Is anyone else feeling empowered after this year's Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show? Me neither.
Change out the musical performers and the city location, and it’s the same thing each year — and each year, it reinforces the same message of inadequacy that is subliminally pushed on women every day. I picture smart, interesting, confident women all over the world waking up this morning, vowing to skip lunch just to get a little bit closer to that celebrated ideal of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. As a critique of my own lunch crept into my head, I suddenly thought, “Wait a minute: my body is not the problem here.”
Victoria’s Secret, the household name and mega-lingerie brand that young girls learn about well before their first training bra, is on the wrong side of history. With a primetime catwalk seen by 6.5 million viewers last year, the show is a perfect opportunity to make a statement about the inherent beauty in women of all sizes. A plus size model wearing the famed Angel wings, would be the biggest deal in pop culture since Ashley Graham landed the cover of Sports Illustrated last year.
Instead, last night’s show was distinctly lacking in size diversity, and at this point, it seems like the brand is running out of time to jump on the diversity train and keep their title as a leader in the world of lingerie. Their clothes go up to a size 40DDD and XL, so clearly they are already serving the market, why not fully embrace and celebrate this? Additionally at this point, there are so many beautiful models to choose from, surely it wouldn't be a casting issue. Watching Precious Lee, Ashley Graham, Christina Andrew, Marquita Pring, Hunter McGrady, and Candice Huffine walk this past New York Fashion Week in a variety of shows made me seriously consider dumping my boyfriend to start dating women. These women are simply beautiful.
In the '90s, Victoria’s Secret was a trailblazer in the industry, offering everyday sex appeal to women in shopping malls and suburbs. The pink and white box was a symbol of confidence and bit of a daring attitude. Its primetime runway show was innovative; they brought Angels down to earth. and now two decades later, its runway doesn’t adequately represent the real world. Seeing how much positive press magazines, fashion brands, and cosmetic brands receive anytime they expand their audience beyond the usual sample-sized models, it seems unlikely Victoria's Secret would receive negative backlash if they included a more diverse cast. If anything, it's the opposite.
The fashion industry is slowly making changes towards size inclusivity, but it's only just begun. It would have been a huge moment for Victoria’s Secret to send just one plus-size model — although imagine two or four or a whole army of models who ranged in size — down the runway. It would have told its customers both old and new: We don’t just value your business, we think you’re beautiful, too.
Meanwhile, lingerie brands like Addition Elle, True &Co, Third Love, Fortnight, Cacique, Soma, and Aerie are celebrating women and making women of all sizes feel like they can join party. And that’s great; there’s room for all — Victoria’s Secret isn’t necessarily every woman’s taste, anyway. But I would hate to see an American institution like Victoria’s Secret become irrelevant because it feared change. It’s clear they aren’t the only underwear game in town anymore. It’s time for them to embrace their entire customer base and start to celebrate women of all sizes. The runway isn’t the only place to do this — it’s a conversation that spreads across the many facets of a company — but it sure seems like the most public way to send a message that women like you and me deserve to be “angels,” too.