I remember the first time I ever stepped foot into a Victoria’s Secret store. It was 2013 and I was in New York having a peruse in some of the local shops in that area to see if I could find any decent plus size clothing to buy.
As well as being blinded by the sickly pink interiors, lingerie with extreme lace detailing featuring corny motifs you would find on any Pinterest board and brightly coloured body mists, I realised there and then that Victoria’s Secret was not a place that catered for me, my body type or my aesthetic.
The Victoria’s Secret fashion show has been running for 23 years and reportedly enjoys over 800 million viewers across 190 countries. But despite its popularity, it fails to adequately represent the audience it claims to serve. Every year we see the exclusion of plus bodies on the catwalk, and yet every year like clockwork, we still rally for the brand to show diversity and include plus-sized models, knowing that it will never come to fruition.
For many years after my trip to the Victoria’s Secret store in New York, I complained about the lack of sizing available for bigger bodies. I wanted to see myself represented by a company posed as the ‘Grand Puba’ of women’s fantasy lingerie. I too – tried to push for plus-sized models to be included on the catwalk, and once I started my foray into the self-love and fat acceptance movement, I sent emails to every and any US-based PR company and marketing agency associated with Victoria’s Secret I could get my hands on, proclaiming that bigger bodies deserved recognition too.
But, isn’t it time we stopped asking for a seat at the table? Why are we still begging for scraps from a brand who have never – and have never intended to – create lingerie for fat women?
Marie Denee, founder of plus size fashion blog The Curvy Fashionista(TCF) agrees. “It’s evident that Victoria’s Secret and various other brands do not want a piece of this 21 billion dollar pie, and that’s okay. Their shunning of plus size bodies and fashion has given way to brands and collaborations that rival with and speak to the plus size consumer and community. GabiFresh x Playful promises, Savage Fenty, Curvy Couture, and has pushed brands like Lane Bryant/ Cacique, Ashley Stewart, and even Monif C to bring the heat.”
The comments shared by CMO of Victoria’s Secret Ed Razek about the brand’s reasons for not including larger bodies on the catwalk are not surprising in the slightest, yet we as a plus community constantly seem to ask for validation from a show which is cast in part by a 70-year-old white man with archaic opinions about sexuality, women and clothing. Instead, we should be focusing on, and uplifting the brands who do make beautiful pieces of clothing for plus size bodies. Brands including Scantilly by Curvy Kate, Viva Voluptuous, Elomi, Figleaves, Pour Moi, Savage x Fenty, Lovehoney and Playful Promises all deliver beautiful, luxurious pieces of sexy lingerie that also promotes the ‘fantasy’ image that Ed Razek says plus women are incapable of having.
By us asking for bigger bodies on a catwalk that has time and time again denied us, it gives more power to Victoria’s Secret and further cements them as the authority in the industry for lingerie (even though it has been reported that sales have been dwindling year on year, going down by 45% this year alone). A bevy of new lingerie competitors from Adore Me to ThirdLove have also launched plus-size lines and are rapidly nipping at the heels of Victoria’s Secret — both, ironically, with the help of former Victoria’s Secret executives.
The constant craving for approval in this instance creates an almost untouchable aspirational ideology that in order to be seen as equal and attractive in our own right as plus-sized women, we have to have a plus size Angel on that particular catwalk. This way of thinking further decreases our fundamental right to co-exist as human beings worthy of love, desire and fantasy – which we totally and absolutely can be.
Another issue I find with constantly raising the issue – and it’s something I’ve been following closely for a few years now – is the obsessive call out by some plus size models about wanting to be included in the show, yet never actually referencing the fact that VS do not create plus size lingerie.
To me, it seems more of a display of ‘wanting to be the first plus-size Angel in order to get clout/viral fame’ as opposed to wanting a brand to change their size THROUGHOUT for the greater good and for inclusivity with customers of all sizes. I’m not into that. Surely if you were that passionate about wanting change from VS, you would mention the fact that they do not even do plus size lingerie first? Why – as a plus size model – would you want to represent a brand that doesn’t care about fat bodies? The math doesn’t add up.
The plus size community does not need Victoria’s Secret to cement our status as women who are capable of feeling sexy and desired after. We do not need a brand who frequently and consistently erases larger bodies to acknowledge us in order to feel validated. We already have brands that do that for us. As much as I will always push for inclusivity and diversity in all forms of creative media, I draw the line at trying to get through to the brands (especially heritage brands) who have heard our cries, yet refuse to want to do anything about it. It’s time we celebrate the brands who go out of their way to celebrate us. Let’s create our own wings.