Monday, January 25, 2021

Can Victoria’s Secret Help You Love Your Body?

March 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Body Image

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?


31 Responses to “Can Victoria’s Secret Help You Love Your Body?”
  1. Meems says:

    The bras are available in sizes 32A-40DD, which is a fairly good range of sizes.

    Based only on anecdotal evidence, I don’t think that’s at all a good range of sizes, particularly because VS doesn’t actually carry a 32DD or a 40A or B in most styles. I wear a 32G/34FF, which is a fairly common size among women who have been properly fitted (based on discussion with a friend who used to work as a bra fitter at Bravissimo in the UK), but is nearly impossible to find in most US lingerie stores.

    VS won’t ever help me love my body unless they start carrying a far broader selection of sizes in bras and lingerie.

  2. love2eatinpa says:

    first of all, while i give VS an “A” for the effort of trying to get on the ‘love your body’ bandwagon, i think they would need to show more ‘real’ looking women in their ad campaign. the women they are showing are not reality which makes it hard to identify with them.

    as far as shopping, i mostly prefer to do it on-line. i’m an embarassment to all females – i hate shopping. i have found retailers that work for me are gap and lands end. Nine times out of ten when i order from them, the item fits. there are always coupons for discounts and/or free shipping too.

    • CandiceBP says:

      I don’t think liking shopping is a female thing – I know tons of women who hate shopping. I hate to shop with anyone – I’m strictly a solo shopper, so I’ll never been one of those women you see in a group, all shopping and giggling together (or is that just a cliche?).

      I miss shopping at the Gap. It was my favorite store to shop in before I gained weight back.

    • "Julia" says:

      I abhor shopping. The one type of store I am content to spend hours in is the kind that sells me more books than I legitimately have time to read.

      Maybe it’s just because all the other kinds make the shrinking violet, body dysmorphic, eating disordered majority of my brain cells scream in terror.

      • CandiceBP says:

        If only clothes shopping could be as wonderful as book shopping – I agree. (There’s a reason the tag line on my personal blog is “I dream of having the time to read all the books I own.”) 🙂

  3. I am not a VS woman and, no matter how many pounds I lose, will never be. I don’t need to squeeze myself into lingerie designed to look amazing on models. These days we are encouraged to alter our body to fit the “norms” of society. How many young women are subjecting themselves to needless cosmetic surgery? The numbers are astounding, especially here in south Florida.

    I like to shop in stores that leave me to figure out things on my own and help me when I ask for help.

    • CandiceBP says:

      That’s how I like my stores, too, but I find it impossible to find any like that. Either I’m asked every 30 seconds if I need help (AUGH, leave me alone!) or I’m completely ignored, as in not even any eye contact with store help. I rarely find a store in the middle.

  4. Nell says:

    I have to carry the VS torch a little here. I’m a 32A/34A in VS- a 34AA in most other brands. VS very sexy invisible bras manage to make what little bust I have look good. Most other bras I’ve tried on are either scratchy (lace), push-up beyond belief (looks ridiculous), cut off my air supply if they fit the girls, or hang loose. So for me and my figure, VS carries the right bra.

    I also really like their panties and underwear in general. They fit in a way that make me love my body. Plus, comfy cotton that looks sexy! (I really, really don’t do lace. Never, ever!)

    OK, so I’m firmly straight-sized and have an hourglass figure if you squint, ignore the muscle, and are having a good day. Still, VS bras are top of the line in comfort for me, and the best thing? I’ve been measured there so I’ll just walk in, point at colors, they tell me what styles they’re available in that are on file for fitting me and I walk out again carrying a couple bras. I’m another no-shopping-unless-you-force-me-or-unless-it’s-done-in-five-minutes person, so this is perfect for me.

    As for the campaign, until a couple years ago VS models were sort of the ideal look for me. I did acknowledge that neither I nor 99.99% of women on this planet will ever look like that, but in a world where skeletons wore clothes meant for humans they were a refreshing, sporty, femme look. Nowadays I’m not so sure- this photo sort of reinforces that impression again. “Love your body” is a great slogan and might expand their target customer base, but show us some bodies to love that we might see in RL and I’ll be convinced. Until then, you have my business but not my respect, VS.

  5. Bionic Librarian says:

    After having undergone a breast reduction, I had high hopes of being able to shop in cute bra stores only to have my hopes dashed. I even then lost some 75 pounds. I now sit as a full 32F cup bra. I have realized that cutesy bra shops don’t work for me and honestly so many of the staff are not well trained to size properly – I love the ones that tell me I should wear a 40B! (I have not be a B cup since I was 11). I now shop at true specialty bra shops where I pay a small fortune for each one (about $80-100 CND) but I have high quality bras that fit me beautifully and I get really great service by women that do not treat me as a freak because I am big.

    VS promotion is nice on the surface but doesn’t really speak to the average woman if you ask me.

  6. Brandie says:

    You can put me into the not impressed with their “effort” column. The way this campaign reads to me is that they are continuing to perpetuate their standard of beauty. If they had some girls up there who were say, larger than a 4 I MIGHT be swayed… but they don’t, so I chalk it up to just another marketing campaign.

  7. balanceinbites says:

    Just note that even those of us who can shop at VS still feel the same way. Perhaps I shouldn’t…. but I still feel like crap in the VS dressing room. I’ll never look like one of them. I have rolls, I have a stomach… it makes me feel like crap. I might be able to throw on a 34D bra but I definitely look NOTHING like them. Throw in a couple “plus” or “normal” sized models into the mix in that banner, and maybe I’ll want to read what they have to say about “loving your body.”

    Not impressed.

  8. Emily S. says:

    I love how the first category under the main image is “Miraculous Push-Up instantly adds 2 cup sizes!”

    So love your body, unless your boobs are too small, or too big, or you’re just all over too big.

    Okay, scratch that. Love your VS Body Bras, and love men’s bodies. And love the bodies of our models, and aspire to be one.

    I also was so excited to visit a VS after my first (and second) breast reduction, hoping that this time I would fit. For a store that sells primarily bras and underwear, in a country where the average cup size is a C, it’s a shame they choose to only offer up to a D cup in most of their bras, and the occasional DD (usually only in larger band sizes).

  9. 1noelle says:

    I have a very dysfunctional relationship with VS that sways back and forth from love to hate. My drawer is full of their bras that were purchased but rarely worn after I finally came to grips that the bras were not magical and would not make me look or feel like one of those models.
    One the other hand, when I purchased smart, right fit, right fabric and clear head….I have found the bras very comfortable and appropriately supportive.
    I also agree with Nell, I do love their panties from fit, fabric and fashion.

    The campaign “Love Your Body”….Mine or theirs or….the guys? I am going to guess this campaign was really intended for the male market because why else would the models be referencing what they like in men?

    VS missed the mark on this campaign 100%. VS does not cater to the plus size women, which by the way is the majority of our population today. If I were an executive with VS I would strongly consider designing a line for the majority. Can you imagine the revenue that would pour in?

    If this line existed I would have wanted to recruit someone like Marilyn Monroe or Anna Nicole Smith, women who embodied busty, bodacious, beauty!! Sure a little tortured but aren’t we all?


    • Emily S. says:

      I would love to see them expand their size range – particlarly given that they aren’t exactly a high fashion brand that has a no-fatty reputation to “protect”, it seems they would have nothing to lose. And it wouldn’t even necessarily have to be a “plus sized” section – bra sized don’t always correlate with pant size.

    • CandiceBP says:

      Excellent point. I always wonder why designers don’t cash in on the “average” sized market (i.e. what they think of as plus-sized). I agree that revenue would indeed pour in, but there seems to be some basic opposition to thinking of average and larger women as sexy. *grumble* Except, as Emily says below, it doesn’t even need to be seen as “plus-sized” since many women have larger breasts on average or smaller frames. So… I don’t know what their problem is.

      • Emily S. says:

        If you spend any time looking at ads for Freya or Fantasie of England bras, you know there is PLENTY of sex appeal to be found in larger women!

  10. Shelly says:

    Can VS help you love your body?

    with that poster? um, no.

  11. tom brokaw says:

    Since I have neither the talent nor wherewithal to be a pro basketball player, I am deeply offended by nike’s marketing campaigns, most of which feature models gifted with superlative athletic skill, in other words “unreal” spokesmen to which I cannot possibly relate.

    Until nike features more people like me, people with roughly 1/100 the athletic talent of Lebron James, the company will not have my respect. I can’t possibly judge the company’s products based on the products’ merit.

    Sounds stupid, no?

    • CandiceBP says:

      Actually, no, I don’t think it sounds stupid. I am not a fan of celebrity endorsements and do often wish that athletic gear was advertised with a better range of body types. It’s just as frustrating to buy a pair of sneakers you like, only to find they don’t fit the width of your foot.

      But aside from that, both products (VS/Nike) are sold with the message that if you buy this product, you will look like this hot model/have that great jump shot. The difference is that men aren’t bombarded with messages daily that if they don’t have a good jump shot, they’re utter failures and don’t deserve to feel attractive. It’s a deep and important difference.

    • Nell says:

      Do these athletes face expectations of needing to surgically alter their bodies in order to perform their endorsements? I talked to a friend of mine who used to underwear model for catalogues during college and she told me flat out that people were given the option of “getting the silicone or getting out”.

      Plus, like Candice said: Are athletes used to induce a feeling of guilt and inferiority in customers while also proposing an- for lack of better rhetoric- indecent lifestyle? Are these athletes talking about what body part they prefer in women? Are they performing moves reminiscent of masturbation while showing off their “prowess”? Naw. Mostly sportswear is not marketed as “look, this is what you’ll never have! But you can dream of it while wearing us!” but as “look, here’s some awesome guy performing in us. If you wear us, you’ll feel just as awesome and who knows, you might be”. It’s a small but significant difference IMO.

  12. living400lbs says:

    I have seen a lot of overlap between Lane Bryant / Cacique styles and some VS styles. (They have the same parent company.)

    But then even Lane Bryant doesn’t carry For G cups in most of its stores — only the standalone Cacique stores.

  13. .C. says:

    My two cents, in brief:

    I had a similar attitude about VS, but when I went there they actually treated me really well.  They didn’t seem to be laughing at me for being fat and not looking like their models. I saw some larger girls working, too, as well as some average ones. My favorite bra is a VS bra. I

    Oh yeah, and I think it’s very telling that Tom Brokaw is the only man on here, and is the most ignorant one here. Instead of telling women why they are wrong to feel something, why not understand their point of view as women, a point of view you can never experience directly?


    • Meems says:

      My issue with them isn’t with how I’ve been treated by anyone who works there, because the store employees have been nothing but nice and helpful, and I do still buy panties there because I like how they fit. The reason I don’t think they can help me feel good about my body is simply because they don’t carry my (not-that-unusual) bra size. In fact, whenever I go in to get my free panties (I have an Angels card back from when I thought I could squeeze into a 34DD there, so I get cards for free panties several times per year) and they ask why I’m not also getting a discounted bra, I tell the employee that I’d love to buy bras there, but they don’t carry my size. You’d be surprised how many employees respond that VS doesn’t carry their size, either!

      Oh, and Tom’s a troll. He’s pretty innocuous as they go, but a troll nonetheless. Ignore him.

  14. Karen says:

    Why do we even care about VS? They are an overpriced, “designer” brand that is of no better quality than any of the other names, Maidenform, Bali, Warners, whatever. When I was a size 6, I still didn’t fit well into their stuff and now that I’m a 12, why even bother? No, I don’t love my body, but I’m working on it.
    Ads like that don’t help, but I try not to pay attention. Do you personally even know any women who look like that?

    • CandiceBP says:

      I do know women who look like that – and, of course, they look like that without trying. They eat what they want and don’t exercise. They look like that just as I look how I look by eating and moving how I do.

      And we shouldn’t care about VS, just as we shouldn’t care about any retailer out to sell their wares via a particular image… but for me it’s still hard to not feel the hit when I come across these ads. I’m working on loving my body, too, and you’re right – the ads don’t help.

  15. Lori says:

    I honestly think the last time I fit into a VS bra, I was about 13. I’m ridiculously well-endowed and my boobs will use any possible excuse to get bigger. I started out in about a 36F before I got pregnant with my son, went up 4 cup sizes while I was pregnant and nursing, and only lost one of them even after I got back to my pre-pregnancy weight. This pregnancy, I’ve only gained 10 pounds (I’m 1-1/2 weeks from delivery) but I still managed to go up 2 more cup sizes. So, I can barely find online retailers who sell bras in my size (36K); I can’t even imagine going into a store to buy a bra.

    I will give a shout-out to Decent Exposures. They rock! In fact, I just got two nursing bras from them today–after a really, really frustrating few months trying to find one single nursing bra that fits–and have been really comfortable for the first time in months. They are fantastic about having a wide range of sizes (and the bras are made to order, so I’m pretty sure they’ll work with you if you fall outside their advertised size range), and customizing pretty much every aspect of their bras to meet your needs. And, if you aren’t satisfied, you can send it back to be altered, and even after you’ve had the bra for a while, you can still send it back for adjustments for a small fee. They aren’t even remotely sexy, but they’re functional and comfy, which is really all I ask for at this point, especially in a nursing bra.

    I’ve heard a lot of stories of women being “fitted” at VS and told they needed a bra with a much larger band size than they actually should be wearing, so that the cups will fit. Because many women do need a cup size larger than a DD, but since stories usually don’t carry them, salespeople just try to get women to buy bras with a larger band (since the cups will be larger). In fact, IIRC VS has actually had size charts claiming that a size 34DD is equivalent to a 36D.

    It is NOT. Wearing a bra with a band that’s too big so that the cups will fit–and incredibly common problem–leave a woman without the support she needs, and can lead to back problems. I have never had an issue with back or shoulder pain, despite the size of my breasts, and while a lot of that is probably just how I’m built, I do think some of it is because I’ve always made sure the bras I’m wearing are actually the right size. VS is pretty notorious, from what I’ve read and seen, for pushing women into ill-fitting bras because they don’t carry their actual size, and that is just not good physically for women.

  16. skippy says:

    I’m a 34DD and it’s quite difficult to find bras in my size. I’ve only been to Victoria’s Secret once, and found only four 34DD bras in the entire store.

  17. Simone says:

    Wow, I never knew VS brought up such deep emotions for people! To me, they were always just another over-priced retailer, trying to sell some fake version of “sexy.”

    Personally, I could never find bras I liked there. It always seemed like most of the VS options were incredibly padded. No disrespect to the ladies who like a little padding, but really? A 34B is average, or just a bit smaller than average. I don’t need to wear prosthetic boobs every day to look hot, thankyouverymuch.

  18. Jacqueline says:

    I’m a bit late to the conversation, but I couldn’t help responding because I happen to have a lingerie obsession. Ask about any other area of fashion and I’m liable to shrug. At the risk of sounding like a snob, I really don’t see most of Victoria’s Secret’s underwear as especially sexy. I’m not alone. Not long ago I was writing flirtatiously to a man overseas and confessed my weakness for pretty lingerie. He wrote back, “You’re American. I hope you don’t think Victoria’s Secret is sexy.”

    The fact that so many women who take larger sizes are complaining makes me wonder who does fit into their bras. The few times I tried to shop there I felt insulted because they didn’t make any of their sexier bras in my size without pads. Their more practical bras come in my size as do padded ones. I don’t know if anyone followed the link, but one of the models admitted to wearing extra padding on the photo shoot. Apparently even their models don’t fit the body ideal they’re projecting.

    A couple of people said that they gave the company an “A” for effort because of the slogan “Love My Body.” I’d give them an “F” for fakers. They don’t even have enough faith in their slogan to shoot their commercial with out adding “man’s” between “my” and “body” nullifying their wan attempt at making women feel good about themselves. I can get pretty gaga over men’s bodies, yet the script was so flat I couldn’t even identify with that.

    The women sure are skinny. I felt as big as a house watching it. Did anyone notice that the models were scheduled to make an appearance “to chat with fans about the new styles and reveal what they love about their own bodies.” Would listening to these women talk about how they love their bodies make you love yours? It would probably make me feel worse about mine which makes me think that the people who thought up this advertising campaign are not only fakers, their lousy fakers.

    Sorry for being so long winded. Personally, I think these sorts of images are highly toxic.

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