On November 8, Adriana Lima said goodbye to her Angel Wings with a tear-infused runway finale. The Victoria’s Secret fashion show, which has little to no fashion, celebrates old fashion beauty standards and women in ridiculously tiny garb, geared entirely for the male gaze. Although the show, which is being billed as a “holiday special” was taped on the 8th, fans will have to wait to see it on ABC TV on December 2nd. With all of the media frenzy and press posting highlights, everyone already has the scoop on who are the freshmen and who’s graduating into retirement. “Dear Victoria,” Lima wrote on her Instagram. “Thank you for showing me the world, sharing your secrets, and most importantly not just giving me wings but teaching me to fly.”
Even though the physique of models is still the same–tall, slender with feminine curves–Victoria’s Secret has made a palpable effort to include more minorities in their grand show to reflect new tendencies for diversity. Despite these attempts, the pale blondes by far outnumber these intentions (Behati Prinsloo, Bella and Gigi, anyone?).
The annual bombshell blast down the runway is a celebration with no subject. A party for the sake of partying. In 2018, The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show makes little to no sense; from the 12 million dollars spent yearly to make the sexualization of women possible (which comes down the runway in the forms of million-dollar bedazzled bras and wings), to the one-size-fits-all unrealistic body measurements, it seems we’re taking two steps back in the area of female empowerment.
As author and beauty editor Jean Godfrey-June puts it: “The Victorias Secret show is like any other fashion show except it’s not a fashion show at all, it’s a show show. Closer to cabaret than Miu Miu. The underwear that mines down the runway is not always for sale. Instead of fashion editors and retailers, the stands are filled with lingerie editors, beauty editors, and male celebs who come to drool. From Tommy Lee to Magic Johnson to Woody Harrelson to the odd stockbroker with a really excellent fashion connection, the men sit, wide-legged as if they owned the place, smirking out at the runway as if it contained their personal harem, from which they might select a companion for the evening. If cigars were allowed, they’d all be sucking suggestively on them.
Gisele and co. flounce out in tiny nothings made to seem all the tinier by the huge prosthetic Angels in America wings they wear. there are sideshows,—flying trapeze artists in shiny white-nylon sausage-casing suits overhead, Oscar-half-time appropriate duets with Mary J. Blige and Sting—with TV cameras perfectly in place to get the best angle.” (excerpt from Jean Godfrey-June’s “Free Gift with purchase: My improbable career in Magazines and Makeup.”)
The book cited above was published in 2007; that’s almost eleven years ago. Has anything changed? Or maybe the better question is, has anyone made an effort to change it?
“Pretty bras? Pretty women? Pretty damn misogynistic. Not for nothing is this annual soirée regularly showered with opprobrium,” reads an article published in The Independent UK. “The business types say it’s extravagant, the plus-size models say it’s old-fashioned and the activists say it’s patriarchal poison. In 2018, Victoria’s Secret seems more salacious than ever,” it continues.
Although more diversity has been included in the reigns of skin color and hair restrictions, the body ideal–slim and curvy– is pretty standard and has been that way since its inception. Millennial models have uplifted the VS craze to a new level. They treat the show castings as if they were presidential election ballots and they are the candidates. There are literal tears of joy at model agencies when a new represented model is added to The Victoria’s Secret show restrictive line-up; the agents announce the tear-jerking news as if delivering an Oscar to the model chosen.
“The idea of a lingerie fashion show was absurd [at the time]. The main question on anybody’s lips was: Why are you even doing one? It’s accepted dogma now that you can do one; in fact, several [brands] have done them around the world since then. But at the time it was impossible. At that point women basically had five bras and five pairs of panties—three white bras, one nude bra, and one black bra that they might’ve worn twice a year. The notion of lingerie drawers, and of colors, patterns, mix-and-match, and fashion . . . . It was a revelation,” said Ed Razek, chief marketing officer at Victoria’s Secret parent company, L Brands, in a recent interview with Vogue.
Razek emphasized that the store would not be adding larger sizes or feature plus-size models in its runway shows. “Do I think about diversity? Yes. Does the brand think about diversity? Yes. Do we offer larger sizes? Yes. 30A to 40DDD is our range. So it’s like, why don’t you do 50? Why don’t you do 60? Why don’t you do 24? It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world, and any other fashion brand in the world would take it in a minute, including the competitors that are carping at us. And they carp at us because we’re the leader. They don’t talk about each other. I accept that. I actually respect it. Cool. But we’re nobody’s third love.”
By now, the brand should’ve progressed with the times. Where is the realistic depiction of the VS customer? Clearly not on its runway. There’s an array of plus-sized models that have bent the industry rules, and are now at the same pedestal as 100lb towering blondes. Ahem, Ashley Graham? Why are they not being included? Where’s the target demographic (you know, the one that actually shops there; we doubt Kendall Jenner wears anything less than silk for underwear) that’s clearly not represented, and that the company thrives from financially?
These discrepancies seem not to bother the viewer; nearly 5 million people worldwide tune in to be hypnotized by the unrealistic glamour: the scenery, the near-perfect stomachs with zero visible fat, and the artists that front the event such as Ariana Grande and Rihanna. This year, performances include not only The Chainsmokers, but also Bebe Rexha, Halsey, Kelsea Ballerini, Rita Ora, Shawn Mendes, and The Struts. The event itself seems greater than life; a fantasy world. Maybe that’s what viewers find comfort in, an escape from the reality of everyday life. It’s all for show. What for? What is this party celebrating? Skinny, white women in prosthetic wings? Or a new line up of models for men to drool over? The brand is obviously as desperate as ever to increase sales through the exploitation of female flesh and save their plummeting stock value, although perhaps if they truly celebrated diversity in women’s fashion they would finally update their looks to include plus-size ranges that reflected what real women are buying. While their instagram has sexy numbers, that’s not the case with sales.