Victoria’s Secret and its infamous Angels have progressively gathered one of the largest cult followings in fashion history. If you don’t know who Adriana Lima is, are you even a millennial? The parade of elaborate swimwear and lingerie, donned by women of supernatural body proportions and fat percentages, has become one of the most talked about events of the year. The VS fashion is a ubiquitous conversation starter, monopolising social media and conversation for weeks. The event has transformed from a fashion show to entire niche of our culture, described as a ‘fantasy’ created in a ’42-minute entertainment special’. The emphasis on fashion has disintegrated and been replaced by extravagance and celebrity. However, as our society has progressed the show has remained at a moral and societal standstill, leaving its followers unsatisfied and sales diminished.
The recent and controversial appointment of Barbara Palvin to the notorious list of Angels has only aided in this trend. While the brand has not formally announced her as plus size, the obvious attempt to move towards a more natural figure is embarrassing. The Angels are exactly what it says on the tin; not human. The brand has based itself of an unattainable beauty standard, with models sporting bodies no average woman would have the genetics nor time to achieve. Hence, the description of the show as a fantasy is both apt and disappointing. The addition of a size 8 model, a size which is objectively far from falling under the bracket of ‘plus’, only deepens this idea of abnormally toned and skinny physiques as beautiful. In their effort to embrace diversity, the brand has only proven yet again that they are misguided and outdated. If the addition of a beautiful, 25-year old, 121-pound Hungarian is representative of a move towards diversity and body positivity, I fear there is no hope for progression. Moreover, women no longer want to see scantily dressed women with thigh gaps and six-packs which is neither symbolic nor empowering. True empowerment comes from celebrating beauty, whichever form that it comes in. It is more likely that VS would sell more clothes or receive more celebrity if they embraced the beauty in all sizes.
This idea of ‘fantasy’, similarly, is indicative of a patriarchal narrative. By heralding the show as fantasy, women are being directed into desires they may not have, nor should do. A fantasy is meant to reflect something that women aspire to, which for many is not what we are presented with here. The comments of Ed Razek, chief marketing executive, rejecting the idea of having fuller figures or transsexuals in the show ‘because the show is a fantasy’ are both saddening and offensive. Many women would aspire to a fuller figure and for many people who struggle with their gender a transsexual VS Angel would likely define their fantasy exactly. Instead of deciding what women should aspire to be or to look like, restricting this to an unachievable and exclusive image and parading it in front of the world, the brand should allow women to dictate the narrative. Embracing diversity in no way undermines the premise of Victoria’s Secret, one would hope, and is likely to grant them even more appeal. Women should be celebrated for their strength, confidence and hard work, which is exactly the kind of beauty I aspire to. It is time for the brand to open its eyes and move with the times, or be left behind in the wake of social progression.