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For a lingerie show so full of sparkle, smiles and sex appeal, there’s a whole load of ugly that goes into pulling off the Victoria’s Secret show every year. The world seems to be slowly waking up to our society’s seemingly endless appetite for body-shaming and diet culture, the focus now shifting to celebrate the diversity of women’s bodies. With competition from new, inclusive collections like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie, the pressure is on Victoria’s Secret to remain in prime position in the industry. Over one billion people tuned in to watch the VS show last year even though most of us are aware of the lengths the ‘Angels’ go to in order to reach this prestigious catwalk. It appears the ‘American Dream’ remains one of unrealistic beauty standards achieved through restriction, over-exercise and female rivalry.

Recently there have been numerous controversies associated with the show, mainly due to the comments from the brand’s chief marketing officer Ed Razek, which led to #boycottvictoriassecret trending. He made remarks in his most recent interview with Vogue magazine saying they do not cast plus-size models as there is ‘no interest in it’. When asked about the lack of transgender models he described the VS show as ‘a fantasy’ in which trans people do not belong, although the brand later released a statement apologising. The issue with Victoria’s Secret is rooted in this ‘fantasy’: the models represent an impossible standard that all bodies are not designed to attain, yet this ‘perfection’ is presented as achievable and something we ought to aspire to.

The brand has been exposed by former ‘Angels’, including Bridget Malcolm and Erin Heatherton, for the pressure the models are under to fit unrealistic body measurements, resulting in ‘damaging eating habits’. Kendall Jenner, one of the most famous current models with over 99 million followers on Instagram, posted photos of the shoot captioned ‘I’ve had so much pasta since this day’. Her influence is vast – the post now has over 4 million likes – and the majority of her following consist of young women who do not need any more problematic diets being flaunted in their feed. It reinforces a culture that glorifies weight loss, that praises ‘will-power’ and the avoidance of ‘bad’ foods. 

The fashion industry is slowly evolving to encompass more shapes and body types, where thighs are allowed to touch and women are not trapped in endless competition with each other, but Victoria’s Secret is behind the times and the gap is widening. In my opinion, any show that requires women to contort their bodies through months of restriction and extreme exercise, in return guaranteeing huge fame and a rapid launch to their careers, should be considered exploitative. 

Other lingerie brands are calling Victoria’s Secret out. Third Love, the self-proclaimed ‘antithesis of Victoria’s Secret’, took out a full-page in the New York Times in an open letter to VS, accusing them of trying to ‘market to men and sell a male fantasy to women’. SimplyBe campaigned across social media and outside the VS store in New York with plus-size women wearing angel wings and captioned the photos with #morethanourbodies and #weareallangels. As consumers we can boycott Victoria’s Secret, choose not to give such an irresponsible corporation our attention or money, instead choose brands like these and follow Rihanna’s sound advice that ‘Women should be wearing lingerie for their damn selves’. Push-up bras are much like the patriarchy: uncomfortable and out-of-date.

Interesting article about alternative, ethical brands, worth exploring…


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Laura Cook

Bristol '21

Psychology student at Uni of Bristol
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