Why I Stopped Shopping at Victoria's Secret

It’s that day of the year again.

The day where a bunch of women strut down a diamond runway in their skivvies with giant wings attached to their backs.

That’s right – it’s time for The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

I’m writing this Tuesday night (while the show is airing, though I’m not watching it), but I’ll be posting this tomorrow morning (or, if you're reading this, today).

Anyway!

If you don’t know what The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is, then I’m not sure whether to applaud you or ask whether you live under a rock.  It’s basically one of the biggest and most anticipated runway shows, and it airs on television to showcase all things Victoria’s Secret (AKA bras, panties, and very stereotypically sexy ladies).

Let me begin by saying that I actually worked at Victoria’s Secret for several years in high school and college (as a sales associate and Bra Expert – yes, Bra Expert is a real title).  I also use to watch the VS Fashion Show – I looked forward to it.  I loved the extravagant wings and I’d always loved Vicky’s lingerie (I spent every paycheck I ever made in that store while employed there).  I own every color of PINK (a section of Victoria's Secret that's caters to younger women/girls) sweatpants and my underwear drawer is full of VS goodies (I literally have over 200 pairs of skivvies…TMI?  Sorry, not sorry.).

But the longer I worked there, and the older I got, the more I realized that Victoria’s Secret has some serious issues.

First and foremost, they cater only to the most generic sizes.  AA to DD – nothing bigger in cup sizes, and nothing bigger than a 40 (which is NOT big – this is the measurement under the bust).  As far as panties go, XS to XL…that’s it.  And in terms of fancy lingerie – the bustiers and corsets and sexy little ensembles – there are even fewer size options.  As a 34A, I could never find a sexy lingerie set that fit my itty bitty boobies.  They started at 34B.  This always bothered me – why shouldn’t gals with little breasts have lingerie options too?

And I can’t tell you how many times I had to tell women – very normal sized women – that we didn’t have a bra big enough for them.  Or that we didn’t carry pajamas in an XXL (or even an XL most of the time).  The size limitations frustrated me – I hated having to turn women away.  I know what an amazing difference a good bra or cute panties can make in a woman’s life.  I also know that sounds silly, but I’m being 100% serious.  I watched women light up when they finally found a bra that fit – that felt good and made them feel confident.   It was so amazing to help give women that little boost of happiness.  But it absolutely sucked having to deny other women that joy.

Several years later and much more of a feminist, I look back on my time at Vicky’s and am even more upset.  I haven’t been in a Victoria’s Secret in about half a year, but last time I stepped inside I took notice of all the pictures.  Images of long, lean, busty but skinny models with flowing hair and flat stomachs (no different than when I'd worked there several years prior).  I checked on the sizes in stock.  Same lack of diversity.  And I looked at the women wandering around and realized that most of them would not find their size in this store.

Then I consider the VS Fashion Show, a tribute to society’s “perfect” woman.  That tanned, toned beauty who fits into everything flawlessly.  Every single model has long, flowing hair.  Each has a perfect, glistening white smile.  Each is at least 5’8 and has a tiny waist, but still somehow manages to have voluptuous boobs.  These are the Angels, and they’re a physical representation of the ideal VS woman (and, for many people, the ideal woman in general).

I get it, they're all very pretty.  But they all look EXACTLY the same!  There is such an extreme lack of diversity, and that's problematic. 

I get it, they're all very pretty.  But they all look EXACTLY the same!  There is such an extreme lack of diversity, and that's problematic. 

This is absurd (obviously).  We all know that beauty and sexiness is so much more than any specific physical attributes.  But Victoria’s Secret seems loath to accept that.  And that’s depressing.  Because here is a retail behemoth that could make some serious change in the worlds of fashion and sex.  Why in the hell doesn’t Vicky’s diversify their fashion show?  Why don’t they sell larger (and smaller) sizes? 

I get so peeved every time I see the line up of VS models.  NONE of them have short hair.  In fact, the one year that Karlie Kloss rocked the runway with an adorable bob, people (read: men) freaked out and complained that she didn’t look as “sexy.”  She immediately got extensions.  There are also no women larger than a size 2 (I’m guessing here, but they all look teeny).  Underwear is not just for slender, long-haired ladies.  It’s for everyone for goodness sakes.  We all have bits and pieces to put in undergarments and we all deserve to feel sexy doing so (and not feel ashamed when we don’t fit into one store’s idea of beauty).

Yes, I do still own a lot of VS merchandise.  And I understand why people shop there - their stuff is cute and some of it is really well made.  However, I'm doing my best to limit my shopping at Victoria's Secret, and I certainly don’t watch the runway show.  I don’t want to encourage or contribute to a brand that is so blatantly exclusive and so predicable in promoting ridiculous, unhealthy stereotypes.

I also don't want to support a brand that blatantly supports (though I don’t think intentionally…at least I hope not) rape culture.  Vicky’s constantly has panties with messages like, ‘sure thing,’ and ‘ready for anything’ in their PINK line.  Um, okay.  Cool message VS.  Especially when this particular section of Victoria’s Secret (the PINK section) caters to adolescent/teenage girls. 

Such an inappropriate message to put on underwear marketed to young girls.

Such an inappropriate message to put on underwear marketed to young girls.

Look, I appreciate sexy underthings as much as the next girl.  I really, really love them actually.  I’m all about expressing one’s sexuality and being sexual and all that good, sexual stuff (that's a lot of 'sexuals').  But I don’t want to wear a g-string that says “sure thing,” on it.  And I certainly don’t want my 13-year-old cousin buying those.  It may seem overly dramatic to some that I’m upset over a pair of underwear with a ‘flirty’ message scrawled across the crotch.  But rape and rape culture is not something to take lightly, nor is it something I want to support – no matter how small or seemingly silly the perpetrator is.

Besides, there are so many awesome lingerie/underwear brands to buy from whose products are made for women of all shapes, sizes, and styles.  And they support feminism/consent/self-love.

Check out one or all of these awesome/feminist/inclusive brands:

Naja – This amazing brand of gorgeous, super soft, wonderfully made bras and panties is sure to make you feel comfy and pretty.  Naja has certain sizes listed, but if you don’t see your size they will absolutely make it happen!  Plus, this woman empowering brand “helps educate single mothers so that they can learn marketable skills.”  They go on to employ these ladies – awesome right?  Their undergarments are totally affordable, and they have an adorable line of ‘Cheeky Knickers,’ which have all sorts of fun and funny graphics (I want the sundae panties).  http://instagram.com/najagal

So super cute!

So super cute!

Feminist Style – These panties are all about feminism.  With grrrl-power statements like ‘let’s talk about sex,’ and ‘only yes means yes,’ these skivvies are a welcome change.  Plus they have a wide range of sizes and the underwear are super duper cute.  Their message is“Let’s shift our culture from sexually objectifying women to encouraging communication and consent!”  Amen!    https://www.facebook.com/FeministStyle

Sexy and empowering!

Sexy and empowering!

Dear Kate – Dear Kate is another incredible underwear brand.  These undergarments are extra special in that they have a “silky-soft, patent-pending fabric,” and each pair is “wicking, stain releasing, and leak-resistant,” meaning you can toss out your old period panties and have stylish undies all month long.  And their newest line is called the “League of Ladies,” and each pair of panties features a badass gal (like Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, or Amelia Earhart).  The women behind this brand are adamant about providing comfort and style to ladies of all styles and shapes.   http://instagram.com/dearkates

This picture was a response from the ladies of Dear Kate to an add from Victoria's Secret.  The VS add showed an array of tall, skinny, boobalicious, long haired, predominantly white models in their underwear, with the words 'The Perfect Body' written across them.  The Dear Kate team decided to create this gorgeous and amazing photo in response.

This picture was a response from the ladies of Dear Kate to an add from Victoria's Secret.  The VS add showed an array of tall, skinny, boobalicious, long haired, predominantly white models in their underwear, with the words 'The Perfect Body' written across them.  The Dear Kate team decided to create this gorgeous and amazing photo in response.

So ladies (and men), I urge you to turn off the VS fashion show.  I encourage you to buy your lingerie from brands who really, truly support women and women’s rights.  Put your boobs and bum in products that empower women of every kind and support grrrl power!

XOXO!

Androgyny

I came across an article on www.bust.com (an awesome, grrl-centric website) about model Erika Linder and her gender bending photographs for Crocker by JC Jeans Company (check out the photos here).  Not only is she stunning as a woman, but Linder looks just as striking as a man.  It’s incredible.  And it’s truly refreshing. 

Granted, there’s still a huge lack of diversity in the world of modeling/advertising/etc. and a lack of progressive models (LGBT for example), but this is SO a step in the right direction.  Androgyny is amazing, and it’s something I’m eager to embrace.  As you may or may not know, I recently cut my hair pretty short – and plan on cutting it shorter.  At first, the thought of having hair that wouldn't even go into a teeny tiny ponytail scared me.  I’ve mentioned before how much I depended on my hair extensions to feel sexy and feminine - I'd always associated beauty with long hair.  

Welp, I can honestly say my opinion has changed completely.  I still think long hair is sexy, but I realize now that I was wrong to think short hair couldn’t be appealing and beautiful too.  In fact, I’m sort of obsessed with androgyny right now and love the fact that I can embrace the boyish look (throw some baggy shorts and a baseball cap on me and I transform into a 14 year old boy).  There’s something so liberating and blissful about letting go of insecurities and standard notions of beauty.   I’ve come to realize - and appreciate - that beauty and sexiness are much more than the ideas I used to adhere to.  And it goes without saying that beauty, sexiness, etc. are ultimately about faaaar more than your looks – it's about what’s on the inside.  But that's a given (as cheesy as it sounds!).  However, appearances do play a huge role in our society – we base so much of what we do, how we look, and what we pay to look a certain way on the general population’s opinion of “attractive.”  So, I figure why the hell conform to one ridiculous notion of beauty when I can shake things up a bit instead? 

Since cutting my hair I get the strangest – and coolest – kinds of reactions.  I’ve met so many unique and interesting people since shearing off my locks of blonde hair – people are intrigued and interested in the statement I’m making – and that statement is simply that I’m being myself.  I know it may sound silly to rave this much about a haircut, but seriously, it’s changed the way I look at beauty/myself/the world.  Plus, it’s deeper than the sassy, cotton candy colored hair; it’s the confidence, happiness and uniqueness I’m exuding that makes a difference.  I’m no longer concerned with fitting a typical mold of femininity or “hotness” – I want to illustrate that different is attractive, and that being YOU – whoever that may be – is what’s truly beautiful.

So dress and style yourself in a way that makes you happy - whether it's in purple skinny jeans, cozy sweat pants, oversized tee shirts and heels, makeup/no makeup, tutu's and Birkenstocks, jump suits or dress suits, WHATEVER.  Just do you!

And, inspired by Erika Linder, I did a mini-photoshoot embracing my own brand of androgyny.

XOXO!

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Grrrl Talk

After 24 years of life, I’ve heard just about every complaint a woman can have about her body.  Whether it was from my best friends, girls in my sorority, family members, or complete strangers, I’ve heard women say a lot of terrible things about themselves – myself included.  A vocabulary of hate/disgust/shame is practically handed to us on a silver platter as girls, and most ladies will – at some point in their lives - use this dialog to bring themselves down.  Self-degradation is so ridiculously common; even some of the strongest, most confident women I know berate themselves for not being skinny enough, having bad skin, having weird boobs…the list goes on and on and on.  When we don’t live up to the images we see online, in movies, in magazines, in our own minds, we become destructive – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 

A few things I have a history of beating myself up over:

My hair

My boobs

My figure  - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished for the bodies of my curvier friends!

 

Things I’ve watched beautiful, wonderful women beat themselves up over:

Their thighs, hips, and booty

Their skin, freckles, and birthmarks

Their hair

 

We then take these traits and smash them together with things viewed as “negative.” 

Thin, bland hair

Small boobs

Boyish, stick-like figure

Thighs that touch, large hips and a big booty

Pale skin

Dark, mousy brown hair

 

You get the idea. 

But my question is – why the hell are all of these attributes (and other traits) seen as negative?  Because some super model on a magazine cover has thick, blonde hair, a tiny waist, ginormous breasts, and perfectly tanned skin?

Who made that the ideal image of beauty?  Who decided on that?  The consumers?  The male population?  Women?  The magazine’s editor?

I don’t care who it was/is.  What matters is that WE make the decision to stop viewing a very narrow selection of attributes as beautiful.  Big hips are just as positive and beautiful as a more boyish frame.  Blonde hair, brown hair, purple hair – it’s all fucking rad.  

It devastates me that women attach so much negativity to the very things that make them beautiful.   I hate hearing girls lament their so-called “flaws” – hell, that self-degradation makes up a good portion of most gals conversations.  If I had a kitten for every time my girlfriends and I sat around and mourned all the things we hate about ourselves I’d be a crazy cat lady by now (which would actually be fine since I love cats).  Besides, shouldn’t we be putting a heck of lot more emphasis on what’s on the inside?  Why can’t we sit around and talk about how emphatic, hilarious, and quirky we are? 

So, along with my mission to make February a month of self-love, I also want to make an effort to stop the trash talking.  Whenever I feel the urge to say something bad about myself (or anyone else for that matter), I’m going to stop myself and replace it with something positive.

I’m hoping that – by the end of the month – I’ll have replaced the hurtful habit of berating myself with a new vocabulary of positivity and confidence.

I’m going to start right now and list three fabulous things about myself:

My pink hair is totally fun and cute and suits my personality.

My legs have gotten super strong from working out and taking barre classes.

I’m opinionated and sweetly fierce – I’m not afraid to stand up for my beliefs!

 

Okay, your turn!

XOXO!

(The following photos are actually from several different shoots.  I did a whole photo spread called "Glamour Kills" in college, and when I stumbled across those photos earlier, I realized that they'd fit together perfectly with several pictures I took earlier this year - and this post.  I think they capture the desperation we, as women, often feel to fit a certain "desirable" and "beautiful" mold, and the sadness and self-loathing that occur because of such permeating, damaging ideas.)

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Selfie

So there have been quite a few Dove videos making the rounds on the internet lately, but the one released yesterday is probably my favorite.  Dove has, for a while now, been a proponent of "real" women - AKA not the stereotypical female form that we are constantly bombarded with via media.  Their new campaign #Beautyis has been making a pretty powerful impact.

This particular video, titled "Selfie" (and created in partnership with the Sundance Institute), presents a group of high school girls (real girls, real footage) who are encouraged to create and embrace new ideas of beauty - through the selfie.  I could go on and on about the video, but you should probably watch it first: 

Pretty amazing right?  "The selfie" hadn't erupted onto the scene yet when I was in high school (back in the olden days of the early 2000s), but I remember facing pressures similar to the one's these young women face, and feeling like I didn't live up to the "ideal" image of beauty.  We hear several of the girls in this video discuss the things that they try to hide when taking a selfie: bigger arms, fluffy hair, not smiling because of braces, etc.  Even though I wasn't snapping selfless with an iPhone, anytime anyone took a photo of me I would smile with my mouth closed.  I've had a lot of dental work done over the years, and it took a very long time for me accept that my smile is, in fact, beautiful.  Likewise, I always wore a pushup bra (until, like, six months ago when I finally fell in love with my A cups).  I had countless insecurities as a teenage girl, and if selfies had been all the rage during my high school years, I can only imagine what lengths I would have gone to to present myself the way society seemed to demand.  Hell, to this day I tend to only take selfies in flattering light, with my makeup on, and definitely not when my skin is acting weird.

But this is where Dove's campaign - and this video - come in.  Instead of viewing the things that make them different as "flaws," the girls are encouraged to put an emphasis on their insecurities when taking a selfie.  The results are inspiring and touching.  One girl puts it perfectly when she says, "The things that made them (the young women) different made them unique, and that's what made them beautiful."  Amen sister!  I don't know when society stopped viewing our unique differences (both physically and otherwise) as beautiful, and decided that airbrushed tans, perfectly coifed hair, and a whole lot of other generic bullshit equalled beauty.  What makes you unique is WHAT MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL.  Bigger arms?  Beautiful.  Giant, puffy lion's mane hair?  Beautiful.  Little, perky boobs.  Beautiful.  You?  BEAUTIFUL.

Of course, your looks aren't what truly make you beautiful - your personality, your laugh, your determination, your sense of humor, etc. are what true beauty is made of.  And I know people have taken issue with Dove's commercials for focusing primarily on the physical aspect of things, and I agree that more time could be spent extolling girls' intelligence, their interests, and more.  But the cool thing about this video is that it's these girls' personalities that shine through when they talk about what makes them different and as they begin to overcome stereotypes and insecurities.  There's obviously a lot more to beauty than appearances, but I'm so thankful that Dove is doing something to combat the ridiculous and damaging ideas about female beauty.

So go ahead, take a selfie and embrace what makes you you.  Let's redefine beauty because, honey, you are beautiful inside and out.

XOXO!

The selfie I took this morning with no makeup, no weave, no nothin'!

The selfie I took this morning with no makeup, no weave, no nothin'!