With the news that Victoria's Secret is bringing back its infamous fashion show after it was cancelled in 2019, there have been a lot of mixed feelings. On one side, some fans are excited to see their favourite Angels return to the runway in all their lingerie-clad glory. And, on the other side, sits me and almost every woman in the world over a size 8.
After a star-studded relaunch in New York last week, VS announced to the world that the brand's fabled runway was to undergo a reinvention, via a 90-minute film. The Victoria's Secret World Tour, set to stream on Amazon Prime from September 26, supposedly exists to convince us all there's a new, more diverse Victoria's Secret afoot. I, for one, am not holding my breath.
Personally, I never really understood the appeal of the VS fashion show. How weird was it that an all-out ad for an underwear brand was seen as legitimate family television content at Christmas? And don't get me started on the pre- and post-show op-eds... like the breathless awe with which women's magazines covered dangerous crash diets the models divulged pre-show, or the post-show grossness about "eyeing Alessandra Ambrosio's ample bosom" and Bella Hadid's "little seductive dance". The whole thing always gave me the ick.
It was pure male fantasy fodder, mostly irrelevant to regular women who preferred to avoid synthetic G-strings that rendered any non-Adriana Lima-sized human a festive strapped ham. That they've never had a plus-sized angel on the runway until now, speaks to that irrelevance.
Predictable image overhaul
Recently they've tried to revamp their tarnished post-#metoo image with the addition of plus-sized, trans and older models — but reactions online called the marketing stunts performative. Down Under, the message was rammed home following a shocking 60 Minutes interview with Aussie angel Bridget Malcolm, who spoke about her "traumatic" time working for the company, and being dumped for putting on a mere half-inch around her hips.
Sure, the 12-minute trailer for the World Tour may feature more diverse models than we've seen before on the VS runway - but will this translate to the big event? Even the jewels in their new Angel-heavy crown were two white, thin nepo babies in Lila Moss and Iris Law.
The Victoria's Secret fashion show is coming back THIS year! pic.twitter.com/viL9k7am9r
— linda (@itgirlenergy) March 5, 2023
Shameful past can't be forgotten
Some of the prominent departures at the company in recent years should go some way towards making their case for a more socially aware VS. We finally saw an end to the publicly embarrassing ravings of controversial former L Brands CMO, Ed Razek, who departed in 2019, and a similarly controversial exit from former Victoria's Secret photographer Marcus Hyde, who was the subject of serious, wide-ranging sexual assault allegations.
Razek in particular had become a problem for Victoria's Secret, spouting transphobic nonsense to the press, and attempting to justify why they would never diversify their models while overseeing the 2018 runway show, which received its worst ratings on record. Next thing you know, Victoria's Secret was closing a whopping 53 stores in 2019 alone.
Rising from Victoria's Secret's ashes was Rihanna's Fenty, delivering delightfully diverse casting for the modern lingerie customer. Since then we've seen the shapewear industry's scope expand to embrace a broader range of consumers, with Skims selling $400 million in 2022 alone, and Lizzo releasing her own shapewear brand – including a genderless line — with Yitty.
Inclusivity for inclusivity's sake?
Before she was battling her own reputation issues, Lizzo slammed the return of the VS runway: "This is a win for inclusivity for inclusivity's sake... Do the CEOs of these companies value true inclusivity? Or do they just value money?"
So is there any room for a brand with a legacy like Victoria's Secret to exist in today's much more inclusive spaces? Or is the brand simply co-opting feminism in order to profit from women... again? One thing's for sure, I — along with many other women not keen on a parade of lingerie-clad performative inclusivity — won't be watching.
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