Victoria’s Secret Problems: 3 Big Issues the Lingerie Chain Needs to Address

Unless you’ve been on a media diet for the last month or so, you probably know that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (VSFS) happened last week. Billed as the “Sexiest Night on Television,” this year was the 10th televised broadcast of VSFS (even though there’s been a version of the show since the mid-90′s) and it’s turned into a bit of a tradition. Between its millions of viewers (and subsequent millions of sales), the VSFS is one of the effective marketing campaigns in the world.

Usually, I do a quick write-up after the show talking about my favorite looks and maybe what I did or didn’t like about the broadcast. But as I was reviewing my notes for this post (Rihanna was great, the lingerie was plain, and the interviews in between segments were forced), I felt like I would be missing some bigger issues if I just spoke about the show and nothing else. Because the truth is, Victoria’s Secret, despite it’s position as the #1 lingerie retailer in America, has a few issues it needs to deal with right now. Issues that make the fashion show seem a bit silly in comparison.

Some of you may be surprised I’m saying this. After all, a few months ago I wrote a post about how Victoria’s Secret actually benefits the lingerie industry (short version: it exposes a lot of women to lingerie who might otherwise never get a chance to try the stuff), and I upset quite a few people who interpreted that post as a blanket acceptance of everything Victoria’s Secret has ever done and ever will do. So it feels appropriate now to spend some time talking about the ways Victoria’s Secret is really messing up.

Victoria’s Secret Has a Race(ist) Problem
Less than 2 months after Victoria’s Secret shocked anyone with a conscience over their blatantly racist ‘geisha’ costume (modeled by the ultra blonde and very-definitely-not-Asian, Candice Swaenpoel), they upped the ante by putting the very Midwest and most-certainly-not-Native-American, Karlie Kloss, in an Indian costume. As the saying goes, once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but 3 times is pattern. And the third time, if you remember, is last year’s fashion show which crammed all the black models into one ‘tribal’ sequence).

Now, I don’t think the people in charge of Victoria’s Secret are idiots. At the very least, the company has more than enough money to spend on diversity consultants or customer focus groups or even a book or three on racial stereotyping. Yet it appears they do none of those things prior to spending thousands (if not millions) of dollars on making and manufacturing these explicitly racist costumes. So that makes me wonder if they either don’t care (which is bad) or if they’re deliberately trading on racist controversy to bring some attention to the brand (which is worse).

Inevitably, when the R-word (by which I mean racism) comes up, someone responds with, “Well, they probably don’t intend to be racist!” Which may be true. After all, I don’t live with any of their designers. But I think we can at least agree that Victoria’s Secret doesn’t intend to avoid being racist either. And one can only be ‘accidentally’ racist so many times before other people begin to wonder what exactly is going on.

Victoria’s Secret Has a Gender Problem (and It’s Not the One You’re Thinking Of)
The current roster of Victoria’s Secret Angels (i.e. their headliners) includes the following nine models: Adriana Lima, Lily Aldridge, Alessandra Ambrosio, Miranda Kerr, Doutzen Kroes, Behati Prinsloo, Candice Swanepoel, Lindsay Ellingson, and Erin Heatherton. When it comes to the Angels, many people focus on the physical homogeneity of the women and that is a problem.

Unfortunately, it’s not a unique issue to Victoria’s Secret, and that discussion often leads to incredible amount of body snark, body shame, and body hate…three things I have no interest in or tolerance for. Instead, I want to spend some talking about the whole Virgin/Whore complex Victoria’s Secret actively trades in.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but in the past few years, there’s been an increasing emphasis on the models’ (always heterosexual) relationships. The first 5 Angels listed above are married (they also happen to be the most popular Angels), and I’ve often noticed their relationship is invoked by the brand during promotional events. It’s as if to imply, “Yes, these women are famous for being underwear models, but they’re ladies. They’re good girls, so everything’s okay.”

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, women are having to deal with police officers who say things like “Dressing like a slut makes you rapeable.” That contrast…that juxtaposition is very unsettling to me. I know the company is attempting to capitalize on the “They’re wives and moms just like you” angle, but it’s very distressing when the legitimacy of their most popular models is so heavily linked to their relationship status. Because it reinforces the notion that expressing your sexuality or being a sexual being, is only okay if you’re doing it the right way.

Victoria’s Secret Has an Image Problem
The last year has been full of scandals for Victoria’s Secret. From the use of child labor in Burkina Faso to photoshopping away model’s limbs to ever-decreasing product quality and a reputation for egregious fitting techniques, the bright and shiny image Victoria’s Secret has built up over the last decade is slowly being chipped away.

While they are still the name in lingerie, at least in America, every new scandal reminds the public that Victoria’s Secret isn’t about women’s empowerment or being sexy or even lingerie…they’re just a regular, run-of-the-mill clothing company out to make a buck. And once that “secret” gets all the way out, the brand may never recover.

What are you thoughts on Victoria’s Secret? Did you watch the fashion show? Have you kept up with the scandals this year. Let’s chat in the comments.

Cora

Cora

Founder and Chief Editor of The Lingerie Addict. I started TLA in small studio apartment in 2008. Since then, my little site has become the leading lingerie blog in the world, and it's been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, CNN, Time, Today, and Fox News. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that every woman deserves gorgeous underpinnings that help her feel comfortable and confident. Body snark free zone since 2012.

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135 Comments

  1. 12/12/12 at 13:12

    I definitely agree with all your points. I never really thought about the gender problem much (I’m not familiar enough with the models and have never watched their show to know that they focused on that so much ) but I do find that very disturbing.

    I have to add (and you know I’m a nut for this) but their bra fitting techniques are horrific and the tone that they set in the store (which often times can be discriminatory towards large breasted women or women in too small or too large band sizes to fit into their range) bothers me to no end. I have no problem with their size range in and of itself but there are ways to handle customers who don’t fit into their range and that does not A. mean telling them they are too fat to into their range and/or sending a large breasted women to Lane Bryant when often times Lane Bryant doesn’t carry her size because they carry only larger back sizes and B. doesn’t involving attempting to shove a women into an ill-fitting bra and declaring that it fits when it clearly doesn’t and then ignoring her protests.

    As the biggest lingerie company I feel that they need to address these issues heads on. So many women strive to look like the models/fit into their lingerie (and I have heard a million times in the weight loss community about women who worked so hard to lose weight and then were devastated when VS bras still didn’t fit correctly) that it’s time they stepped it up a notch. Certainly, a women has the choice if she wants to shop there or not, but if it’s one of the very few places that she has available locally, it’s not much of a “choice”.

    • 12/12/12 at 19:18

      Totally agree June! I was worried as I read through the article that their fitting methods wouldn’t be addressed at all, but luckily they were in the last point :)

      You’re so right that they’re pretty much the only lingerie option for most women, I know that’s how I felt for many years until I realized my 34DD bras weren’t cutting it and actively sought out other options.

      I think the worst part of VS’s techniques is that they (at least from what I can tell) OWN the teen demographic, so girls are starting out in completely wrong sizes. I know that VS is the first place I was fitted, as a 34C (with a ~28″ underbust!). And so many of my college-aged peers still consider them the end-all be-all of lingerie! Especially now that there is such strong marketing behind their PINK line, aimed at middle/high school/college girls, what girl is going to want to go to an “old lady” boutique/department store when all of their friends are buying neon bras and thongs from VS?

      TL;DR They are providing the first experience with how a bra fits for a lot of young women but fitting them incorrectly.

      • 13/12/12 at 1:39

        The college demographic thing is something I was speaking with a colleague about a few weeks ago! I think it’s sad that so many traditional retailers and brands missed the teen/young adult boat. Because now you have an entire generation of women who have literally grown up with Victoria’s Secret from high school, and it’s hard to break that kind of brand loyalty. Even if their bras don’t fit them all, it’s all know they know and they’re comfortable with it. And that sort of thing is what I mean when I say retailers and brands can learn lessons from Victoria’s Secret too. Use the good; discard the bad.

    • 13/12/12 at 1:37

      I think that’s a great point. Victoria’s Secret is in so many places that while many women’s first experience with lingerie is in one of their stores, so is their first experience with an ill-fitting bra or a poorly trained bra fitter. I know I walked around in the wrong size for years based on what I was told in VS. I don’t remember how I stumbled onto the right bra, but it wasn’t there. And even though I’m ‘straight size’ when it comes to lingerie, their bras still don’t fit my body very well. In general though, I wish there were more choices available locally than Victoria’s Secret and Lane Bryant. Soma, for example, has nice bras, but i don’t think they’re in as many locations.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:46

      I don’t usually talk about the sizing or bra fit issues in connection with Victoria’s Secret because it’s an issue that’s covered so much, especially by other bra bloggers, that doing the same here would feel redundant. I also feel like bra fit in general is discussed a lot, and I enjoy connecting the world of lingerie with larger social issues when I can. The more I blog, the more I realize lingerie is a really rich lens for viewing the world, and I want to explore more of that on TLA. :)

      • 13/12/12 at 7:22

        So much to respond to and I’m heading out the door! I actually think the point about the teen/college student market needs to be addressed (maybe a future blog post for you? :) ). Because I agree that companies need to be more aware of that market and the effects that brand loyalty have on women even as they age.

        It’s funny because there are companies out there that have bras for teens (I know Royce Lingerie, for instance carries training bras in a much wider size range) but I’m not sure if it’s just lack of marketing or what that prevents them from focusing on that age range. It would be nice to see more brands make it easier for parents to purchase bras for their teens and also bras that are appropriate for teens both in style and colorations that they prefer.

        As for the fit issue. I think for me it’s more of my own personal hang up that I can’t think about VS without the fit issue intertwined (granted because every experience I have had with them that was the most prevelant topic). But you make a great point about how lingerie can be our lens for viewing the world. Definitely something to think on more. :)

  2. Lexa
    12/12/12 at 14:18

    Brilliant insights. Thank you.

  3. Michelle Y.
    12/12/12 at 14:50

    I love the ideas you’ve brought to the table in this post. American culture is becoming commercialized to the point that almost all values (on racism, gender, status, etc.) in huge corporate companies (like Victoria’s Secret) take a second (if not third, fourth, fifth…) seat to making money. As I have done my lingerie research, I have been exposed to lingerie brands built upon quality, sophistication, and authenticity, all of these things which Victoria’s Secret lacks. To me, VS portrays an image of commercialized America- cheap, fake, inauthentic- and they really only seem to promote one view of sexiness/beauty, that being super skinny with big boobs. Its sad that such a huge power in the lingerie industry does nothing to promote a wider, more all-encompassing view of what lingerie IS and WHO it is for, like women of ALL shapes and colors. To me, Victoria’s Secret represents 21st century fake American corporate super-power bull crap.

    • 13/12/12 at 1:41

      It’s amazing…as Victoria’s Secret has grown larger, their selection has become worse – not better. I remember that they used to partner with independent designers and even sell items from other designers in some of their stores but it looks like as they’ve become more and more of a powerhouse, they see no need to send those customers to other potential competitors. It’s a perspective I understand from the business side of things, but it does mean that Victoria’s Secret has very little to offer once you outgrow them, so to speak.

    • Daniela
      13/12/12 at 12:45

      “To me, VS portrays an image of commercialized America- cheap, fake, inauthentic- and they really only seem to promote one view of sexiness/beauty, that being super skinny with big boobs. ”

      THIS.

      • 31/12/12 at 21:18

        “To me, VS portrays an image of commercialized America- cheap, fake, inauthentic- and they really only seem to promote one view of sexiness/beauty, that being super skinny with big boobs. ”

        I have to agree with Michelle. In my opinion, it’s actually a lost opportunity for VS. Women of all shapes and sizes want to buy lingerie. How many women really look like the models they have wearing their lingerie? I know I am not motivated to go by their products when I see women with (in most cases) unrealistic body types. I know I look nothing like them and that the products will certainly not “make” me look that way.

        While they have many other issues as Treacle highlighted (in addition to the unrealistic size/image they portray) I think they would increase their brand further by showing women of all sizes, shapes and colors. While some may want to look like a Victoria Secret model (skinny w/ big boobs) I would love to see a major lingerie store show casing women on all sides of the spectrum, all the way from thin to plus size. I believe women want to see other women they can relate to or look like their sister/friend etc.

        Just thought I would share my two cents for what it’s worth. Thanks for the article!

  4. TigeressKitten
    12/12/12 at 15:04

    Personally I don’t buy their stuff. Their bras don’t fit my cup size and even when I was supposedly a size they carried their sizing was off (small) for me. I also found their customer service is lack luster, the employees rarely speak about lingerie in a knowledgeable way and all they are capable of is listing the sales item and doing register (witch is fine when I want to do my own thing or know what I want, after all an sales person who hounds you is just as awful… but if I actually am looking for something or need advice or just need a good shopping experience its completely the wrong thing to do as a retail associate)… rarely got a full conversation and half the time I was ignored once they realized my bra size was to large for their bras to handle. Also their bras always seemed flimsy to me (although cute) so since I couldn’t wear their bras I use to get panties and their perfume scented shampoo. Unfortunately finding a larger size of the cute panties is almost impossible unless you order online or are their when they unpack shipment. It goes to fast. So since even finding panties I liked became rare I just stopped going much. I later found out from several friend that they had issues with quality of the bras (they often broke in the worse ways like the center snapped or the straps broke).

    To be honest I’m not impressed with them.

    My best bra shopping experiences have been at Fredericks of Hollywood. Sales people knowledgeable and although I’m not saying all stores have good employees (after all not every location could have that kind of good luck) they do properly train their employees so the amount of employees with the correct attitude for this kind of business is far more often their I find. Also I have never run into any kind of ism their… not racism and not any other kind of bigotry. In fact the location I frequent often times has anything from the norm of a teenage girl getting fitted for the first time to cross dressers (both strait and gay) shopping. They also have good quality and rely mostly on word of mouth instead of advertising. Their reputation may be a bit on the sexier side of things but they carry basics as well and are perfectly appropriate for a lingerie store. In fact I see their sexiness as a healthy expression of what they offer to women witch is a stronger sense of self though expression of your sexuality and sensuality. The women they use for their photos certainly don’t have the body of the mother of 4 next door but their Photoshopping is somewhat realistic… those boobs floating on air in the picts that look like a boob job? I hear that they are actually wearing the extreme bra and the bra is photoshopped out. So if a woman layers her extream bra with her lingerie she will get the same kind of boob lift look. Plus the women in the pictures may be “model” beautiful bodys but they are at lease chesty witch is a far more accurate representation for a store that sells bras… personally I find VS girls to be a bit two thin (witch is fine if you plan on selling only A-B cups… but most of us are not runway model thin), even the more busty ones its obvious that they aren’t as busty as the average american woman. I do not think Fredericks of Hollywood is a perfect business, I’m sure their issues I don’t know about but I do respect and like them far more and am a loyal follower/customer.

    Another bra store I respect is Bravissimo, I emailed their customer service asking about sizes and such and received a prompt honest answer to my questions. They also gave me a list of other retailers that carried my size since although they carry my cup size they don’t carry my back/band size. Between that and their advice on their site about how a bra should properly fit I fell in love!… perfect customer service points and excellent knowledge of their product/services. Also, their models are beautiful and their bodys are actually in the shape/size that accurately represent the store (slim to curvy women who wear large cup sizes).

    Unfortunately VS is common in every mall so its hard to break away from them but I do advise people to shop Fredericks of Hollywood if their is one nearby. And if not at lease shop around till you find a place that has knowledgeable and personable bra fitters (instead of just settling for sub par service and a bad experience)… and then keep going to that place where you get good service! Heck, make friends with that bra fitter and call the store to find out when their in next time you want a fitting! Having a great bra fitter is like having a great hair dresser… you want to keep using that persons services as much as possible cause that person knows your body, knows your likes, and knows your needs so even if they don’t have formal “appointments” you still want to try to get the same person to fit you.

    • 13/12/12 at 1:48

      Thanks for the Frederick’s of Hollywood review! While I’ve seen their brick and mortar locations in Nevada and California, they are a brand I’ve purchased from before and been happy with. I think they work especially well if you’re on a tight budget.

      One quick note…I do ask that commenters avoid negative body talk on the blog. Things like “too thin,” “too fat,” etc. Our readers are all shapes and sizes, and we try to keep a body positive and welcoming atmosphere as much as we can (which can be hard enough considering how homogenous most industry models are). Thanks again. :)

  5. 12/12/12 at 15:16

    I haven’t watched the show yet. I DVR’d it and I’ll probably get around to it but I have to say, I haven’t really been able to muster up much excitement for it this year.
    I saw the picture of Karlie Kloss on a blog a few days ago and it was hard to imagine that after the backlash around the geisha costume no one at VS had the foresight to see that being an issue. It does make me wonder, as you said, about the company looking to capitalize off the controversy. : /
    VS has such a large voice in America it would be nice to see them think a little more before the act since actions speak much louder than words.
    ~Maggie

    • 13/12/12 at 1:50

      I also wasn’t as excited about this year’s show as I’ve been about previous year’s shows. I think all the controversy VS has faced was a part of it. I think the larger part is just that I’ve outgrown the brand. They know their target demographic very well, and they cater to them quite well, but it does make them a bit boring. Most of their relevance to me now is centered around how large their US (and soon-to-be global) presence is…not their products. I also agree about wishing VS exercised more forethought, but they’re so large now, I imagine they think they don’t have to. Better to beg forgiveness than ask permission and all that.

  6. Anna
    12/12/12 at 16:33

    I can’t help but agree with your last paragraph and most of the other comments here – Victoria’s Secret is a corporate enterprise that makes decisions based on making the most money. All of their decisions make sense in this light – their limited range of sizes, the poor quality of their lingerie, their poorly trained staff and severely lacking customer service, the homogenized look that their models present as “sexy.” The list could go one and on. I was one of many middle-class American teenagers who couldn’t wait to move up from beige department store bras to something “sexy” from Victoria’s Secret. Unfortunately, the ABYSMALLY small range of sizes that they carry left me feeling anything but. It wasn’t until I discovered British retailers like Figleaves and Bravissimo that I actually realized what a horrible company Victoria’s Secret is… They are exploiting women for monetary gain. It makes me all the more grateful for the smaller companies who are making well-made, beautiful lingerie for women of all sizes.

    • Jenna
      13/12/12 at 1:16

      Anna, you could be describing my experiences growing up exactly. I think I walked into a 38DD at VS when I was 14 or 15, and now I know for damn sure that bra didn’t fit, but I was in sexy VS lingerie OMG! I was probably a 34 F or G back then. I got sized into a 34I at age 22, and found Goddess bras, but once I found Freya and Fantasie brands, I hightailed it into a better place. I refuse to buy ugly, poor-fitting bras that do not have matching panties now (excepting work bras – those can be (racist white) nude and boring, since I’ll be replacing them more frequently). It’s gotten so much better that I get questions from patrons at my bar at least once a week about bras, and I keep compiling email addresses to send out information to these poor, confused women. They need to know that they have options.

      I, too, am grateful for the smaller companies, especially those who have a broad size range available. The racism and ageism continue to piss me off to the extreme, though, and I’d like the smaller companies to do better tilting at those particular windmills.

      • 13/12/12 at 2:01

        “The racism and ageism continue to piss me off to the extreme, though, and I’d like the smaller companies to do better tilting at those particular windmills.”

        1,000% agree. I’m so glad you said this.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:02

      I like Figleaves quite a bit. There and Bare Necessities are where I purchased a lot of my lingerie when I first started blogging, and I still do so now. And I love indie designers…some of my most regular purchases are from Etsy.

  7. 12/12/12 at 17:01

    Wow, this is spot-on. And you didn’t even list their rampant sizeism as a problem, but rather listed the problems which could completely undermine the company. Well done! Maybe someone at the company will take notice and actually fix these.

    I’m not dumb enough to hold my breath that they’ll ever make a bra to fit me, use shorter models, or stop photoshopping their models whiter, but if they paid attention to these three things you’ve listed, that’s a start.

    I’d seriously love to have a discussion on racism in the media with you, one that we could post on both our blogs after if we wanted to. You’re just so incredibly intelligent and articulate that I think such a chat would be enlightening.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:04

      Sizeism is definitely an issue with VS, but I don’t usually discuss it here for two reasons. 1) I feel like it’s a topic that’s been covered extensively on other blogs. In fact, it seems to people’s most popular critique about Victoria’s Secret. 2) Their model’s homogeneity (not just on size, but in other ways as well) is a problem within the entire lingerie industry, and I feel like treating as an issue exclusive to Victoria’s Secret ignores that.

      All that said, thank you for commenting! I’m glad you liked the piece. And you can definitely drop me a line at treacle@thelingerieaddict.com. :)

  8. Lizzi
    12/12/12 at 17:24

    I appreciate the different insight and ideas you’ve brought to the table.
    In response to the racist problem I really am sadden to what me seems to be a issue taken out of context.
    I have a close friend who is asian and she was actually looking forward to purchasing the geisha outfit and was not offended at all. Having some native american in my background, I thought the whole indian headdress was amazing.

    I completely understand being respectful to others cultures and nationalities however, at what point does one draw the line? I know there is racism still out there but it seems perhaps people should stop looking for things to be offended at and enjoy the influence their cultures have on different areas of life today.

    • 12/12/12 at 18:07

      When you say it’s an “issue taken out of context,” what context are you referring to?

      I tend to think of issues surrounding race and ethnicity in the context of history, which would make reducing marginalized cultures to their “exotic” parts for seasonal costume displays problematic. That’s not so much an “influence” of other cultures as it a stereotyping of them.

      I also wonder what you mean when you say people are “looking for things to be offended at.” That seems to imply that only a few people get to determine what’s offensive for everyone, and if anyone’s opinion differs, then it must be an invalid point of view.

    • Kate
      12/12/12 at 21:31

      I agree with your points. When did referencing the things we find beautiful and intriguing about other cultures become racism? Are we not allowed to ever reference any other culture anywhere, anytime? Who decides whether it’s beautiful, interesting, or offensive?

      • 12/12/12 at 22:24

        That’s a great question. I think a better question is “Who gets to decide what isn’t offensive?”

        If I’m speaking with a Native American person and she tells me that war bonnets are a sacred symbol of her culture, and that they’re meant to be honored and respected (instead of used as a costume prop or accessory) who I am to tell her that her feelings are invalid? What gives me the right to say she shouldn’t be offended because I think war bonnets are pretty? What do I lose from listening to a different point of view and trying to see things from another side? Nothing.

        What often strikes me as funny about these conversations is how vigorously people defend their right to disregard any other perspective but their own. It’s not about cultural references (which I don’t believe geisha costumes or war bonnets are very good examples of anyway). It’s about acknowledging that there’s more than one way of seeing certain social and cultural issues…and that the way you’ve been accustomed to thinking isn’t necessarily the best way.

        • Kate
          12/12/12 at 23:45

          Thanks for reading my comment and replying thoughtfully. I just want to clarify that i don’t disregard others’ points at all, I merely point out that those who are offended should also remember that sometimes others aren’t. Who’s wrong? Maybe neither of us. I also take issue with generalizations. It’s not a black and white world; there are a lot of perspectives out there and I think it’s important we respect them all. Anyway, love your blog and your always thoughtful approach to lingerie. It’s been eye opening.

          • 13/12/12 at 2:09

            You’re welcome. I think of my blog as my home, and I wouldn’t treat my guests disrespectfully…it’d be rude. Unless they’re rude first of course. :)

            I want to point out that these issues aren’t necessarily about feeling ‘offended.’ That’s often brought up in conversations about race and ethnicity, as though the problem is the way the other person feels as opposed to patterns within society and history. Implying that someone is offended also implies that emotion is the core issue here…and it’s not.

          • Jon
            13/12/12 at 8:59

            It is not about being right or wrong it about better or worse. Yes there are a lot of perspectives out there but that does not mean they should be all given equal “respect.” Or should we give equal “respect” to someone who wants to come in here an engage in the most vile forms of body snark? Tastes are not individual (if they were why do so many people like the same thing), they are a product of an array of influences in which people are socialized to prefer particular things over others.

            As to finding things beautiful in other cultures, that is not the question either. Of course other cultures have had significant influences on American culture–and in many cases it has a been a good thing. But it is not simply a question of influence. It is a question of the nature of that influence.

            And in this case the “costumes” in question do not reflect a different cultural aesthetic altering American tastes, rather that are consistent with long standing practices of American companies tearing cultural practices out of their social, historical, and political contexts (war bonnets were not worn by women for example) in order to produce an image of exoticness to be consumed. Of appropriating and fetishing only those elements of other cultures that contribute to an image of sexiness based on the production of an image of exoticness. It is not a question of reference to other cultures it is the nature of that reference.

            It may be a world of grays but that does not mean all grays are equal. If someone is calling attention to the way particular practices serve to produce and reproduce systems of inequality that idea is not of the same merit as one that says well I think they are respecting that culture by including it as part of their line. And the reason is because the former considers the nature of the inclusion, what and how is being included. It calls attention to the ways in which those practices of inclusion can serve to perpetuate longstanding systems of appropriation and exploitation that have served to marginalize “Others.” And unless that point is addressed by indicating that the dressing up of a model in a war bonnet is not consistent with those practices, to demonstrate why this practice is not a product of the fetishizing and marginalizing of other cultures, the claim “they should be honored” is not very compelling.

    • Jamila Hinton
      12/12/12 at 22:16

      @Lizzi, Just because one “Asian-friend” likes it doesn’t mean that the Geisha costume was offensive. Asian women are often exoticized and sexualized in Western culture which is why this costume was not okay. Also, Native Americans have long been stereotyped and if you actually looked into your “native american” heritage you would realize that headdresses are often only used for ceremonial purposes. The VS Fashion Show is not a ceremony.

      People don’t look to be offended. They get offended and then those who are offending try to look for an “out”, by pretending that everything was harmless fun.

      @Kate, Look up the phrase “cultural appropriation” and then you’d understand why this was a racist thing for VS to do.

      • 13/12/12 at 2:11

        Thank you for pointing out that these conversations are less about people looking to be offended and more about the history of race and ethnicity in the United States. Making it all about someone being offended shuts down the conversation in a way, since now the discussion isn’t about the merits of any one point of view…it’s about how inappropriate and misguided your feelings are.

    • Ashley
      12/12/12 at 22:43

      I agree with Lizzi. I don’t see anything wrong with the Geisha or Native American outfits on these girls. Just because they are not that ethnicity, makes it offensive to people who are? That does not make any sense! Can’t people from other cultures and backgrounds admire others by creating something that is from/influenced from another culture?

      I think in this case people are taking it too serious.

      • 13/12/12 at 2:13

        I think there are multiple ways of looking at any issue, and I think there’s value in at least being able to understand why people are bothered by certain things before dismissing their viewpoint out of hand as being “too serious.” I also think admiration and stereotypes are not the same thing, and that genuine admiration comes from a place of respect, understanding, and knowledge…not cheap Halloween costumes.

  9. kate
    12/12/12 at 17:48

    I have an issue with Victoria’s Secret and you highlighted most of them very well.

    Victoria’s Secret is the biggest image of women’s sexuality, sensuality, bodies and lingerie in American media and maybe even the world. I don’t know a single girl who did not grow up affected by VS imagery.

    Quite frankly, most of their models don’t even fit the bra properly. Some are too thin/not enough cup to fill out the bras and others are too thin while wearing too big of a band and others are spilling out left and right. The way they get that “cleavage” on some of the models is by stuffing them into cups that are too small for them. There’s a strange dichotomy that results from this. First of all, many women take these images as the “standard” of bodies and lingerie. This is what a beautiful body is supposed to look like and this is what lingerie is supposed to look like–or so we are supposedly told. This only creates a domino effect that most women don’t know a bra’s function and purpose in addition to what a proper bra is supposed to look like on the body.

    Second of all, there is body snark against the models. I am personally not for or against any body type. But you have to admit, there is body snark against VS models. As far as the main group of Angels go, Candice, Adriana, Erin, Lily, Lindsay, Behati, Alessandra, there is a lot of talk about how they’re “too skinny” or “shaped like boys” etc. Some even go further to say “they’re flat chested” or “they’re all A cups.” Considering these are the particular models in the show and catalogs who are spilling out left and right in their bras, I can make a very educated determination that they are neither of those two and need a smaller band size and a bigger cup. This type of bashing reinforces that idea that a woman is a letter, a cup size, whatever that notion may be. It reinforces the idea that everyone who has the letter ‘A’ in their bra size look the same and that everyone who has the letter ‘B’ in their bra size look the same and everyone who has the letter ‘C’ in their bra size look the same etc. This is a huge misconception in our society and I don’t understand why no one in VS has addressed this issue. It’s negative for everyone including the consumers, the models, the company–everyone.

    My last issue is the overuse of promoting “sexy.” They try to define it and they try to campaign it. They say “this is sexy” and “what is sexy.” Well, to be honest, pondering the idea of sexy is just not sexy at all. The fact that they hand out illusory handbooks on the definition of ‘sexy’ and how to be ‘sexy’ causes women who may already be insecure to follow every bullet point of the handbook. Sexuality is more fluid than that. Sex appeal goes beyond tousled hot curlers, polyester blend t-shirt bras with memory foam padding, a spray tan and glossed lips blowing kisses. What makes this so not sexy is the fact that it’s not empowering anyone. Most of the models look lost and most women following this illusory VS ‘sexy’ handbook seem lost.

    I know this may take a long time to happen but I can’t wait for the day that another brand tramples over the VS empire. I may not be around to see that but I think it will happen someday. The fact that there are other brands that are inching up in better marketing proves that VS needs to redefine itself. Agent Provocateur is becoming more and more popular by the minute. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the up and coming brands.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:18

      Oh my goodness…I love this comment!!! This is so good. Thank you for sharing it here. :-)

      You are spot on when you say there’s an entire generation of American women who’ve been touched by Victoria’s Secret’s advertising and that a side effect of all that exposure is an entire generation with ideas of how bras are supposed to fit/look which doesn’t necessarily match with reality. I know that was the case when I first became interested in lingerie, and it took awhile (as in years) before I understood why my boobs would never look like their boobs. I appreciate you touching on the body snark issue as well, and our tendency to make women equivalent to their bra size…something that really bothers me. I also see the problems with Victoria’s Secret’s passive definition of sexy and while I’m glad at least one US retailer isn’t removing all the sex from lingerie, I’m sad that they’re version of sexy lacks agency and desire.

      Anyway…all that’s to say I loved reading this comment and I hope you stop by again.

    • Thursday
      13/12/12 at 4:18

      As a non-American, the VS thing has always puzzled me – it’s a hollow, cookie-cutter version of sexy – the first word that comes to my mind is “trashy”. I know for some people, there is a place for trashy, and they own it, and good for them, but when it’s the dominant feature of the lingerie landscape? Everyone seems to lose. I love your description of how they define sexy for so many women, kate. Otherwise, I have been so puzzled by the VS thing for so long.

  10. Meya
    12/12/12 at 18:07

    I used to LOVE VS as a teen until I worked there. I learned a lot of things that turned me off about the company but the #1 reason is the quality sucks. Thanks for this post.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:20

      Thank you for reading it and for taking the time to comment. I’d love to hear what happens behind the scenes at Victoria’s Secret.

  11. Richard Murray
    12/12/12 at 19:01

    to change the culture and structure of VS will require someone to take over their parent company limitedbrands, which made 10.3 billion dollars in revenue and is a publicly traded company. The ownership is the only way to change the culture. Publicly traded companies shareholders only meter of quality is profit, not media attention. If you own ten shares of limited brands, as long as the value of your shares goes up functionally you dont have a problem.
    Now, if someone very rich bought most of the shares or a group of smaller rich people took out a very large loan, and then took the company back to private, you could see a cultural change, but unless that happens VS will not change as long as it is profitable

    • 13/12/12 at 2:21

      This is so true, and it’s obvious in the way Victoria’s Secret is practicing its business. But I think we can still talk about the problems with the things they do, and how they’re reinforcing other systematic social issues. But yes…until they get outside impetus (in the form of losses), I don’t expect to see much change.

    • Colonel Mustard
      13/12/12 at 15:43

      Just as an interesting point of reference and contrast to the fact that VS is owned by a publicly traded company: Fredrick’s of Hollywood is also a publicly traded company (“FOH”), but, interestingly, there have only been relatively good comments about them here (for the most part… so far). And FOHs share price is much lower than Limited Brands – FOH is currently at about only 28 cents per share – so you don’t even have to be particularly rich to buy into that company… =-)

  12. 12/12/12 at 19:16

    I applaud you so much for writing this article – everything you say is completely on point.

    As the owner of a small independent brand my biggest problem with VS is focused on another area – that being something common to most big brands – the endless push for consumerism and mass consumption. Fast fashion is one of the biggest problems our world is facing – it is destroying our environment, and people’s lives. I wholeheartedly beleive it is the resposibility of these big companies to practice sustainable and ethical clothing production, but as has already been pointed out – the bottom line is profit.

    I live in a consumerist society, and I choose to put my money where my mouth is and only support the brands I believe in. The vast majority of what I purchase is from small independents like myself, and I prefer to spend more on something that will last me for 10 years, rather than a small amount on something that will last me one season and then just add to landfill.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:23

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and for connecting Victoria’s Secret to larger issues within the fashion industry (and economics in general) like fast fashion. This is definitely something I’ve been thinking and reading more about lately…and quite a bit started with the post you wrote on why knock-offs are harmful. I hope to spend more time talking about industry issues like this in 2013.

      • 13/12/12 at 3:20

        I am so glad to hear that :)

        It is definitely something I want to incorporate more into my online identity – my stance on the issue that is – and make a more concerted effort to share information about it.

        Thank you again for providing this platform for discussion, I am absolutely loving reading all the comments above and below – it has really challenged me to put my thoughts and feelings into a coherent argument, and also challenged some of my preconceptions.

  13. Audra
    12/12/12 at 19:36

    I am wondering about the Race issue you address here. Certainly it’s easy to get offended by any of those three scenarios. However, how would you propose changing the outfits/models/displays to be less offensive? Wouldn’t it be MORE offensive in a way to have “Pretty Little White Girls” in so-called ethnic or afro-centric settings? I feel like there should be some pride in a woman of african heritage displaying lingerie inspired by it. In this particular situation I do also feel that there should be more african, asian, native american, etc, women portrayed in “american”/”girl-next-door” looks and not be pigeon-holed based on their apparent race.

    I just feel like a japanese woman might feel honored or at least more comfortable in japanese-inspired designs, but it gives her or anyone else no more or less “right” to be portrayed as japanese. Is THIS how you think the race issue should be addressed? Or would have the white models in the afro-centric costuming and black women in the beach-bunny costumes exclusively?

    • 12/12/12 at 20:10

      I think it is more to do with trivialising and fetishising traditional dress as ‘costume’. The heritage and meanings of traditional dress are lost when brands such as VS adopt there purely as a money making object.

      Also – from a design perspective – there are SO MANY other things to be inspired by that could not be construed as offensive. I wish they would think outside the box.

      • Audra
        12/12/12 at 22:10

        I do agree that it shouldn’t be trivialized or fetishized, but rather celebrated and embraced. For one thing, we are a country that’s supposed to be a “melting pot.” On the other hand i do agree that VS could be much more avante garde and draw inspiration from the bazillion other sources the planet and universe has to offer. However, I still feel like this post is saying two things that are mutually exclusive. A) Black women are offensive in afro-centric designs; B) White women are offensive in [afro-centric/other cultures] designs. You can’t have this both ways. So I don’t understand what the call to action is for the industry. In my mind the only solution is to have such diversity in the modeling industry that people of all cultures could be dressed in all the other culturally inspired designs with no “discrimination.” But that just won’t happen as long as the caucasian (and specifically american) culture is so obsessed with Beauty as a career path. There is just so much more emphasis placed or at least exhibited openly in American culture. Stereotypes exist because they are true. Nobody can help that.

        • Audra
          12/12/12 at 22:12

          I did also want to mention that the very POINT of these shows IS the “costume” aspect. The flamboyant, over-stated fashion, accessories, “clothing.”

          • 12/12/12 at 22:28

            Right. I don’t think that fact’s been lost on anyone, least of all me. You can talk critically about costumes in the same way you can talk critically about jokes or television or the news or anything else.

          • 13/12/12 at 0:10

            Despite the fact that the show is about costuming there are non-offensive ways to incorporate ethnic clothing.

            I think what Treacle is getting at is that VS should be using these items as inspiration. Each costume she cited has specific cultural meaning.

            Geshia’s held a specific place of respect in Japanese culture, they were not merely prostitues, they were companions, highly trained in the arts.

            The Native American headdress is a symbol of bravery worn in battle.

            The African costume features a coil around the neck. In Ugandan (I think, I’m a bit rusty) culture these coils are used as a symbol of age and wisdom. Did you know the women and men that wear them can’t hold their necks up on their own? The process of wearing these rings to stretch your neck begin at birth.

            Each costume projects a specific cultural image on a scantily clad women and deems it empowering, but I ask you this is ignorance empowering?

            VS should look to La Perla’s most recent Asian inspired collection, or like any of the fashion designers that used Native American textiles for inspiration.

        • 12/12/12 at 22:16

          Stereotypes do not exist because they are true, Audra.

          Stereotypes are statements that say people are a certain way because they look a certain way. They’re oversimplified generalizations of entire groups. People often believe stereotypes are true because they equate correlation with causation and because of psychological phenomena like confirmation bias. But that does not mean the statements themselves have any basis in reality.

          • Jamila Hinton
            12/12/12 at 22:19

            Since when did cheetah print become “afro centric”? Black women are often dehumanized in society by,and VS perpetuates this dehumanization by only portraying them in animal print lingerie.

        • 13/12/12 at 2:30

          Actually, you can have it both ways, Audra. That’s because the core problem is that entire cultures are being reduced to tired ethnic tropes. The solution isn’t to figure out better ways to market stereotypes; it’s to stop using stereotypes.

          I also don’t see how invoking stereotypical industry (like a war bonnet) is a celebration of these cultures, especially when said cultures have been explicit about how much they dislike this kind of imagery. Put another way, if you’re claiming to celebrate a group and that group wants no part of your celebration, perhaps the way you’re celebrating should be reexamined.

      • 13/12/12 at 2:27

        Exactly. Spot on.

    • Jon
      12/12/12 at 21:09

      Funny thing about Treacle’s post, she never states that she is offended by the images–that is, her response is not couched in the language of offense. Why when people identify how particular practices perpetuate the exploitation, fetishization and marginalization of minority cultures do people insist on framing that critique as a visceral, emotion drive response? That they merely need to toughen up (ahh, the gender politics of the response) thereforeand get a thicker skin. Why? Because it switches fault making it seem as though it is a personal problem of theirs rather than a larger cultural issue in which minority cultures are exploited by a company that has no desire to represent those cultures in any way other than as an exotic fetishized object. This is not about being offended. Rather it is about identifying practices of repression, marginalization, appropriation that serve to reproduce systems of privilege.

      That minority cultures are being represented in ways that fetishize and trivialize those cultures is not an honor. That some members of those cultures think it is a good thing does not mean those representations do not fetishize or marginalize those cultures—that somehow it is okay because the cultural insider, who is positioned as speaking for every member of that culture, has said “oh I want to buy that outfit.” It is not a question of being Japanese inspired, this was not the validation of Japanese culture, it was a cool costume. The outfit is completely divorced from the historical, political, and social significance of the geisha. Contrast this to La Perla’s current line which has clear Asian inspirations but does not dress its models up in geisha costumes to market them.

      • 12/12/12 at 23:41

        I couldn’t agree more with Jon. I think his response to the issue of ethnic inspired costumes and how they can and are perceived is spot on. As a person who has studied Asian textiles for many years I can confidently say that American perceptions of Ethnic Asian garments are not the same as someone from a specific culture or ethnic grouping of people in Asia. It’s very important to remember that VS has an international presence, while Americans are their foremost concern they are in many other countries. While I can respect the idea that you Asian-American friend enjoyed the Geshia costume you can’t claim that one Asian-American women can claim that a costume is not offensive to an entire Japanese Culture. People born outside of America have different customs, traditions, and ideas. To say otherwise is very narrow minded.

        • 13/12/12 at 2:48

          Love this comment. Thank you for posting it here.

      • 13/12/12 at 2:32

        I am so in love with this post right now. I don’t even know how to respond other than to thank you for bringing up the issue with reducing complex conversations like this to someone’s being “offended.”

    • 13/12/12 at 2:26

      I do agree that there should be women of every ethnicity modeling lingerie, not just for Victoria’s Secret, but within the lingerie industry in general. However, I’m not sure what solution you’re proposing or how you got the impression that was a viewpoint I was advocating for. Stereotyping is a problem, and it’s problem whether the model is of the ethnicity being stereotyped or not of the ethnicity being stereotyped (though in slightly different ways). It’s also not the sort of thing that’s fixed by playing ethnic musical chairs but by understanding where these stereotypes came from, what makes them harmful, and why it’s time to retire them.

  14. 12/12/12 at 20:55

    First of all, I should say that I’ve never watched any of the Victoria’s Secret specials. Based on clips and photos I’ve seen, most of the outfits in those specials seem to have more in common with costumes worn by Las Vegas showgirls rather than actual lingerie.

    And while this may seem a bit pedantic, you did mangle Ian Fleming a bit. The actual line (from GOLDFINGER, btw) is, “Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action’.”

    • 13/12/12 at 2:33

      You know, I had no idea that quote from Goldfinger until right now? I think the first time I heard it was from my high school track coach after I won a race (she was basically telling me she wasn’t impressed).

      • 13/12/12 at 12:46

        I’ve also seen the line given as “Once is happenstance, twice is circumstance.” It has been years since I read GOLDFINGER, so I have to admit I’m not completely certain which version is correct.

        And I’m glad to have provided you with a tiny bit of enlightenment today.

  15. Cee
    12/12/12 at 21:01

    I completely agree about the ethnic ‘costumes’ VS has tried to market- my main beef with the entire thing is that most of their models are white. Now it’s true that they do have models of other ethnicities, and I have not actually watched any of these shows because for me, it’s like watching an hour long commercial.
    But back to the point, their is clearly a race problem here because ethnic minorities are under-represented, and on top of that to put white women into ‘costume’ does trivialize cultural heritage. A look at global beauty trends shows that everywhere, women try to make their skin look white. Whether with ‘lightening’ creams in Asia and Africa, eye makeup styles or drawn lips, it’s clear that the ideal of beauty is horribly skewed by commercials and media, and I wish that was different.
    I don’t empathize quite as much with the size issue simply because I do think the US society is overweight and I see that more as a health issue. It’s odd that we are confronted from every angle with dietary problems- but that’s because we are a wealthy society.

    You make a great point about the marketing of the models as wholesome and heterosexual as well, what a crying shame that a company branding itself on what is sexy has such a narrow view of sexuality.

    I’m happy to report that this lifelong customer of VS gave it up about 4 years ago.. not sure Bare Necessities is much better on the moral compass but they are cheaper and the quality is at least as good.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:37

      Thanks for this comment. What makes me sad about the conversation on models of color and Victoria’s Secret is that VS is so much *more* ethnically diverse than the typical lingerie brand. It’s a shame. And yet, as you so clearly mention, they’re not all that diverse…they’re just moreso than everyone else out there. And yes, it absolutely relates to larger social and cultural issues…such as the devaluation of darker skintones. So many people think these conversation are just about lingerie, but they’re related to so much more.

      I’m not in the camp that equates health with size, mostly because it’s hard to discern someone’s health from their weight and the health/weight argument is only ever made against people who are larger than our societal ideal. No one ever mentions my health for example and it’s because I don’t appear ‘big.’

      I’m also a fan of Bare Necessities. Figleaves may be another place to check out if you like that kind of shopping. Thanks again for commenting.

  16. 12/12/12 at 23:48

    I have to say when I clicked on this article I was thinking “oh no, not another VSFS article, I’ve had enough”, however your article was truly original, and thought provoking. I agree with many of the issue you brought up, and greatly appreciated the punch at the end about VS simply being a cooperation. In the end this is my biggest problem with the brand, they are not for empowering women, proper fit, or unique design. They are for profit, this is what people are forgetting when dealing with them. The emotional strife, and battle with self image that most women suffer with could end if the company was more concerned about their consumer then their pocketbooks.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:39

      Ha! Funny you should say that as I actually considered not writing it for that reason. Victoria’s Secret is talked about so much that their media coverage (positive and negative) can seem a little oversaturated. Anyway, thank you for thinking I brought something new to the conversation. You are spot on when you sa the companies primary concern is profit. And that’s true for every company really, but I think it’s becoming more and more visible with VS in particular.

  17. Nikki
    13/12/12 at 0:38

    I was watching and didn’t see November come out, when I saw it posted online I was like “no wonder they didn’t show it.” But it’s hard to believe they put all that money and time into a look without knowing it was wrong sooner when they’ve had these issues before. Either they’re doing it on purpose, or they’re truly oblivious and have to wait until the backlash each time before it gets into their thick heads.

    On the topic of the gender problem. During the show one of the models said VS was empowering to women. Yet from all of their ads and their whole image it’s seems more like this idea of making women sexy to men. I can’t really explain the specifics as to why this feels different than other lingerie brands I’ve come across where I feel like they market to let women feel sexy and enjoy themselves regardless of men.

    • 13/12/12 at 2:43

      I thought the exact same thing, Nikki. And you know what else, I find myself wondering when the next racist incident is going to come out of Victoria’s Secret…which isn’t a good look for any company.

      I also agree that Victoria’s Secret’s primary focus seems to be on the male gaze. I’m a bit torn on this (not the male gaze, exactly, but let me explain) because so much of the American lingerie industry is desexualized that it’s nice to see at least one lingerie retailer mention sex(y) and lingerie in the same sentence…but even then the version of sexuality Victoria’s Secret presents isn’t a very active on. And I totally get what you mean when you say it feels different from other lingerie brands, especially European ones.

      • linda
        13/12/12 at 17:36

        I know the commercials shot in the recent years are directed by Michael Bay. The explosions, rock n roll music and dramatic camera shots remind me of his movies. It’s a little bit played out as all of their recent commercials are the same: babes walking around in lingerie while something is set on fire etc. I think Michael Bay is the master of the male gaze whether it’s his movies or commercials. His movies are very male driven in terms of theme and execution.

        I am wondering, however, if VS would ever consider using someone like Sophia Coppola for a commercial. I’m sure she would be able to deliver a different interpretation but still make it sexy.

        The photographers shooting for the VS catalog and campaigns are all male and that tends to be the case throughout photography in general. The two female photographers I can think of who do a good yet sexy interpretation of the female gaze are Ellen von Unwerth and Cass Bird. Ellen von Unwerth shoots some of the European lingerie brands like Chantelle Thomas. I wonder if VS would ever consider using her.

        I can understand why a model would say working for VS is empowering. You have to look at it through a model’s perspective. Many of the models who go on to become a VS Angel had trouble with regular fashion clients for being too shapely for the samples. Doutzen is a famous example as she has talked about how her agency wanted her to lose weight, as if she is not already naturally slim, just to fit into the designer clothes. If you look at old pictures of Erin Heatherton and Candice S, you will see what I mean. I think VS is one of the very few brands that encourage models, who are already very petite in build, to stay at a weight that is normal for them and strength train for muscles. The company also seems to allow girls to smile and talk as opposed to fashion designers who want all the models to have no expression.

        As far as the size of the girls–yes they are slimmer than the VS models in the 90s and early 2000s but I truly believe that has to do with the fact that agencies are only signing on girls who are very slim to begin with. So the selection of models VS gets to choose from is limited because the agencies aren’t signing on girls who maybe have a fuller than average bustline or fuller than average bottom. Furthermore, the fashion designers and magazine editors who can make a girl “hot” or “in demand” are not using such girls so there isn’t enough exposure. So I believe that the root of the issue in terms of size and size diversity lies in the hands of the agencies not necessarily VS or the models themselves.

  18. Mollie D.
    13/12/12 at 1:38

    Thank you so much for bringing up the issue of the virgin/whore dichotomy and its connection to our culture of rape justification. I was so inspired, I found myself unconsciously reading the section out loud to my roommate, with intermittent “amens!” I really appreciated your insightful and powerful remarks, even in those short few paragraphs. It made my night! Thanks, again!

    • 13/12/12 at 2:44

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Mollie! I’m glad you liked the piece. :)

  19. Annmarie
    13/12/12 at 3:25

    Wow, 36 comments in such a short time!
    I didn’t watch the VS show as I guess I’m qualified to be one of those on the “media diet” . Proudly, I watch nothing but soccer on TV (did anyone watch US women beat China earlier today? And did you know that at least one US player has come out to be openly gay? Something women’s sports has a relatively easier time than the macho male version… Hello Martina and Billie!)

    Back to the subject…after all we’re dealing here with lingerie and Victoria’s Sick Rat…
    I must admit, I have a love-hate relationship. VS was one of the very first chains to admit men, whether dressed as woman or just “plain men”, try garments on. It also helped spread the awareness of lingerie in the US. And it had some really stunning designs back in the days.
    But it also deteriorated to be exclusively “sexy” while watering down quality and catering primarily to the younger female population, telling them they have to be “this way” in order to appeal for men while enhancing images that can be best described as border-line child pornography. And now those images have been extended to ethnic “geisha” and who knows what. Sadly enough, I can only pray that my 22- y.o. daughter isn’t watching.
    Which I asume says it all.

    • 13/12/12 at 12:49

      I have to say…when people call Victoria’s Secret’s catalogs child pornography, that really bothers me. Aside from the obvious body snark issues (are they children because they’re thin and smaller-chested?), child pornography is a real issue in the world. I’ve worked with victims of child abuse and sex trafficking, and to see something as horrifying and oppressive and distasteful as child pornography being used to describe a lingerie catalog really distresses the former social services worker in me.

      Okay…off my soapbox. ;-)

      I agree that Victoria’s Secrets quality and standards have gone way down. And why not? If you can cut corners, you can increase profits. The sad thing is that so many women think Victoria’s Secret is high quality because of their branding when, as you and I know, they’re not.

      • Annmarie
        13/12/12 at 13:36

        My sincere apologies to you and everyone else who was offended by my comment. I agree that the term “child pornography” should not be used as lightly and casually as I just did.
        Thanks for pointing out my wrongful terminology!

        The message I tried to convey is that VS catering nowadays to a younger population segment than they used to in the past, and they often sell “sexy” as opposed to well fitted, comfortable lingerie.

  20. Annmarie
    13/12/12 at 3:29

    Ooh, 64 comments by now!

  21. 13/12/12 at 6:25

    Not to mention the lingerie is horrible. And for god sake, get rid of the wings once and for all! So over it!

    • 13/12/12 at 12:54

      The wings are played out agree. So is the million dollar fantasy bra. This year was the first year I wondered, “Does VS have any other marketing tricks up their sleeve? Or will they just keep doing this forever?”

  22. M
    13/12/12 at 7:45

    Excellent commentary, you always make interesting points in an articulate way, I feel like so much of this industry and the whole Victoria’s Secret deal is very interconnected with social issues. Whatever Victoria’s Secret is selling, it certainly doesn’t feel like liberation! Even to the point that women are being constrained by ill fitting uncomfortable underwear – which can be a big issue in one’s life as I’m sure you know! The whole vibe of the brand just seems a bit off to me despite never having stepped foot in their store as thankfully there isn’t one in my country! (well not yet…) . I feel deeply concerned about their dominance and all those 30F or whatever women wearing 36C or something Victoria’s Secret bras…makes me cringe seriously! And then there’s the racism…sigh

    • 13/12/12 at 12:55

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked the post, and I absolutely agree that Victoria’s Secret (and even the lingerie industry in general, really) is very interconnected with social issues. As I often say, lingerie is more than just bras and panties.

  23. 13/12/12 at 9:24

    I think what Victoria’s Secret truly is guilty of is TOKENISM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokenism

    The inclusion of non-Caucasian models feels very forced and so does the overly PC token “Geisha” and “Tribal” costumes. It’s like they’re trying too hard to say “Look, we remembered you too!”

    What they really need is an overhaul, change the way they market things and the models they use. Their “Love Your Body” campaign felt a bit silly with all their models seemingly in the same sky high height, perfectly sized butts/breasts, athletic figure and long flowing hair. Then the few token minorities.

    Can you imagine if they had a whole different range of models, different heights, skin tone, shapes, cup sizes, etc?

    Anita De Bauch (she modelled Karolina’s work beautifully for Bella Morte), Roswell Ivory (gorgeous fit curves and while she doesn’t do it often, her lingerie modelling is splendid), Tess Munster (I believe she has to be one of the top plus models out there, her confidence oozes in every image, Iska Ithil (such a unique and small sized alternative model), Viktoria Modesta (classic, retro and a confident amputee, you wouldn’t even notice she wears a prosthetic leg), Jessica Louise Abbide (amazing athletic build and towering height), Isis King (super confident MtF model) and of course, imagine even Dita Von Teese on the runway as well.

    Yes, I know that most runway shows use models of standard heights and body sizes for easy fitting and such but this isn’t just ANY runway. VS pretty much customizes their costumes to each and every model and the girls are practically mascots! So why not get models of all kinds?

    • 13/12/12 at 11:37

      I thought the “Love My Body” campaign was silly, too! I wear a very small size and the only 32A bra in that collection was the heavily-padded pushup (because we all know girls with very small assets can’t possibly love their bodies the way they are.) And I agree that their use of non-white models is half-hearted. They all still have very light skin tones, straight hair that’s teased into perfect waves, impossibly tall and thin bodies with medium-sized breasts. (I’m not body snarking here. I’m very thin myself, just short. And I realize that few women are this way naturally.) Where are the Asian models? The dark skinned models? For heaven’s sake, where are the red-headed models?

    • 13/12/12 at 13:00

      Really great points on tokenism, KathTea. I was thinking this when I looked up who was in the current roster of Angels and realized there weren’t any models of color among them anymore.

      And yes, the Love Your Body campaign definitely missed the mark. Very tone deaf.

  24. 13/12/12 at 9:25

    I already commented on this on your facebook page, but I think some more people need to hear what i have to say. I am a collector of Japanese kimono (I’m not Asian) and I wear them regularly. I’ve been studying the art of wearing one for some time now. It’s not a simple garment. Furthermore, I study geisha and have spent time with real, practicing geisha in Kyoto. This whole VS “geisha getup” in baloney. It’s not inspired by real geisha; it’s inspired by the Western stereotypes about geisha. Geisha are not prostitutes, they are not sexual artists, they are not concubines, they are not entirely submissive to the whims of men. These are women who dedicate their lives to ancient and traditional arts. And I don’t know if any of you have ever seen a picture of a real geisha in her kimono, but she is definitely quite covered up. No breasts or midriffs hanging out! This is why I find this outfit unacceptable. There’s no appreciation for geisha culture here, just another play on the misconceptions that so many westerners have about them.

    • 13/12/12 at 9:48

      Nice one. It’s great to hear a point of view from someone more knowledgeable about the matter :D

  25. 13/12/12 at 9:28

    VS is a mass store, and sells product for the masses. It’s up to the woman to take a position against the brand or not based on what we learn in the media. I think it’s great to question all big brands and their ethics!

    It’s the sizing technique that most concerns me. Since VS has the opportunity to reach so many women, it would be fantastic for a brand with this much power to have trained sales people properly sizing women, and then offering product that actually fits their customer. By sizing improperly and not offering a large range of sizes, women only continue to buy product that doesn’t fit them well. A good fit is everything, no matter what the brand!

    xo
    Jenny

    • 13/12/12 at 13:07

      I feel like the sizing thing is talked about a lot in the lingerie community, both when it comes to their bras and their models. But bra fit and body size aren’t the only ways of discussing lingerie, and I sometimes I wonder if the focus on bra size obscures or buries other equally valid topics within the industry.

      • 13/12/12 at 21:50

        I don’t disagree at all, there are so many important, ethical issues. Giving women information certainly empowers them to learn about these brands! xo

  26. Anne
    13/12/12 at 9:36

    There is one thing I don’t understand: how is it racist to put a non-asian girl in geisha costume or a non-native american in a chief costume? Surely it would be the opposite. I see it far more racist to say “you can’t wear a geisha costume because you’re not asian”. It’s just like saying “you can’t be a doctor because you’re not a man” or “you can’t drive well because you’re not a man”. If I like the look of a certain costume, why should I not be allowed to wear it just because I don’t fit the “ethnic prescription bill”?

    • 13/12/12 at 12:40

      I think the better question to ask in response is…why is dressing like a racist stereotype so important to you?

      Racist stereotypes are racist no matter if it’s a person of that ethnicity who’s wearing them or a person of a different ethnicity who’s wearing them. They’re problematic in slightly different ways, but still both racist. And that’s the point. It’s not about figuring out when it’s appropriate to wear racist stereotypes; it’s about recognizing that racist stereotypes are wrong all the time.

      Finally, you can wear whatever you want. There are no rules against it. And other people can say how they feel about what you’re wearing and why it bothers them. There are no rules against that either.

  27. 13/12/12 at 12:56

    Victoria’s Secret has a fit problem!
    I don’t think I saw a single bra that fit properly.

    Thank you for another great, thought provoking post!

    • 13/12/12 at 13:02

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Norma! :)

  28. Avigayil
    13/12/12 at 13:00

    My husband and I watched the end part of the show. He asked me what I thought afterwards, and I said “I feel so inadequate.” :(

    • 13/12/12 at 13:03

      I’m sorry the show made you feel inadequate. That’s never a good thing. :(

  29. Kaboom
    13/12/12 at 13:09

    As a young adult (still in college) whose first experience with decently-fitting lingerie was at Victoria’s Secret (my mother used to buy me ill-fitting bras from Walmart and Kohl’s, they ranged in size from B to DD since nothing ever seemed to fit me right), this article makes me kind of sad, but I do acknowledge that VS has some serious problems. I’m just not sure where else, other than Aerie, to get my lingerie from, since it’s so expensive. Thanks to your blog, I recently found out about What Katie Did, and I purchased a bullet bra from there (I’m actually wearing it right now!) but it’s so expensive compared to VS/Aerie.

    But I am actually very disappointed in VS right now, especially after that Geisha outfit. Whoever designed that has no idea what an actual geisha is, and it was pretty freaking racist.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is- thanks for bringing this to light.

    • 13/12/12 at 13:24

      And thank you for commenting.

      I definitely understand where you’re coming from. One of the reasons I felt motivated to start blogging was because I was on a tight budget and most of the lingerie I saw on blogs, websites, and the like was completely out of my price range.

      I’d say to get really familiar with lingerie sales (I post a weekly roundup every Saturday) especially when they’re clearing out last season’s stock. I’d also check out sample sale sites like Rue La La brands at a discount. :)

    • anon
      13/12/12 at 15:02

      I don’t know where you live or what the market is like there, but I do NOT think you get good value from VS. I think you find better quality (and better design) at the same price point at most department stores. If there isn’t one near you, the online lingerie-focused retailers – Her Room and Bare Necessities for example – have a similar selection and frequent promotions. (And of course, the lingerie addict knows all the best sales!)

  30. anon
    13/12/12 at 14:47

    Great article and great comments. I used to look forward to the VS catalogue (15 yrs ago), and now I just find it so depressing – totally unimaginative and the opposite of luxury, in my opinion.

    • 14/12/12 at 1:23

      You’re definitely not the only one thinking that.

  31. Bonnie M
    13/12/12 at 15:14

    Never been impressed by VS. Their stuff is overpriced junk and pretty much, if you’re overweight, forget it. Their bras tend to be the usual 34-38 A-D that so many stores believe is all that women wear, and they’re molded bras to boot. I’ve found that I don’t really like molded bras.

    Fredericks of Hollywood has a store in my mall across the street. I can’t find a lot there (again, like most brick-and-mortars other than Lane Bryant, whose stuff is too small for me), they mostly carry traditional sizes. But their customer service is very good; friendly, kind and helpful.

    As I’ve said before, Americans need more options. I’ve bought many cute British bras and they carry more than just 34-38 A-D. It’s frustrating buying lingerie in the States. All too often – it’s mail order with all of its trickiness.

    • 14/12/12 at 1:22

      I’m less and less into molded bras as I get older. Granted, they have their place (especially under thin sweaters), but that whole uniform boob look is just not my thing anymore. Give me cut-and-sewn mesh, lace, and satin please.

    • phul devi
      14/12/12 at 10:22

      THIS! Why are molded bras so dominant in the American market? Is that really the only thing that sells?

      I love the shape of my breasts, and don’t understand why it is so hard to find bras that support without providing that puffy, bulbous look. Many stores I go too — not just VS, but department stores as well — require real hunting to discover a pretty bra that is not molded. Almost all my lingerie shopping has to be online as a result. I don’t begrudge molded bras to those who desire them, but can’t there be a few non-molded ones in stock anywhere?

      • Catherine
        14/12/12 at 19:30

        From a UK/European perspective, it appears that people in the USA are allergic to nipples :)

        • 14/12/12 at 20:53

          T-shirt bras for everyone!

  32. Colonel Mustard
    13/12/12 at 16:18

    The consensus seems to overwhelmingly be that there is a lot of dissatisfaction with VS for a number of reasons. And it appears that the majority of people commenting here are quite passionate about their views.

    So… now it’s time for all those people to vote with their feet/mice/money (and TV remotes, etc) and go elsewhere (there really ARE plenty of alternatives to VS, especially in this 21st Century Internet Age – just ask Treacle, if you don’t know where to turn), and at the same time evangelize the cause as widely as possible and proselytize as many converts as they can… (or just peacefully and passively enjoy the alternatives). ;-)

    Personally, I don’t have any particularly strong views on VS. I guess I just don’t pay enough attention to them to do so (although their marketing is pretty impressive, in and of itself). There are SO MANY other brands out there that the slice of my time that VS gets is fairly small. And I’m not too old, but I DO remember way back in the day when VS were still just a boutique in San Francisco. Ah, those were the days (when I was a lad, and a loaf of bread only cost… sorry – I’m digressing).

    If VS have so many faults (and don’t do anything positive about them), then they will eventually be their own undoing… the giant will topple itself.

    Keep up the great blogging Treacle. =-)

    • 14/12/12 at 1:20

      You are so right, Col. Mustard (and it’s great to see you again, by the way). There are way more alternatives to Victoria’s Secret now than there were when I started blogging 5 years ago. Lingerie has never been more popular, more wildly accessible, or available in more sizes than right now. For women who don’t like Victoria’s Secret, for whatever reason, there are a plethora of options to choose from…and that’s a good thing.

  33. 13/12/12 at 17:22

    I did know that the VSFS just occurred (it was ALL over television and the web until the day of the show), but I really didn’t have an interest in watching it.

    I did used to buy bras from them and I do still get underwear when they have a 7 for $25 deal, but I never really go to them for anything else other than that.

    While I’m not up with the scandals they’ve had over the years, I completely agree on all your points! Victoria’s Secret is just another big company that’s out to make money, which is why I prefer independently owned companies because they truly CARE about woman and woman’s rights.

    • 14/12/12 at 1:19

      Great point! Independently owned companies tend to be more invested in every aspect of their business, from original designs to fair wages to ethical manufacturing (including factories, when they are used). If people are interested in buying lingerie from brands that care about women, the economy, and the environment, independent is a good place to start. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  34. kate
    13/12/12 at 17:44

    Treacle–have you ever considered petitioning Victoria’s Secret? I’ve heard so much talk about women who no longer shop at VS because of many different issues. They responded to the Native American headdress issue and I’m wondering if they would consider our popular opinions if they heard them.

    I think there will be more than enough women to sign a petition and comment their opinions.

    • 14/12/12 at 1:17

      Hi Kate, I haven’t considered petitioning Victoria’s Secret because I honestly don’t think they care what people who aren’t in their target demographic (like me) have to say. They have a formula that works, and they’ll likely keep using it until the numbers tell them otherwise.

  35. anon2
    13/12/12 at 18:21

    Hi, I’m a guy and new to the ‘bra-blogging scene (what?)’ someone just linked me here on facebook. But if its bad to be racist by putting someone who isn’t Native American into a Native American-ish outfit, and if it’s bad to put african-american women into ‘tribal’ outfits, does that make all costumes or themed anything a crime?

    • 14/12/12 at 1:15

      There is so much literature out there about cultural misappropriation and the issue with dressing like an ethnic stereotype, that I really couldn’t do justice to it all by trying to summarize it within a comment. The crux of the matter is that these costumes often play on harmful or outdated notions of what certain ethnic groups are like, not only perpetuating racist stereotypes but implying that using these stereotypes in ‘fun’ or jokingly is okay…no matter how offensive or hurtful they are. I think it’s worth examining why, for example, a war bonnet is offensive to Native Americans instead of dismissing it out of hand as people being too serious or politically correct. Furthermore, there’s no need for hyperbole. No one’s accused anyone of committing a ‘crime.’ Unless asking people to consider historical context is criminal.

  36. Alice A
    14/12/12 at 0:03

    Being Australian, I’ve never been to a VS store and have only read about VS and seen snippets of the VSFS on YouTube. When I go over to the US I might go in and get fitted just to see what bra they put me in hehe. (I know my size so it’ll be funny to see how off the mark they might be!)

    • 14/12/12 at 1:08

      I often like to play that game myself. It’s funny how far off the mark people can be with bra sizing.

      • 14/12/12 at 12:45

        This sounds like it’s worth an entry in and of itself (assuming you haven’t already written it). How far off the mark ARE different places when it comes to bra sizing?

        • 14/12/12 at 13:31

          It depends. There are so many different body types and so many different ways of fitting bras and so many ways fit varies between brands (or even between unique styles within a brand) that there’s a lot to wrap your head around…especially if you’re not sure how a bra is supposed to fit. The biggest mistakes I see though are when a bra fitter is inflexible about whatever method she’s been taught and fails to adapt it to the unique needs of her client.

  37. phul devi
    14/12/12 at 10:32

    I’m sure you’ve seen this news, treacle, but it seemed apropos as a link:
    http://www.inquisitr.com/434008/upsetting-rape-culture-baltimore-feminists-prank-victorias-secret/

  38. 14/12/12 at 13:15

    I agree on your points. I personally think VS’s ”image” of what is sexy etc is really stupid and exploited. Their poor choice in advertising via ads or commercials are also incredibly in poor taste.

    I am a lingerie designer myself, and actually had a couple years working in the ”high end” VS shop on lexington ave in NYC. I worked in sales but also did merchandising, I also worked with the BRA LAUNCH team (they do all the major bras such as dream angels, bio fit, miraculous etc. ) design wise for a few months as an intern. I got to get a little insight of the company from within. I want to defend SOME of the designers, as the ones I worked with were very intelligent, dedicated, decent people. There are different departments with designers for each department.

    The Geisha outfit I believe is from the sexy little things division which in itself is known for making their overly campy / not tasteful designs. But I also want to note that the people who are in charge of designing for the VS fashion show are NOT the actual designers for VS. They ONLY do the VS fashion show and thats it. So its them and who ever is over seeing them’s fault as for bad decisions on their designs/ models etc.

    I also want to share one thing I learned while working with the bra launch team. It isnt the designers who decide what gets put into the stores, its their buyers based out of OHIO who come view the products and decide what gets put into the shops. Also my mentor there told me they wanted to make larger bra sizes, but guy who runs the company wont let them, and doesnt want that. He said he doesnt want large bras hanging up in the store and that it will look ugly. etc i dont know.

    Ive also been a customer of theirs for a loong time but I agree they do have some issues in many different areas. Design has been lacking a little in fit, but as a burlesque performer as well i appreciate their recent use of rhinestones this holiday season, its been pretty nice. Most companies use rhinestones poorly and it looks cheap and trashy. Fit sometimes is an issue too…..

    • 14/12/12 at 13:36

      Those are really interesting insights! Thanks so much for sharing them here.

    • Yui
      28/12/12 at 18:20

      Thanks for your great comment. I’m really surprised at what really goes on behind the scenes, but it makes me angry that a MAN is in charge of deciding what should be in store for women, deeming larger cup sizes are “ugly”. As a “full busted” woman, this makes me angry because tons of women are being sized out. I’m sure he is quite aware of a full bust market. Even though I don’t discriminate against men, this man doesn’t seem to be very open-minded and it’s no wonder a large part of VS’ image is directed to the appeal of men.

  39. Laura
    14/12/12 at 23:25

    I don’t understand how dressing somone in a kimono themed garment is racist. Why should they be limited to dress their models in clothing appropriate to their ethnicity? You could say that dressing a Japanese model in the same out fit is racist as you are type casting them for the role. Do we just throw away any fashion which is adapted from any culture at the risk of being racist or do we embrace it and celebrate it by sharing with everyone?

    • 15/12/12 at 5:31

      That question has been asked and answered several times in this thread, Laura. I’d definitely recommend scrolling up if you’re interested in what I or some of the posters here think about that particular viewpoint. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  40. M
    21/12/12 at 17:50

    I just stumbled onto your blog today and I am so glad. I read this article and YES, YES YES, why isn’t this information more widespread? So many people idolize the idea of Victoria’s Secret lingerie, when it needs to be shown for what it really is.

  41. Nancy
    28/12/12 at 18:45

    Ok so I worked at Limited Brands in Ohio designing their Marketing, I am not from Ohio I relocated there for the job. I think a major issue is that the company is based in Columbus Ohio and it is not the most multi cultural place. there is no cross pollination of ideas from people with different ethnic backgrounds like you have in other major cities. Most decision makers at the company are older, white, men and what is sexy at VS is what these older men approved, so no there is no risk taking there is sales. Victoria’s secret main customer is hispanic women (from their research). Do they show hispanic women in their advertising?? No. why because in the owner’s own words Blondes sell more. Now their decisions are being based completely on sales , what i wonder is if this is really reflecting the values of modern america? When I was there I was working on building the photo campaigns and I would absolutely try to bring in new ideas for who a sexy modern woman is, we would throw out photo concepts based on Grace Jones for example and were shut down every single time. To me if they wanted to show ethnicity in their fashion show why not have a native american model in the show, not stereotyped to what native american is but hey look she is not blonde haired and blue eyed and she is beautiful!! wow now wouldn’t that be something..

  42. Ale
    29/12/12 at 23:19

    Hmmm, my recent VS experience was very different from many of you. I was lucky enough to encounter well informed employees and fitted to the right size bra. For many years I have been wearing too big a band and too small a cup size, it never occurred to me that why my bras always slide up and down my body.

  43. Lahnna
    09/01/13 at 17:51

    I feel the need to speak up as a someone who sells what could be considered mass-market lingerie. I do agree with many of the points and issues brought up, but I also offer another viewpoint in response to the last point.

    I meet many different women who come to the store already wearing the wrong size. Sometimes, based on the information given I am able to determine that the issue was the fault of one of our company branches. Sometimes they were told by mom what size they were and just shrugged and said, “okay”. Either way, it is my job to find them a bra that makes them feel amazing.

    One of the first questions I ask when my customer tries on the first bra is, “How do you feel?” I explain what I’m doing as I go (adjusting the straps, the band, educating the customer on proper fit). One of the first complaints I here when I put women in smaller band sizes is that “It’s too tight” or “I feel like I can’t breathe”. I gently assure them that the band must be snug to offer the proper support, and that the cup must be large enough to comfortably encase each breast without spillage or gapping. I’ve sized more 32DD/DDD women than anything else. And there are some things I noticed here in San Diego:

    1. Many women are incredibly fit, or have active lifestyles which means that I see a lot of full bust, but not plus size women. I believe that many women don’t understand bra sizing and how band/cup size are relative. Bras aren’t the only problem when it comes to odd sizes. Jeans are terrible. Arbitrary numbers like 7 or 9, that have no basis on measurement, confuse a lot of women. When I meet a woman that says her size is either 32 or 34B, I know she needs some subtle educating. (I know sizing can depend upon style, brand, etc.)

    2. Augmentation is much more common than I ever realized. Most women don’t mind telling me they’ve had their breasts done, and this helps when I am looking for styles that will compliment their smaller frame/fuller bust. Another problem I noticed is with the plastic surgery industry. I had one customer come in looking for a C cup because that is what she had asked her doctor for. I measured her and fitted her, and she ended up coming away with a DDD. There is a lot of deception and misinformation when it comes to PS. No doctor can promise a woman will be a precise size after she heals from the operation. This depends on her body shape, her natural breast shape, how invasive the surgery was, etc.

  44. Rin
    17/01/13 at 19:25

    A little anecdotal addition regarding how VS really screws with (for lack of a better turn of phrase) women’s perceptions of their bodies:
    I was going out with co-workers and we decided to meet up at the apartment of one of the girls to carpool. While in her home, I was perusing the kitschy decor on her fridge after I grabbed some water and noticed something that seemed off to me. There I was, face to face with a clipping of a headless VS model in a skimpy, padded, strapless bandeau bikini—completely out of place next to the various magnets from local businesses and past jobs. She had put the clipping right next to the door pull for the freezer (where, by her own admission, she only kept a bottle of SKYY and a pint of ice cream). I asked her about the picture in a benign manner (commenting on the cute bikini print) and she laughed and said she had put the image there as a deterrent to remind herself in moments of weakness (stress, etc) that she was a failure should she continue to open the freezer door. I was shocked and suddenly felt sad having been given that glimpse into her private life. Apparently, keeping that freezer door closed was going to get her a step closer to looking like what she thought was the ideal body. This ideal was sold to her by VS and she ate it up. Despite these two women having completely different body types, VS kept telling my co-worker, via their campaigns, that she could look like that model if she only did X, Y, and Z. The sad thing is she is a true hourglass figure. She didn’t need to change anything about herself to be attractive, but VS made her feel as though she was lacking because she didn’t fit into their myopic niche of “sexy” women.

    They’re selling lingerie under the notion that they have the last word on the “sexy” aesthetic or on women’s bodies and it disturbs me. :\

  45. Amy
    08/09/13 at 22:56

    This was really interesting and I appreciated your points, specifically about the whore/virgin issue that VS is using. I’m not sure that I agree that referencing a cultural dress is in and of itself racist. I think the most tasteless thing would be the geisha “costume” since they are referencing something that was very commonly sexual slavery. But there is no question that geishas existed, and they aren’t attempting suggest that all Japanese women are geishas. Somewhere above someone asked why you would want to reference another cultures dress, and my question is why would you not? I guess I’m wondering what negative stereotypes you think these pieces of lingerie are perpetuating, and if there’s something more than just that they reference a culture other than western culture that makes them “racist.”
    People frequently enjoy pretending or dreaming about being something other than they are. These type of things play into that fantasy. Is that fantasy racist? You’ve prompted some interesting questions for me.

  46. Courtney
    26/11/13 at 21:42

    As an employee of VS, I’d just like to say, that yes, I highly disagree with many of their marketing techniques. However, in the time I’ve been with the company, there has been a change in the way that we do conduct our fittings. At my store, at least, we have regular meetings on how to properly fit and size a woman, and place a pretty heavy emphasis on how to help women who don’t fit into the sizes we carry (now from 32A-38DDD in store.) Also, a lot of the quality issues that people come into the store with are due to improper care, or the teenagers who buy the 2/$49 or 2/$42 bras, which are the worst quality, run small in the band, and refuse to buy the larger band size even when we tell them that they’ll break. We do our best to fit people right, but some people just don’t understand the benefit of having a bra that actually fits.

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