps make lingerie seem normal.
For me, Victoria’s Secret was the first hint that there could be something better out there for me to wear beneath my clothes. And honestly, I’m not sure I’d have even started a lingerie blog without a VS nearby to keep my interest going during those early days.
So what do you think, dear readers? Is Victoria’s Secret all bad or do they actually help the industry? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments.