Victoria's Secret: Not So Secret


By Grace Baldino, online editor
Ladylike, the all female group from Buzzfeed, released a video trying on historically accurate bras, including a Greco-Roman bra, the first patented bra, and a 1950’s bullet bra.
“I have respect for everyone who has helped to evolve the bra into something that made more and more sense with support and comfort,” said Freddie in reflection.
However, it seems to most buyers that the bra has not developed since the widely popular underwire bra was invented.
And the market leaders seem to be okay with that.
When walking into Victoria’s Secret, not only is someone hit by the scent of one too many perfumes being tested, but by the sheer scale of one bra store.
In recent years, however, Victoria’s Secret has seen a drop in customers that would seem to make the vastness of stores over exaggerated.
According to a CNBC article from February 8, perhaps the clearest sign of Victoria’s Secret falling out of fashion was the response to its latest annual fashion show, which was televised in December.
The event suffered the worst ratings in its broadcast history. Women, the target audience of the show, are showing a record low of interest in the pagentry of super models strutting down a catwalk. Instead of tuning in, women are increasingly shunning the idea they need to have a certain physique, as seen in movements such as the No Bra movement.
This includes watching the models that strut down the fashion show runway each year in angel wings and leather jumpsuits.
Even more women are vocal on social media platforms when it comes to the sheer lack of size range. Advertised as the world’s best bras, the Victoria’s Secret website boasts a collection of bras from 30A to 40DDD. However, other online bra stores carry sizes all the way up to 50I.
In an Atlantic article, writer Amanda Mull said, “Plus-size shoppers have been complaining about being left out of fashion for ages, but with the advent of social media, their complaints have gained both specificity and momentum online. As brands like Victoria’s Secret have been forced to learn, consumers no longer accept whatever they’re given.”
For bras, most companies use a 34B fit model as the “ideal standard” and then evenly grade up and down to get to a 34A and 34C, for example. That means one fit model, who is a 34B, creates the sizing for millions of women.
In fact, the infamous 34B is the best selling bra in most bra retailers, even though, according to a national survey, the average cup size is DD. There is a stat going around the industry that 80 percent of women don’t wear the right bra size.
The national survey also concluded that most women don’t get remeasured after their first time, which is usually in their mid to late teens.
“In most cities, in most towns in America, Victoria’s Secret is where women go to buy their first bra,” Jennifer Zuccarini, CEO of Fleur du Mal and former design director at Victoria’s Secret said in an interview with Andrea Cheng for the Observer. “What I’ve noticed is that women are attached to a certain size that maybe they were in high school or college.”
“They’re [Victoria’s Secret] not doing anything wrong, but that’s where women are going, because Victoria’s Secret is everywhere and it’s unavoidable,” Jenny Altman, long time bra consultant explained in the same Observer article. “Victoria’s Secret is a business, it speaks to the masses, and its goal is to sell the most products. Because they don’t go past a certain cup size, these saleswomen—not bra experts—could be putting a girl who might be a 32F into a 36D because they have to make a sale. And now this girl thinks she’s a 36D and is on the course to wearing the wrong size for god knows how many years.”
This practice can be harmful to women that are larger in size, as well as the limited range of bras from Victoria’s Secret, as they can’t shop in store. However, Victoria’s Secret controls half of the bra sales in the US. This means that options are limited to more indie brands, like Third Love or Airie.
Many indie brands can often find themselves in the shadow of the giant that is Victoria’s Secret as well, making the search for a properly fitting bra “almost as painful as a bad underwire.”
Many women are also madened at the fact that the CEO of the most popular bra company in the country is an 82-year-old man. It’s not just Victoria’s Secret anymore, as brands like Calvin Klein and the newcomer Adore-Me are also headed by men.
“If you think about the companies, they’re all led by men. Men look at bras as a product and not as something you’re wearing from the second you leave the house to the second you go to bed. They’re looking at it from a spreadsheet, dollar-and-cents angle,” Cordeiro Grant, the CEO of start-up intimates label Lively, said in the Observer article. “The category, in general, is to be blamed. The problem lies with people who are used to selling a specific product—underwire bras, push-ups—and it has always worked.”
Many advocates for female-headed brands say that where women spend their money makes a difference. There are sides, or competitions between brands, for almost every article of clothing in the fashion industry, but those seeking change in the bra industry often say that money counts as a vote.
This ‘vote’ often shows in the numbers.
In the opinion of many shoppers, who are vocal online, when a women’s product is marketed by a male dominated group, the message can often be skewed.
According to a Medium article written by Tracy Moore, “…if you ask women, 99% of the time they’ll say seduction is not what they’re thinking about when they put on their bra and underwear. They just want to feel good and look good.”
Slowly but surely, however, women seem to be taking back the control over the bra industry.
Bra company Aerie took a stance against photoshopping, and they’ve been successfully targeting teenagers who used to shop Victoria’s Secret’s Pink label. After launching the #AerieReal campaign in 2014 the company grew by 20 percent just in the 2015 fiscal year.
“It was so successful because it was genuine, and it showed you didn’t need a push up to look like a supermodel—you can just be you,” said Altman, who consulted on the campaign.
“There’s never been a moment in history where women have been more involved with designing and innovating their own product,” Bree McKeen, founder and CEO of new bra brand Evelyn & Bobbie, said. “And that’s wildly exciting.”