Can Victoria’s Secret Help You Love Your Body?
The uber-famous Victoria’s Secret bra/underwear/lingerie shop (do we even need to tell anyone what they sell?), has launched a new mini-collection of bras titled “Love My Body.” The photo here is one of the official photos for the campaign.
I’m torn in two directions about this campaign. Good on VS for trying to help us love our bodies . . . but, really – is Victoria’s Secret even capable of helping us love our bodies given what they market and who they market it to?
I’ll note that the models for the campaign are “featured in a video clip showing them writhing around and explaining to viewers what they love about a man’s body.” Talk about missing the point (sigh), but that’s a whole other topic – today we’re talking about shopping.
As a plus-sized gal (pre-gastric bypass), I was never able to shop in VS. They didn’t offer bras in my size, both in band width and cup size. After I lost weight following my gastric bypass, I thought, “A ha! Now I can shop there!” so one terribly hopeful day, I went in, had one of the intimidating (to me) salesgirls measure me (and appear boggled as I told her I had “absolutely no clue” what bra size I was because I recently lost weight). I grabbed five or six bras, and went into the dressing room to try them on, eagerly awaiting a moment of triumph.
But all I ended up with was tears. I stood in the dressing room, disgusted and depressed by how my rolls of skin now hung over the sides of anything I tried on. Nothing fit perfectly and nothing looked good to me. I hadn’t yet had my breasts reduced and lifted and no matter how I tried to mush them around into the cups of the bras, it didn’t work. Post breast-reduction, my breasts fit wonderfully into some cups (although not all, even if they were the same size) but I still had skin hanging over the sides and back of the band. I so desperately wanted a pretty bra to match how good I felt about my “new” body and how hard I was working to be in shape, but it was like VS was constantly whispering in my ear, “You’ll never truly be one of us. You weren’t born this way, so you can’t have this. No matter how hard you work, you will not have this.”
I’m reminded of those days as I look at that campaign photo above. I’m supposed to look at that photo and follow the directive to love my body? Easier said than done when most of what I’m exposed to tells me that I can’t unless my body looks like those bodies above (which it never will).
But good on VS for trying, I suppose. The bras are available in sizes 32A-40DD, which is a fairly good range of sizes. They wouldn’t fit me currently and wouldn’t have fit me pre-gastric bypass, but they would have fit me even after most of my post-breast reduction weight gain. And I’m proud to have gained some confidence following those old dressing room experiences. I don’t need a Victoria’s Secret bra to feel good about how I look in my underwear. Having had a brief period of my life where I could shop in most straight-size stores, I was able to realize that being capable of doing so doesn’t answer prayers or cause the clouds to part and the sun to shine on you. Sure, shopping becomes significantly easier and more rewarding when you have more options available to you (and generally more aesthetically pleasing options, at that) but if my bra is from a plus-size store or online retailer, so what? If the directive is to love my body, then I should be able to do that regardless of where I shop and where I’m excluded from shopping.
But I still walk past the Victoria’s Secret store at the mall or browse their website a bit wistfully. It would be easier if I could buy something there with confidence, knowing it was cute or sexy or beautiful, and therefore, so was I. It’s hard to shake that feeling, even if in my mind and heart I know it’s not true.
I, for one, am often flat-out ignored when I browse straight size stores, as if I’m invisible since I can’t possibly be shopping there for myself. I hate online clothes shopping because I like to see a garment in person and try it on and I’m way too lazy to constantly be ordering and then shipping things back. I recently bought my first pair of maternity pants and a couple of maternity shirts from the standard maternity store that had a weeeeee teeny tiny plus-sized section in the back corner of the store, by the restrooms (I kid you not). Now that I know how they fit, I will probably buy a couple of items from them online – but only because I don’t have much choice since the store didn’t carry much plus-sized clothing at all.
How do you deal with shopping? Have you found some retailers to be friendlier than others? Anyone find online clothes shopping to be a great reprieve or treat?