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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The love/hate relationship: Why the Victoria's Secret show appals me (but fascinates me in equal measure)

(Image from Eonline: http://uk.eonline.com/news/532049/victoria-s-secret-fashion-show-heads-to-london-adriana-lima-invites-prince-harry-to-sit-front-row )

I love glamour, catwalk shows and that extra-special sprinkle of extravagance as much as the next blogging babe, but (as much as I don’t want to be an utter kill-joy), I have to admit there are elements to the Victoria’s Secret shows that I have serious problems with. With the 2014 show being held this past Tuesday in the city I work and hope to live in, London, I felt this was an appropriate time to air these opinions. I'm aware that I definitely am not the first to comment on the following issues, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. I also know some may not agree with my thoughts, but I wanted to scribble them down anyway!

My first issue with the shows, and indeed the brand as a whole, is the fact that they set impossible standards of beauty which I believe have the potential to be severely damaging and dangerous to women, especially those of the younger generation. While numerous other brands and key voices in fashion have been campaigning in recent years for the inclusion of 'real women' in the modelling industry, it seems VS is determined to keep the existence of the 'unreal woman' alive, and very much in view. Because the angels are not just naturally 'a little svelte' or a 'a little pretty'; they are a physical representation of unnattainable beauty; highlighted in their flaw-free, immaculate faces and figures. This makes them unreal and difficult to relate to in a sense; they are not like you or me, they are some form of 'other'. The angel is not the women you see walking down the street. Abs, impossibly long legs, perfectly formed facial features, and not to mention, a pretty fantastic rack: combined, these features make up a woman who represents about 1% of our population.

My point here is that these impossible standards of beauty set by the brand have great potential to inflict worrying thoughts amongst some women. We begin to wonder why we don’t look like them, why we don’t have the seemingly alien combination of rock-hard, flat abs and huge tits...and let’s not even start on the beloved thigh jiggle most mere mortals have. As if we aren’t burdened enough by bodily insecurities of the 21st century, the VS shows multiply our confidence issues ten-fold. Upon watching the yearly shows, even me, a girl who (shamefully) hates exercise and (proudly) champions the phrase 'long live the doughnut,' begins to wonder if perhaps I could (and should) look like an angel with a little work. I'm 22. Just imagine what an even younger, more impressionable girl watching must think. The idea that the show’s appeal may have expanded in recent years to younger and younger girls increases this threat. And with the bright colours, glamorous appeal and performances of popular singers that youngsters idolize (not to mention the brand’s ‘Pink’ collection,  which is targeted at younger women), this is bound to happen. 

As younger and younger girls are tuning in, there is no question that they may pick up on the aforementioned bodily message. A viewer of this age may not understand that to achieve these bodies, the angels don’t just undergo ‘a little work’; they undergo full on bootcamp purgatory (which they, apparently, all seem to enjoy). Without this knowledge, adolescents therefore see the models as being born as goddesses in having perfect, inherently 'right' bodies, and believe they were born with inherently 'wrong' physiques (despite being entirely normal). What's even more concerning is the consideration that men may begin to think this is what we should look like-as if teenagers and young 20-something women don't have enough bodily issues to deal with, now we have to worry that men will be disappointed when we undress in front of them for the first time. In truth, I'm convinced this kind of outcome is more allusion than truth as most decent men don’t share these impeccably high standards (let's face it- to them a naked woman is a naked woman) but many young, impressionable women might not know this growing up. They are catapulted into a world where success is measured by beauty, not personality, education or work ethic.

The angels also represent a world most young women are not a part of, or never will be and so, create an atmosphere of exclusion and hierarchy. Let’s be frank for a second- the models aren’t really selling lingerie when they sashay down the catwalk- they are selling their awesomely unachievable physiques, ridiculously extravagant lifestyles and equally fantastical partners or husbands. It’s a lifestyle- and one we are clearly not a part of. It is indeed so easy to become a part of the VS hype on the surface- walk into a store, put on a silk robe brandished with the ‘angel’ slogan and you become one. Except you don’t. The joke's on us because try as you might, the chances are you can buy the underwear, the gym clothes and the accessories, but you will never have what they have- you will never have their bodies, their lifestyles, their relationships. Because you are not a Victoria’s Secret Angel, you're just a Victoria’s Secret customer. From this rises a sincere sense of exclusion (and mockery); one that may make younger women feel even more inadequate.

 A further issue I have with the shows are the costings. In a world where children are starving, diseases like Ebola are rapidly spreading and countries are in national debt, is it really justified in any sense to spend $15 million on a fashion show? Or to showcase a fantasy bra which theoretically would be valued at a further $15 mill (worn by Gisele in 2000) encrusted in diamonds and other jewels? I mean, actually think about it…Fifteen million dollars...FIFTEEN MILLION DOLLARS?!!! How much good could fifteen million dollars actually do if it could be used to help people instead of showcasing a lingerie show? A hell of a lot. However, I recognize this is rather taken out of context when we consider the fact that we live in a world where football players are paid £300,000 a week to kick a ball around, whilst soldiers who are fighting for our country are receiving a pittance. So I guess a wildly expensive fashion show isn’t the worst of our worries, and it just represents the dark side of the fashion industry we all know and love. But you get my point.

Despite all of this (yes I'm about to do a bit of a 180), nobody can deny the mass strength and appeal of the show. Truthfully, as much as the whole affair enrages me, it also enamours me. As well as getting severely frustrated by the whole thing, I also love it, and get sucked in by the glamour, beauty and excitement just as much as the next twenty-something woman. And I guess that is the curse of Victoria's Secret: many hate it, but we love it potentially just as much. Perhaps it’s best not to overanalyse as I have above and just see it as a bit of fun- one we should take with a pinch of salt. Admittedly, I think it’s nearby impossible to help but be fascinated by the whole phenomenon, and, dare I say it, even envy the Angels. I mean, why wouldn’t you? Money, fame, glamour and beauty in abundance…it’s all in a day’s work for these girls. And I suppose a part of why we (especially women) are angered by the show is because we find the whole thing so damn intimidating and, to an extent, are maybe just jealous. 

I’m actually relatively new to the world of the VS ‘angel’ and their shows; only last year did I hear about it at a weekly meeting in the Impact office. The girls were talking about the show and it seemed to completely fascinate them. I wondered whether it would fascinate me, and so I went straight home and watched the past years’ shows and I did, I did feel fascinated by it. However you feel about the Victoria’s Secret’s catwalk extravaganzas, they’re undeniably a spectacle, and immensely stylish and exciting ones at that. They act as a form of escapism- instead of the tediousness woes of everyday life, we are transported to a fantastical place where everything is perfect and beautiful. The brand’s big-wigs also have to be praised for the clever way they have developed Victoria’s secret into a superbrand; having celebrity singers and glamourous adverts just enforces the brand’s role as an all-powerful company which demands, ironically, respect.

In truth I haven't seen any of the 2014 show since the angels descended on London. It won't be aired until tonight. But I can imagine it's just the same as it always was...once a circus, always a circus: ridiculous, animated, exciting, sad, fascinating, worrying, weird, but I guess in many ways, oh so wonderful. It’s just a huge bundle of paradoxes. Will I watch it? Probably. Will I enjoy it? Hell, why wouldn't I. But will I do so begrudgingly and with a pint of ice cream in tow? Absolutely. I don’t know what Victoria’s Secret is, but that’s certainly mine.

What do you think about Victoria's Secret? 


  1. I know exactly what you mean about VS and everything that is embodies. These impossible standards of beauty which are seen as the peak of aspiration, the ideal on which we as women should model ourselves - something which of course we know is an impossibility.
    But you can't say that, because this is the foundation upon such brands are built. How so many of these industries stay in business. If women are taught to learn that it's okay to be themselves, without having to fit into these impossibly small boxes, then who is going to buy all of the makeup and the dieting products?
    I too am intrigued by VS and the beautiful models which grace it's cat walk, but my love for it is bittersweet.
    I seriously recommend checking out The Real Me campaign @(weareLMC on twitter), you've written so well about these issues and your voice should be heard :)

    //teandtwosugars.blogspot.com xx

  2. I love your honesty in this post. I feel like society these days is being consumed by something that doesn't need to be in reality. However, it's a good show :) x

  3. I have to say I do agree with the points you made here.
    Fantastic post!

    Jennifer Jayne xx


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