By: Laura Frangipane
In the midst the holiday traditions is another Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. This year’s show aired on CBS on November 30th and featured performances by top American pop artists Katy Perry and Akon.
The show is a lavish event that exhibits the sleepwear and lingerie of the fashion company to the world. Top supermodels, along with a half dozen contracted models exclusive to Victoria’s Secret, known as the Angels, strut the runway wearing the latest clothing from the brand. But is this fashion? Or does the show exhibit something more?
The clothes in the show are undergarments accented with costume-like accessories and wings. The show contained a series of walks by the models representing several themes including: country, sports, tough love, animals, and the Pink line, which epitomized childhood.
The country clothing was full of stereotypes: cowgirls, western plaid, boots, quilts, denim, and gingham. The clothes did not advance fashion or resemble much more than a cowgirl costume picked up during October for Halloween.
The sports collection featured male gymnasts and actors performing in the background as the models walked. It featured lingerie versions of America’s favorite sports, which again fell in line with the overly done costume vibe.
The tough love feature was really not much more than what you would expect to find in an adult-only store: leather, red, animal prints, and chains.
The animals theme featured clothing printed with varying animal prints or body paint to represent the chosen animals.
Finally, and perhaps most disturbing, was the Victoria’s Secret Pink dream world. Pink, is the brand’s younger, more junior line. The fashion presented to Katy Perry’s bubbly tunes represented a twisted kid’s playtime with bubbles and rainbows alongside crotch and bust line shots of scantily clad women with the word Pink labeling, well, their pink parts. It is clear that the brand is not advancing fashion in its products, which represent stereotypes and nothing more than lingerie costumes.
So if the company isn’t advancing fashion, what are they emphasizing? It’s not surprising that the message Victoria’s Secret is sending is heteronormative, demeaning of women, and stereotypical. The women chosen as models do not represent a natural female shape, but an over exaggerated one: big breasts, bottoms, and skeleton-like stomachs and legs.
Consumers of these products are unlikely to reach the standards set for them by the company.
Women are encouraged to act out these stereotypes. They are encouraged to be animalistic in the tough love and animal collections. They are encouraged to abandon virtues they may hold by being encouraged to wear suggestive clothing.
It is interesting that the company co-opts images free of sex and turns them into sex symbols. The western collection took patterns from period clothing of the prairie and American frontier, which suggested earthiness and hardship, and turned it into sexy lingerie. The Pink line takes images of childhood and fantasy and creates what feels like infantilism by allowing older women dress like sexualized children.
Additionally, Victoria’s Secret rejects any sense of homosexual relationships, choosing to promote heterosexual ones instead. Men with equally perfect figures flirt with women, and a sexy popstar Akon serenades the models with a song about heterosexual love. Katy Perry did not perform her hit “I Kissed A Girl”, a song supporting same-sex relationships. The rainbows prevalent in the Pink line did not stand for gay pride, but for childhood and fantasy.
In a world where costumes offend others, such as recent theme parties on this campus did, it is amazing Victoria’s Secret enjoys the success it does with these overt images. The store marginalizes its own costumers through this fashion show and reinforces existing gender roles, which should be unacceptable. A company that enjoys national success should work for good, or at least reconsider the message its fashion show sends as it is certainly not the same message sent by other design houses.