After all these years, I’ve finally discovered what Victoria’s Secret is: she is a 14 year-old hussy!
Let me backtrack a bit. I didn’t purchase anything from a Victoria’s Secret catalog or step a foot into one of their stores until I was in college. I had good reason not to: it was a grown-up store for grown-up women, and when I was a teenager, I just didn’t feel worthy yet. Shopping at Victoria’s Secret always seemed a passing into young womenhood. What a fantastical delight it was to visit a store in the early 90s – like taking a look inside a French mistress’ boudoir – what with the classical music being piped through lavender scented cream-and-peach colored interiors, and being greeted by well dressed, seasoned saleswomen with just the faintest hint of snobbery in their voices. And then there were the clothes. The core product of Victoria’s Secret has always been its lingerie but back then it was tasteful lingerie — the raciest pieces you’d see were garter belts. Thongs were non-existent, as well as any panties with “juicy” or “bootilicious” written across the backside. It’s the reason why, when I tried online dating for the first time in my 20s, I told men in my profile that I was a Victoria’s Secret type of girl rather than a Frederick’s of Hollywood. Most of them were smart enough to know the difference, and it was that difference that made VS stand out from its competitors. At the time, it seemed to be working.
Today, it’s impossible to tell the two franchises apart. The last time I was in a Victoria’s Secret store, it was overrun by a gaggle of gum popping, baggy pants assed teenyboppers – of both the customer and clueless salesgirl variety – and techno music vibrated the racks of raggy pajamas that look like they’ll disintegrate in their first wash. The entrance to the store, with its clear plastic mannequins and silver hardware, looks like the front door of an Amsterdam brothel, or a drag queen’s closet. The catalog – which relentlessly arrives in my mailbox every damn week (the amount of money this company must spend on direct mail and postage could fund over a dozen African villages) – is no better. Gone are the mature, healthy looking models and sophisticated clothing, replaced by the typical industry anorexic skeleton modeling camisole tops and cargo pants. VS seems to think that every potential female customer is a size 2, has enormous cleavage, lives in a tropical climate suitable for year-round sleeveless tops, and is about 14 years old.
If there’s one item of clothing that VS still excels at, it’s their jeans. I did manage to order the perfect fitting pair from their catalog for my birthday (a risk, since they charge significantly more for shipping than any other clothing chain I’ve bought from.) Even then, I had to weed out the numerous denim selections that either uplift your behind or fall off of it (is there no clothing manufacturer left in America that doesn't makes pants that don’t hang precariously from your hips?)
She’s a sneaky girl, that Victoria. She hipped up her image to attract the demographic that spends the most money, the clueless, Paris Hilton loving teenager who’s just discovered the meaning of the two words “credit card.” And it didn’t happen overnight so as not to offend its originally demographic – she slowly tore down the catalog and store bit by bit – until it nowhere near resembled a Victoria’s Secret for classy, mature women any more. Sneaky, but definitely not smart.