What’s the Secret?

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by Leandra Medine
November 15, 2013
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On the topic of Victoria and her angels, what’s a plebe to think?

How apropos that just five days after a minor dissertation on she who wears lingerie, the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show would take place at New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory — a venue I have, until Wednesday night, always associated with the antithetical-when-considering-that-which-is-hyperliterally-sexy Marc Jacobs’ bi-annual ready-to-wear collection show.

There were certainly similarities binding together the former spectacle with the latter: Lynn Yaeger in a prominent seat for one, a wrecked ship as decor loosely reminiscent of the most recent spring show and a glittery runway for another. The differences, though, were far louder and more entertaining to note. Watching the familiar not-just-models-but-for-the-purpose-of-Wednesday-night, peacocks, that owned the runway as they do, perform not as the women we want to be but the ones men want to bang, put into perspective precisely what makes an icon, an icon.

My personal conclusion is that we aspire to be things, not people. Often what will happen is that we will assign the character traits tethered to these things to specific people, but when the Kate Moss reincarnate of your dreams is no longer a Kate Moss reincarnate — now she’s just a genetically blessed woman in lingerie, who is she in conjunction with you?

Per the show’s atmosphere, I could get past the expansive disconnect that was fashion’s zenith: Mr. Valentino sitting not on, but very close to the runway, sandwiched between Harley Viera-Newton and one Olivia Palermo vs. humanity’s creep-alert: the overpriced-ticket holding young men — ring fingers discernibly occupied — shuffling through aisles of seats like kids anticipating a trip somewhere they’d only seen through the lens of their wildest imaginations. I expected that.

I could even walk away without wondering whether Taylor Swift’s performance of “I Knew You Were Trouble” was a nod to those in the audience who hailed from the latter camp, or one to the angels dressed in a quartet of crystals, as ethereal fairies, in sports-inspired uniforms (holler at your soccer ball, Cara Delevingne), and Ashish-looking overalls stamped with smiley faces.

Because mostly, I was enraptured by my own reaction to the show. Where I thought I’d leave thinking the stereotypically inevitable: abs, what do I do about my abs? I actually left thinking the incredibly mundane: did I do my laundry yet?

My having experienced that reaction does one of two things. It either re-establishes my stance as a blaring narcissist or serves as a social note on the nature of being one of Victoria’s Secret’s angels. Why? Because in the context of that fashion show, they don’t seem human.

I don’t want to compare myself to them. I don’t care to. I don’t want to imagine what it’s like to be one of them. I’m happy with my clothed figure, thank-you-very-much. I’d rather just applaud their purported senses of self confidence and acknowledge how astutely these women, “the angels,” understand their craft as performers who have mastered the art of an interactive exhibition.

Joan Smalls in Givenchy, for example, is a very different experience to observe when held up against Joan Smalls in angel wings. And when those girls, all of them, blow kisses at the camera, you’d really think, in spite of their having absolutely no clue what kind of riffraff is on the other end of that lens, that they mean it.

But never mind them for a moment, I should also commend Victoria’s Secret, who has actually made underwear the most exciting thing on earth, more exciting than Isabel Marant for H&M, for two full days a year — once when the show takes place in New York and another when it airs nationally in December. That they have successfully marketed these women as the sexiest of their kind and turned that into a public testimony for us to revel/languish in takes a certain skill set.

See, one thing still remains, though. When it’s done, I just want to get up, go home and deal with my dirty socks.

REPLIES
  • Laura Mitchell

    I must own those bird feather strappy heels. Did Sophia Webster do the shoes for that segment? Also- WHY Taylor? Miley wouldve been so much more fun.

    • Sarah

      I don’t really get why they chose Taylor either (even though I like her) but Miley?? Really? No thank you. lol

  • http://nothingtowearnovello.blogspot.ca/ JennyNov

    I gave up paying any attention to the abs years ago. Its just not fair for “normal” women to be exposed to bodies like that. I’m now much more focused on the shoes. As the comment-er before me suggested, were those Webster’s??

    • jaclyn

      they are normal women, they just happen to have a job that means they spend more time looking pretty.

    • Stella

      I think the shoes were Nicholas Kirkwood?

  • Irene Laura
  • electrelane

    I just find the whole thing to be terribly tacky, and I’ve never been able to find anything I find worth spending money on in the stores. And I know how they get the abs; it’s a simple combination of starvation and exercise. It works for me every time!

  • Quinn

    I’m personally not a fan of the VS show. I feel incredibly body conscious which is normal for a teenager, but also dangerous at the same time. I wish I could brush it off as well as you do. However, you’re married. Coming to school the next day and all of us girls just feel the eyes of the males upon us. Judging us, wishing we were those “angels”. That’s the reason why I think girls aspire to be like these models.
    And lastly, VS does not have good quality bras for girls above a C cup!!!

    • jaclyn

      When was the last time a guy told you he would love it if you looked like one of them? guys would like you for who you are :) trust me!

      • http://www.anorexicescapades.com/ BougieHippie

        This is genius Jaclyn & true!

  • http://www.getmadcute.com/ MADCUTE

    Victoria’s Secret is garbage. I own better bras from H&M and F21.

    • rafa

      I’m not from the USA, and I never owned a VS bra. But I have to agree on the h&m bras… I have a beige one which I use like 5 days a week for over an year now, because it’s super comfy, and it’s still in one piece :)

  • Avery

    I feel the same way…the show and the accompanying self-conciousness feels impractical. I would disagree with those dissing the merchandise offered for the rest of us though, those are the softest and most supportive I have ever encountered as a C.

    http://wellbygeorge.blogspot.com

  • Amelie

    Oh gosh- loved this once again! You know the fantasy thingy, though? Charging $10mil is a bit overdone in my opinion (I saw it on Instagram!).

    The Neon Guava

    http://theneonguava.wordpress.com

    The Neon Guava

    http://theneonguava.wordpress.com

  • Valentina Anzola

    totally agree, you are an amazing blogger. I love your opinions and your humorous web site for serious fashion. I´m a fan from Colombia. YOU ARE AMAZING!!

  • 33

    I read on Yahoo Shine a quote that she wish VS could bottle up the models’ confidence and sell to the rest of us.

    If you really pause to think about it, regardless who ridiculously beautiful the models are, they more or less have their own insecurity and body issue to deal with (from being scritinized by casting agents during every booking).

    How they could strut out there full of sass and confidence is amazing to watch. They can rely on being an ice queen as on the regular runways. they have “make love” to the camera and to the audience. If it is acting, these models deserve a good pay from VS.
    Leandra you should interview the show’s casting director and ask what she/he sees to be a VS runway model? There are so many models out there but VS doesn’t just take anybody who’s a somebody. The top girls (angels) are there for a reason and they rarely vacate the spot without a good many years being one.

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    Just finished looking at Miranda Kerr’s amazing waist slimming photoshopped instagrams…what an excellent message to send to women – a level of thinness that even she can’t legitimately obtain http://fashin.livejournal.com/7066288.html and posing with VS models who did not happen to be photoshopped: http://radaronline.com/exclusives/2013/11/miranda-kerr-photoshop-instagram-smaller-waist/

    • Anya

      it’s kinda sad for a model to feel the need to photoshop instagram pics to that extent… i don’t use photoshop and i’m definitely not as thin as her.

  • disqus_kHkQi7Wx5N

    I’ve never taken VS version of sexy all that seriously. They make really ill fitting bras that I banned myself from wasting anymore money at their stores years ago. Too much padding and not enough coverage. If you’re a D cup you won’t need padding but you do want a bar that holds you in not give you 4 boobs. VS needs to spend more money on their bra designs not these excessive fashion shows.

  • Harper

    There’s a million reasons why I’m pro-feeling-sexy-as-all-hell and even acknowledging myself as a feminist who is okay with feeling sexy for my partner. Performance, yes. But some things aren’t worth theorizing or deserve an afterthought. Victoria’s Secret is one of those things. And I can give a million reasons why from all kinds of lenses, but it’s a waste of my time. And nothing would make me happier than an innovative, truly confident building icon and writer of fashion to be the damn black sheep for once and say, “got better shit to do.”

  • Annie

    I’ve gotta say: this was an incredibly well articulated piece and though I hadn’t thought the matter through before reading, I found myself nodding along. Do get a handle on that laundry situation though.

  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    It looks like a beautiful show, but it’s too bad those gorgeous peacocks have to starve themselves to look the way they do.

    Mafalda ❤
    http://www.mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr

  • Elisa Taviti

    Love this post!!

    Elisa – My Fantabulous World

  • Vera

    I’m a university student that lived with a gaggle of male friends last year. When asked if they would like to watch the show with me, they responded with horror and disgust and various comments about how skinny and scary the models are. They preferred to watch the Kate Upton cat-daddy video on repeat.

  • Linnéa

    I love that you put a more critic view than many others do on the fashion business and shows like the VS. It feels like you make it such a simple choice: why have abs when I can have ice cream?

  • Skye

    I feel like I just looked through the results of a “sexy Halloween costume” search on Google. I don’t get excited about VS or its show because really is there anything inspirational in VS? The art and effort appears to be in the wings, the rest can be found at Spencers or any old erotica shop on the corner.

  • Lucca

    I hoped for something so much better from the man repeller herself. I thought you would do you want your lang education always told you to. I liked that you picked up on the actual objectification of women in theses shows but it seemed like you were holding back. It seems like more of a sponsored piece then your actual thoughts.

  • Joel Harris

    hot damn!!!

  • http://b-tg.tumblr.com/ Colleen Garrity

    It was a big deal when VS started doing a fairly racy catalogue in the early 80s, and I always felt like this “fashion show” was just another attempt to make the lingerie seem like a part of some high end and unattainable life.

  • Aubrey Green

    I love the VS models, but I also love women that are not VS models too; model type, or not. Everyone has insecurities, even they do – they are paid to look good and have professionals making them look THAT good.

    I saw Alessandra Ambrosio at American Rag, I only knew it was her because I love the VS models, otherwise she just looked like an everyday type of girl in boyfriend jeans and a t-shirt. What stood out the most was the fact that she is so tall, that’s about it. This isn’t to say she wasn’t pretty, cause she still was, but it’s not as if the VS models go around looking like the bombshells they are made up to be ALL the time.

    Leandra is just as beautiful as they are, even though she isn’t paid, or made up to be, or look like one of them. We’re all beautiful and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No one should expect anyone to look like that. To the commenter who said something about guys thinking that we need to look like them – I don’t know if that’s true, if a guy really thought, or said that, a. don’t be with him and b. tell that guy he needs to look like/be David Beckham.

    I’m sure men have the same type of insecurity as we do, there’s is just about Brad Pitt, David Beckham and the like.

    I wish we didn’t have to feel that we need to compare ourselves to other women. Focus on what is beautiful about yourself and that’s what everyone else will focus on and think is beautiful about you too; be that your eyes, your hands, your lips, your intelligence, etc.

  • Rhian

    I am fascinated by these models and how they train rigorously to get to their goal weight for the runway shows. I love the Dubai VS store as well it is truly divine xxx http://www.rhiancheyne.blogspot.co.uk

  • jujubean

    ‘Is this some sort of interactive theater art piece?’

  • chasinglou

    I like to imagine this table setting is by you:

    http://thedecorista.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/pink-Xmas2.jpg

  • Isabelle

    It’s so true, during the shows they usually zoom in on the men’s reactions and on the women who are jealous. What is it supposed to mean? VS claims that they help bring confidence to women but honestly I sit there and with no makeup watching the show and feel fat and blow snot into a handkerchief from crying about their perfection. It’s a man’s show, not a woman’s.

  • http://www.margojewelry.com Margo

    Where do I start; Sad to say that objectifying women is a major sport and seems to be here to stay. And I really don’t get the angel thing. Do men just want us to be dead, beautiful angles in heaven so that THEY have something to look forward to when they die? These models represent the unrealness of this industry. And the unrealistic expectations expected of women. To say that this does not influence society is nonsense. Should we care. Yes. But not about underwear or the fact that most of us will never look like those models. We should care about the prevalence of the maltreatment of women the world over. That’s what I think of when I see a VS show or advertisement. And by the way the quality of the merchandise has gone way downhill. margojewelry.com

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