Fear and clothing: Victoria’s got a smalls problem
A weekly column on the charms and vagaries of fashion
I have often wondered what counts as a secret. Stuff you keep to yourself on pain of death. Or stuff you disclose to others – discreetly on pain of death .
I am not sure where Victoria’s Secret falls on this trajectory; suffice to say that the secret is out. Victoria, whoever she is, has been outed. Fewer people are viewing the extravagant annual fashion show – far fewer (last year the global TV viewership almost halved). And the shoppers who I suppose have a not so secret say are apparently just not biting.
Years ago I shot a cover for my second edition of Marie Claire in New York. The subjects? Victoria’s angels Behati Prinsloo (now married to Adam Levine) and Candice Swanepoel: southern African models made good. That is what happened when Victoria’s Secret chose you to strut your stuff in culturally questionable bikinis and showgirl glitz. Your modelling career went stratospheric. And it still holds true. Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Winnie Harlow are all recent stars in this firmament. So the secret is not entirely tarnished.
Apparently you have to train like an Olympian for the angelic privilege: days of extreme intervals and eating like a boxer before a fight. And I can see the point because it takes some doing to be at the top of your game, whatever your game happens to be.
Trouble is the secret has recently changed like a case of broken telephone. The message women are hearing regarding what we consider to be sexy and appealing is slowly mutating. We are questioning the images we have accepted for so long. So trying to sell bras and briefs to people as if they were all Olympians seems counter-intuitive.
Women are calling Victoria’s Secret on this disconnect, with their eyeballs and their spending. Never mind sidelining our transgender friends. Ed Raznik, the now former creative manager of Victoria’s Secret, did that in an interview with Vogue after the 2018 show. It just seems foolish. High fashion brands have embraced transgender models for years, so this is totally retrogressive. Raznik said he was selling a dream but the dream of female perfection has always been viewed through a prism of otherness.
The real change is that we are seeing womanhood for what it is. Yes, some of us are supermodels; others are supremely modelled on ourselves. Don’t tell anyone I told you so.