Victoria's Secret: Flying High or Falling from Grace?
Is the sexiest night on television getting a reality check?
It’s that time of year again: the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has once again returned to our televisions for its annual spectacular. This year, the show is airing on Sunday, December 2nd at 10/9c on ABC, but before we all sit down and marvel at 60 of the world’s top models sauntering in lingerie and feathers, maybe we should take a moment to ponder where Victoria’s Secret stands in today’s social conversation.
It’s no surprise; we’ve all heard that the brand has certainly seen better days. From an almost 50% drop in viewers of the Show over the past five years to a very scandalous interview with CEO Ed Razek published on Vogue.com, Victoria’s Secret seems to be facing hit after hit on its feathery façade. The cause of this decline? The brand’s anachronistic tendencies.
Though originally seen as a pioneer for diverse beauty, the lingerie brand has recently been called out for their old-fashioned choices in casting and marketing for the show. Perhaps it’s the push towards hyper-femininity: soft feathers, pastel tones, stilettos etc; or the limited selection when it comes to model sizes and gender identities, but many are claiming that the brand is an unrealistic representation of women today. These claims are all the more real when looking at competitors like Rihanna’s Fenty x Savage and Aerie, who seem to be embracing inclusion, comfort and body positivity rather than glitz, glamour, and “fantasy.”
And that seems to be where we see a brand divided. On one side, there are the millions of fans who see the brand and its annual fashion show as something worth admiring. Viewers (and I say viewers because I don’t think that the fanbase is limited to only young women) will see gorgeous couture creations made by artisans or high-fashion designers and worn by strong-minded women who push their bodies to their limits, all done out of their own determination, not for the sake of impressing anyone but themselves. But then you begin to notice a demographic of viewers who question the legitimacy of both these outfits and this determination; viewers who see this athletic determination as fuel for succumbing to a patriarchal ideal of long legs, a thin waist and ample hips and chest. Other critics see these costumes as a means to highlight hyper femininity.
Obviously, both these parties have reasonable beliefs, but this division in the fanbase seems to be a huge reason for the brand’s recent decline in sales and viewership. Arguably, this decline should warrant a call for change in the modeling and lingerie industries. The brand has made small changes in the past that have made huge ripples, such as casting models like Tyra Banks and Letitia Casta, who didn’t fit an industry standard size in their time. They’ve also sent pregnant models down the runway long before Fenty ever did. In recent shows, the brand has embraced natural hair, women of different ethnicities, and more relaxed lingerie like bralettes and sports bras. But the industry has caught up, embraced and expanded upon these changes and it’s time for Victoria’s Secret to do the same.
Models like Teddy Quinlavin and Ashley Graham seem to be adamant in fighting for representation of their demographics in the show. While new management on the Victoria’s Secret Executive Team seems to suggest a possible change in marketing (fingers crossed), the brand’s apparent resistance to change makes it impossible to determine where it’s headed next.
Needless to say however, these are all things that we should be thinking about when we watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show this year. The conversation about how we look at women today is carrying heavily into the fashion industry, and as a brand that is so focused on the way women live, it’s integral that the conversation doesn’t end here.
Featured image via.