Tuesday, March 27, 2007

(From PostSecret.)

I saw this postcard on PostSecret on Sunday and I saved it to my computer while I thought about it for a few days. I didn't have any strong feelings about Victoria's Secret in general except I kind of appreciate the convenience of having a store full of underwear where you pretty much always know your size. The more I stared at this postcard though, the more the candy cane pink stripes made me feel a little nauseated.

On rounds the other day we were actually just talking about this -- how the feminist movement is about choice, and that made it ok to be feminine and feminist. There's something so over-the-top about the Victoria's Secret empire though. Before their fashion shows the models (all 6'0" 107lbs of them) talk about how Victoria's Secret is empowering women by embracing women's sexuality, 2 things which sound pretty good to me but the truth is I think the premise of the VS kill is selling you an impossible dream, not empowerment. In the past few years the image of VS became wrapped up in their models -- supermodels who become spokeswomen for the line, known as the "Angels." Their faces are all over the catalogs and supersize staring down at from you from up on the walls of the stores, and especially their flagship store on Michigan Avenue, where lifesize mannequins of the current angels (Gisele, Adriana Lima, and Alessandra Ambrosio -- aren't they stunning?) dressed in teensy little underwear stand guard amidst the racks of bras. In the fitting rooms one entire wall is a mirror and contains a little screen constantly playing the VS fashion show from that year. It's a little unnerving to try on your plain ol' cotton underwear while Gisele stomps down a runway at you in a bra made of diamonds.
When VS became all about the Angels, they weren't selling an idea of feeling comfortable and sexy in your own skin (which is maybe what the store started out about). It was about being able to look like Gisele if you bought this $65 bra!

Also, I hate leaving the store and carrying those stupid bags. I appreciate the market value of having such an instantly recognizable bag but I feel like they're begging for attention (Look at me!!!! I wear Victoria's Secret underwear!!! I am SO SEXY!!!) and I HATE that. Maybe women feel sexy when they're sporting the bag (I personally feel utterly ridiculous and usually try to stuff the bag into something else) but I think it invites mockery: Shanmugam and I were walking down Michigan Ave the other day and we spotted an overweight woman toting an extra-large VS bag.

Shanmugam: Whispers to me. What could she possibly buy at Victoria's Secret?

R: Um...underwear?

S: Victoria's Secret makes underwear in plus-sizes?

R: Shanmugam, the average American woman is a size 12. If Victoria's Secret didn't make "plus-sizes" they'd go out of business in a hurry.

Is that what VS has done? Has the VS image become all about looking like a supermodel, and invites criticism of how sexy one actually is they shop there? Ew.


confused, single and brown said...

...and this is why MEN order VS catalogues. VS puts ideas into the minds of men as to what sexy is, and women buy what they think will make their men happy. not to say all women buy stuff from VS for that reason specifically, but the marketing of it has that effect.

Random said...

isnt this whole country about selling the impossible dream, and entrapping those who take the bait?

in any case, what is worse..selling an impossible dream or buying into it?

Catherine said...

wow. Thanks so much for your thoughtful post. I stumbled across it looking for an image of that postsecret card. I really identify with it, and appreciate hearing your take.

And to your comment, random person, I totally agree... I've realized I bought in! I guess that's the first step to getting out.

Bertrand said...

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