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?
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