5 burning questions about the Victoria's Secret parade

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It’s that most “magical” time of the year, when gentlemen of a certain persuasion get really, really excited about doing some lingerie-related market research. Yes, much like they read Playboy for the articles, they watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for the clothes.

Now in its 17th year (barring 2004, when concerns about decency - or lack thereof - in broadcasting after Nipplegate meant the show was canned; pause for riotous laughter), the annual glitter-flecked tits-’n’-arse blast is a ratings winner for whichever network ends up scoring it, and a booking that its chosen models spend the best part of the year preparing for.

And, every year, I watch in detached horror as the whole silly spectacle unfolds, unable to decide which aspect of it I find the most troubling. So, in lieu of any answers on that front, here are some questions I have about the show:

Why do we need to know about the models’ pre-show workout/diet plans?

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Far gone are the days when we believed every “LOL I eat hamburgers 24/7! *shrug*” line that tumbled from the mouths of ingenues; we know that there are job requirements for models that include strenuous exercise and strict diets and, of course, a lucky draw in the genetic lottery. So, on some level, I “admire” (substitute a more appropriate word that I can’t think of after trawling 450+ photos of the parade) Angels like Adriana Lima for their honesty about what goes on pre-show, because it at least puts an end to the spurious bullsh-t that has typically characterised model interviews (looking at you, Miranda “Noni Juice” Kerr). At the same time, knowing that makes me profoundly depressed: it’s not healthy, and it’s sure to be taken as gospel by a particular kind of impressionable young woman (not to mention, as TheVine’s Alyx Gorman noted last year, fuel for the pro-ana blogs everywhere). And knowing that these sylphlike bodies, subsisting on little more than anxiety and the vague memory of a powdered-egg smoothie, are being paraded as the pinnacle of sex appeal makes my heart weary.

I guess we all forgot about that whole “forced child labour” issue, huh?

Late last year, concerning allegations emerged about the harvesting of organic cotton used to make VS underwear. To wit, that it involved forced child labour: “This harvest is Clarisse’s second. Cotton from her first went from her hands onto the trucks of a Burkina Faso program that deals in cotton certified as fair trade. The fiber from that harvest then went to factories in India and Sri Lanka, where it was fashioned into Victoria’s Secret underwear -- like the pair of zebra-print, hip-hugger panties sold for $8.50 at the lingerie retailer’s Water Tower Place store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile”. An investigation followed earlier this year, but I suppose the promise of hot chicks on a glitter runway wearing big sparkly wings is enough to wipe that particular news item from the memory!

Why is their lingerie so boring?

That might seem an odd call, given the eye-bludgeoning spangliness of the Fashion Show itself, but look beneath the beaded halters and wearable May-poles on the catwalk and you’ll see that VS peddles a very stock standard brand of smalls. In fact, that may be the key to the brand’s all-conquering power: they sell fairly boring, fairly conservative padded push-up bras and stretchy knickers, which means that in sexually conservative middle America, they’re just what the doctor ordered. It may make me sound like an unbearable tool, but give me Agent Provocateur or even Pleasure State any day: at least they know how to make underwear look incredible, and have a winning grasp of actual eroticism. (In my experience, men who think the zenith of sex appeal is VS boyshorts will probably not be the most enlightened lovers.) VS has to cover everything in a thick patina of Swarovski Elements and giant feathers to distract your attention from the fact that you can buy very similar lingerie on the chuck-out rack at K-Mart (which is probably miles better, anyway).

Why do they still think cultural appropriation is sexy?

Just weeks after the company had been put on blast for its ‘Go East’ collection (spew), VS sent Karlie Kloss down the runway wearing a Native American warbonnet, her chintzy leopard-print knickers and bra tizzied up with “Native chic” turquoise jewellery and fringed suede. As explained (for what must feel like the umpteenth time) by Ruth Hopkins, the problem here is twofold: “Among my people, the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux), war bonnets are exclusively worn by men, and each feather within a war bonnet is symbolic of a brave act of valor accomplished by that man. Not just any Tom, Dick or Harry had the privilege of wearing a war bonnet. [...] This brings me to my next point: the hypersexualization of Native women. [...] Given the epidemic levels of sexual violence Native women and girls are faced with in the United States, why can they not see how incredibly insensitive and inappropriate it is to equate Native womanhood as little more than a sexual fetish?” Kloss’ Fashion Show ensemble offers a big fat “whatever lol” in response to that question.

Is there a more odious symbol of capitalism/consumerism than the Fantasy Bra?

A gem-encrusted abomination in the middle of a $12m exercise in extravagance, The Fantasy Bra is bestowed, much like a coronation for bosoms, upon one exalted Angel each year. (Here’s a video of Miranda Kerr “meeting” last year’s that is sure to deaden the heart.) A quick tally of the combined values of all the Fantasy Bras from 1996 onward comes to $116,000,000. Yes, yes, I know that only one of them was ever actually sold, but the mere fact that they exist and are, in theory, available to buy, makes me get a serious case of the Falling Downs. However, it’s not all bad news for the 99%-ers who find themselves gazing at bejeweled norks while wondering if tonight’s dinner can be made to last for three meals: in this post-GFC climate, 2012’s Floral Fantasy Bra was only worth a miserable $2,500,000.

Gallery: The 10 strangest pictures from the Victoria's Secrets parade

38 comments

  • Great article, with more than a few truisms!

    Some of the lingerie is pretty, but most of these bras would have perhaps fit at the beginning of puberty, certainly not post-puberty! (lol!)

    Also, can't imagine DDH doing any apart from falling off the bed laughing if I turned up in one of these ensembles... the elf and the clown look is a bit... well... halloweenish - and we certainly don't do halloween! ;) (bwa ha ha ha ha)

    Commenter
    10yrswife
    Date and time
    November 12, 2012, 8:23AM
    • I totally agree, their bras are not a good fit and they are incredibly boring for a brand that is suppose to be sexy and fun. I had my worse experience with a fitter from a VS store. The girl insisted I was two cup sizes smaller than what I really am, and as I was spilling out of it, she insisted that it was a brilliant fit and it was my true size. Ahhhh.... I'm pretty sure breasts are not meant to have the muffin top look.

      I love the VS shows, but will I ever buy anything from there? No, I want something that is sexy and comfortable, not drab and pinchy.

      Commenter
      Susie
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 12, 2012, 10:55AM
    • I can understand stick figures modelling other types of clothing but it really really doesn't suit lingerie. Victoria's Secret models have become unattractively skinny in recent years. I haven't seen a decent body on one of them in at least 5 years. Disappointing.

      Commenter
      matt
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      November 12, 2012, 1:05PM
  • Agree whole heartedly, especially about the fact that underneath it all its pretty stock boring underwear... and I'm a bloke (not saying i wear it, of course).
    I love seeing how garishly ugly the "designers" can make the overblown costumes.

    Commenter
    grumpy
    Date and time
    November 12, 2012, 9:27AM
    • I'm always amazed about the hype around this parade! And you said it perfectly - the underwear are completely boring, even Bonds have more exciting patterns!

      Commenter
      sj
      Date and time
      November 12, 2012, 9:44AM
      • I think Victoria's Secret is good for pretty, wearable lingerie that doesn't cost a fortune. I have no desire to spend $100 on a bra (regardless of how amazing it is - it's just a bra) and most of their stuff is actually quite durable. I have some great bras that I've had for years and they are still in great condition. Most of the departments stores in Australia like Target have a poor selection if you're not a 14 or 16 band size and even then, they leave a lot to be desired. Try getting size 8 underwear in Target - no chance!

        Commenter
        Cimbom
        Location
        Real World
        Date and time
        November 12, 2012, 10:08AM
        • Cinbom,

          I'm troubled to admit that I have bought some VS underwear online, a couple of times. I won't be bothering again - for all the reasons in the article. Plus, their stuff is amazingly overpriced, but that isn't the problem so much as the fact it's poorly made, with cheap materials and a terrible fit. Their "standard" sizes vary enormously between patterns, meaning that when I ordered two bras of the same size, one was too small to fit and the other so large that I'm considering recycling it as a Widow Twankey style pantomime prop. And of course I have to receive 3 marketing emails a week from VS every since (complete with offer codes that can only be redeemed from inside the continental USA).

          Target have also been pretty underwhelming in recent years. I know this might sound ridiculous but... have you tried Kmart? Their $10 cotton t-shirt bras are comfy and functional and seem to last damn near forever.

          Commenter
          Red Pony
          Date and time
          November 12, 2012, 11:23AM
        • Have to agree with you there, although I'd never buy VS myself, Target have bugger all really, regardless of your size, so it's not because you're a size 8, it's the whole commercialised clothing industry, it does no woman any favours! I'm a 12 and I have to search high and low for nickers that don't creep up my bum or a pretty bra that actually fits my 12Es that isn't "plus size" or "maternity", annoying!

          And Red Pony, have to agree with you there too, sometimes crappy old Kmart turn out some gems, you just have to look in the right place!

          Commenter
          Miffy
          Date and time
          November 12, 2012, 3:04PM
      • Handle-bars affixed to your underwear? Yes it's ridiculous, but hardly anywhere near as ridiculous as having your body sliced open to affix stupid looking fake breasts.

        Yet that gathers no comment in some of these pictures. Sad what we deem as normal/acceptable these days...

        Commenter
        blee
        Date and time
        November 12, 2012, 10:12AM
        • And having your teeth filed down and capped with porcelain. And having your skin injected with botulinium toxin, to ensure you can't make a credible facial expression. And having every bodily hair below your neckline yanked out with hot wax. And painting your skin that strange colour of orange. And starving yourself with liquid diets for days before getting on the catwalk, after starving yourself for years to get close to one... yep. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

          Commenter
          Red Pony
          Date and time
          November 12, 2012, 11:28AM

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