The first time I was in a Victoria’s Secret, I purchased a “gift” for my husband. At that time the store appealed to adult women and the lingerie could be quite bawdy. I chose a see-thru push-up bra “teddy” with a killer thong. Later that evening, during a lovely candlelit dinner, I found the undergarments so uncomfortable even I couldn’t wait to get home to take them off!
Over the years, VS has transformed their image to appeal to a younger crowd. Whenever I have crossed their threshold to buy a gift for my daughter, the salesgirls looked at me as if I was an ancient relic since I am the age of most of their mothers. I have to admit to having a drawer full of bikini and French cut undies, but only one thong “won” at a silent auction. Whenever I have considered buying their tiny panties, I would pick one up to examine it, shake my head, and set it back down into the bin of other colorful tiny panties. Since it is usually the first display in their store, I have always left before making my way to the bras.
One night my husband and I were invited to a party. I flipped through the dresses in my closet and found one I had been too shy to wear because of its plunging neckline. Realizing that décolletage is very much in style, I stuffed my push up bra, took a deep breath and slipped on the dress. I joined my now wide-eyed husband, held my head high and didn’t look down. Once I arrived, I received a few comments relating to the fact that I had exposed my curves.
“In order for me to have any cleavage at all, I need to stuff these pads into my bra.” I fished them out to show my girlfriends.
My more knowledgeable friend said, “They should look like this!” She grabbed either side of my boobs, pushed them together and continued, “All you need is a Victoria’s Secret bra. They have one that really smooshes them together.”
Well enough said. The following week, I crept into a VS filled with teenagers and twenty-somethings as usual. With hip-hop music blaring, I scanned the predominantly pink space for the elusive bra. A youthful blonde salesclerk asked, “Are you looking for something in particular?”
I looked around not sure if she had been addressing me since the store was packed with shoppers. “A bra that smooshes my boobs together,” I responded quoting my friend.
“Do you want one that makes you 2 sizes larger?” she said rather loudly.
“No,” I replied and instantly my face heated up like a stove burner on a high setting. “I would just like some cleavage,” I mumbled.
“I think you are looking for our ‘Very Sexy’ bra.” After showing me a few wild patterns and colors, I settled on an unadorned black bra. It looked harmless enough.
I stepped into the fitting room and took off my t-shirt and sweater. I looked at myself topless in the mirror and thought, “Don’t expect miracles. I’m over 50 years old and nursed both children. Even when I was in my twenties, my breasts were never perfect.” I couldn’t find an adjustment for the straps, so I assumed they had been let out already. I know that my breasts have slid down my chest a bit since I was a teenager, but I could barely get the straps over my shoulders. “Ouch!” I thought, “They must want them really short to force women’s breasts up to their neck! Jeez! No amount of cleavage is worth this amount of pain.”
When I marched out of the fitting room, the clerk working with another customer asked, “How did you like it?”
“The straps are way too short for me,” I said as I handed her the tortuous contraption.
I felt her restrained eye-roll when she responded, “All of our bras are adjustable.” She simply slipped both straps out and handed it back to me with a tilt of her head and a smile as she spun around to continue with the other shopper.
Now my cheeks really burned, but I turned around and paced back in to the dressing room for round 2. I could almost hear the bell ring.
With the straps at the proper length (Duh!), I put on the bra and looked into the mirror. That is when I had a moment when the pounding music ceased, an intense spotlight enveloped me from above and angels (Victoria’s Secret Angels?) began to sing “Aaaaaahhhhh!”
‘Oh, my God!” I remarked out loud as I smiled at my reflection in the full length mirror. I looked good. No I looked great! Amazing!
An actual Victoria’s Secret Angel
I floated out of the dressing room to the register and made my very first personal Victoria’s Secret purchase since the early 1990’s.
Driving home it occurred to me that these bras are wasted on the young. As some women over 40 know, our baggy, saggy, skin can be molded into whatever shape Victoria wants. Our aging breasts just need direction and encouragement. All we have to do is bend over and tuck them in.
The VS image has changed drastically from its inception in 1977. Roy Raymond started the company to make it comfortable for men to buy lingerie for their lady friends. Every bra company tried to knock off the Wonderbra after it was designed in the 1990’s. The VS Miracle Bra quickly took the lead leaving its competitors in the dust and now I know why.
Untouched photo of Helen Mirren by Jason Fraser
I think that Victoria’s Secret should change its image once again, this time to include a wider range of consumers. In the future, commercials could air with stylish middle-aged ladies modeling the bras. Christy Brinkley could come out of retirement along with Cheryl Tiegs, Iman, and Cindy Crawford. What about Helen Mirren? Some report she is 63 years old and others say 66, but either way she won the “Body of the Year” award in LA! And why stop there? What about a runway show? Replace Justin Timberlake and Black Eyed Peas with Sting or Mick Jagger! They can help us “bring sexy back” too!
This could be revolutionary. All women could benefit. It could also triple the amount of money Victoria’s Secret makes annually.
The next time you are strolling by VS hold your head high and enter the pink store. Elbow your way through the crowd of teenagers and pick out something fun to try on. Maybe the Victoria’s Secret Angels will sing to you!
What do you think of the VS image?
Do you think it should change to be more inclusive?