The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which aired Monday at 10/9 c on CBS, has never been particularly progressive when it comes to promoting body positivity. Despite complaints from several high-profile models, Victoria’s Secret has stubbornly refused to invite any plus-size models to walk in the show. In contrast with our current “woke” culture, this sort of fashion show seems like a bizarrely regressive meat parade.
And yet … the fashion industry has conveniently turned a blind eye to this fact for many years, and is more than willing to entertain the idea that the fashion show is somehow beneficial for women.
This became glaringly obvious when Vogue chose to cover the fashion show by doing a roundup of the “best” bodies that have walked the Victoria’s Secret runway.
On Monday, Vogue published an article entitled “The Best Victoria’s Secret Bodies of All Time, From Gisele Bündchen to Bella Hadid.”
The publication then posted the article on social media, saying, “It’s a tough job, but someone had to pick the best Victoria’s Secret bodies of all time.”
If the headline sounds cringe-y, the article itself doesn’t do much to help matters. Senior Beauty Editor Mackenzie Wagoner waxes poetic about the infamous female physiques used to draw viewers to the fashion show — the implication being that this notoriety somehow gives her license to pick and choose the “best” physical specimens from the VSFS pool of models.
“The annual runway spectacular … has become as much about its diminutive pieces of lace and silk as it is about the bodies that wear them,” she writes. “Their trademark limbs and abs (act) as their famously toned calling cards.”
Wagoner also implies that the fashion show’s increasingly impossible body standards are somehow a sign of progress.”As the show’s ratings grew, so did the onstage spectacles—most notably the wings, which seemed to require an increasingly fit breed of Angel to support their gravitational pull while gliding down the runway.”
While no one is arguing that Victoria’s Secret models are objectively beautiful (or that they satisfy a certain type of attractiveness highly valued by the media), the idea of sorting through these already ridiculously fit women and determining which bodies are the “best” seems creepy and perverse, particularly when it’s coming from a publication aimed almost exclusively at women. There is very little feminine empowerment to be found in such an article, and the conceit sounds more like banter overheard at a sports bar than an actual editorial pitch.
It’s enough to make one wonder if the idea was cultivated in a cultural vacuum, completely oblivious to the current news cycle.
Women on Twitter were equally baffled by the post, and wasted no time in voicing their displeasure.
While Vogue has apparently been totally unfettered by the negative response (the post is still live, as is the tweet), the backlash is just one of the many indicators that the fashion industry needs to reexamine its priorities. In a post-#MeToo world, women are far less willing to tolerate these blatant promotions of body-exclusivity, and are now emboldened to speak out against such casual sexism.
The public’s palate is changing, and fashion coverage can and must adapt with the times. Otherwise, it will continue to raise eyebrows — in a bad way.