This year’s performances saw Brit export du jour Ed Sheeran serenade the strutters, along with past show alumnus Taylor Swift, tiny-person-with-big-hair Ariana Grande and a frankly bemused Hozier taking to the stage too. Anyone who was anyone in the celebrity world scored a ticket and sat, essentially gawping at women in elaborate underwear. And overwhelmingly, the response from editors, journalists, bloggers, was – ‘I don’t think I’m okay with this’.
What were they objecting to? The opulence, the offensively lavish costumes, including not one but two Fantasy Bras, valued at $2,000,000 each? No one could disagree that that money could be put to better use. Or perhaps the sheer exclusivity; that despite a new location, the VS show was as elitist and closed off to us normal folk as ever. But of course, it was the very nature of the show that made some uneasy; women, dressed suggestively in very little, blowing kisses, winking and cavorting for an audience.
I can understand these reservations; were it not for the prestige, the legend and the wealth of the Victoria’s Secret brand, such a show might be held in a far less reputable venue than Earls Court with a lot less established models. The models themselves are key to the show. Known by first name, they often cross over into the high-fashion arena and suddenly embody a whole new persona for the VS show – Cara Delevingne, Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls have all graced the runway of late, pouting and strutting with the best of them. The brand ensures they are lauded as higher beings, super-humans, everything women should be and men want – and therein lies the issue. The show is simply an exhibition of everything men wish women were: long hair, eyelashes, legs and glossy lips, toned bodies and a playful disposition.
But beyond such cynicism, the reason I tune in year after year, is because the other side of the VS coin is a celebration of women, in all their glory. That’s not to say that such glory is confine to 5 ft 10, size 8 goddesses, but rather that women, all women, deserve their own show, and I find these women in particular to be quite inspiring. A large proportion are mothers, and train impossibly hard in anticipation for the show. And whilst such a regime is nigh on impossible to emulate without an Angel’s pay cheque and resources, you have to admire them, for wanting their bodies, lifestyles and personas to be so carefully honed. If you followed their hashtag #TrainLikeAnAngel, you’d see their lean bodies (and subsequent lingerie-clad confidence) are hard won.
So the VS Show might not be a display of women’s capabilities, their creativity (although the outfits are works of art), or their intelligence per se, all of which should be celebrated in their own right. But it is a celebration of determination and sheer strength, of being able to walk around in next to nothing for whomever cares to look and not feel a crisis of confidence or shame, and of what can be done with physical effort and discipline.