ON THE VICTORIA’S SECRET FASHION SHOW 2018:  BEAUTY STANDARDS IN A CHANGING WORLD  

Unarguably the most reputable event in lingerie fashion, Victoria’s Secret runway show has dictated beauty standards since its debut in 1995. The likes of Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum walked the runways in the ‘90s, setting the tone for unattainable levels of beauty that only Victoria’s Angels seemed to possess. Complete with life-changing testaments, the brand has been the hallmark in the world of supermodels; a rite of passage into the big leagues, the recognized status quo.  Just as there have been millions of notably (male) interest over the decade of the VS reign, critics have thronged in their numbers as well. They apparently cannot seem to wrap their minds around how the VS runways, presumably the biggest influence in women’s beauty culture, would also dictate outrageously stereotyped ways to attain these goals. This year’s show however, tells enough to realize that the lingerie brand’s reign may finally be ending but not without a great parting gift for all of the unnecessary pressures on women to be perfect.

Victoria’s Secret quite rigidly, took a position on beauty matters that subtly relates to fantasy. Models have attested to the rigors of being one of the hallowed Victoria’s Angels; Adriana Lima, who announced at the event that she would be leaving the brand after 19 years, famously said in 2011 that she drank only protein shakes for nine days before show and nothing on the actual day and Barbara Palvin said she has been watching food videos on YouTube to satisfy her cravings. While the high glamour of being an Angel may overshadow the grueling physical sacrifices it cost to claim the status, the rest of the world is not as enamored. Conversations have moved on to fewer and fewer standards of beauty, and for a while now, brands and publications have been called out for promoting extreme values through various means. Many women have pioneered entire movements against the objectifying of their gender, it is virtually the new order to begin to correct certain antiquated ideals. Victoria’s Secret took the bait for their runway show event  at Pier 94 in New York on Thursday, November 8. Or at least attempted to. Suffice to say, their rules don’t apply anymore.

The show was not entirely a faux pas. Winnie Harlow made history as the first model with vitiligo to make an appearance in the show, which is certainly a step in the right direction and the show featured other models of colour who were mostly under a size six. Taylor Hill opened the show to the live performance of Keala Settle’s hit from “The Greatest Showman,” “This Is Me” and there was a demonstration with a video on girl power and womanhood, talking about how women should love and be sexy for themselves. Still, the intended message told a different story from the presentation. In their defense, the show seemed a bit tampered down from its usual sexual themes, assumedly in a bid to show solidarity to other women championing causes in the current political climate. The dominantly male audience however, was very apparent as not many usual fashion show attendees were present.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Victoria Secret range does in fact cater to women of all sizes, so the idea of representing only one body type is a notable contradiction in their promotion strategies. Sizes range from XL to DDD, so it seems very superficial that they showcase one body type as the body type to have. Sales have also considerably dropped in the States as there’s been a huge perception shift. So it is safe to say that the brand has been moving in a certain direction for a while now. It is clear that today’s body goals are not at par with the VS standards of physical perfection and unrealistic plasticity.

The Victoria Secret show has officially marked the end of the era where being sexy must imply lacy lingerie, brocade bustiers, corsets, thinness and impossible hair sheen. An era where such outdated social conventions are not glossed over- the fact that most people can recognize the brand’s lofty ideals is highly significant to the message that gets passed around. The world has progressed and it would be interesting to see how a brand such as Victoria’s Secret stays relevant in the current socio-cultural climate.

Abiodun Odusola
abiodunodusola@ymail.com
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