Victoria’s Secret and The Body Image It Portrays

By: Sasha Letourneau

Victoria’s Secret is a huge women’s clothing line that controls approximately 35% of the lingerie market. In their ads, one sees what the media proclaims to be beautiful women. All of the “angels” or models are taller than average, very skinny, and perfectly tanned. The article, entitled “Victoria’s Secret Needs a New Angel Strategy,” talks about how the company is not meeting consumers wants and or needs. This undergarment company is creating a bad reputation for itsself by putting the image of the “perfect” body in viewers’ heads. Victoria’s Secret has created a lot of backlash for itself by only offering up to size 16 garments, when other retailers offer up to size 28, and by creating unrealistic ads. A women was quoted as saying,  “As for their use of the word ‘perfect’, it’s not only offensive to the 99.9% of the female population who don’t share the models’ ‘perfect’ proportions, it’s also deeply irresponsible, if not downright cruel.”  It has gotten to the point that even some of the models do not agree with what the advertisements are portraying, so many of them have resigned. By creating this “ideal” image of beauty, the company has also given itself a very small target market. Very few women have Victoria’s Secrets’ ideal body image, and even more women strongly disagree with the message that the company is putting into the media, therefore they do not shop in the stores. A women was quoted in the article as saying how her body was not good enough for the brand, so she actually started a petition against it. All of this backlash and negative talk in the media is causing the company to have an even smaller target market. Other companies have copied Victoria’s Secret ads and replaced the stick thin angels with curvy, more realistic women. I believe that if Victoria’s Secret doesn’t change its image of the “perfect” body soon, then the company is going to run itself right in to the ground because right now the company has a poor image and a company is nothing without its image.

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31 thoughts on “Victoria’s Secret and The Body Image It Portrays

  1. Blake Boudreau April 17, 2015 / 6:43 pm

    I believe that Vitoria Secret should change some of their “angels” to plus size women. By doing this they will be able to gain a larger target market and people that don’t have a perfect body will feel more comfortable buying victoria secret apparel.

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  2. Yafen Liu April 19, 2015 / 12:23 am

    Sasha, I agree with you. If Victoria’s Secret does not take actions to change the situation they are facing, they will suffer more and more loss of customers. The ads or the marketing strategy should meets one company’s target market. Victoria’s Secret does gain a lot of attentions by its “angels” strategy. However, the products they provide does not satisfy most of the customers’ expectations or needs. That is, Victoria’s Secret narrows its market itself.

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  3. Joe Wathen April 20, 2015 / 6:54 pm

    I agree with Blake, but the company has to remember it just doesn’t sell lingerie, it also sells perfume which doesn’t necessarily reflect body image. But as for the “perfect” model body type, if they don’t use realistic body shapes then it’s only a matter of time before they close down.

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  4. Julia Collins April 21, 2015 / 2:20 pm

    Although I do agree that Victoria Secret needs to change its reputation and incorporate a more relatable image for women and girls, I do not believe they will decline as a business. Victoria Secret is probably the most well known lingerie company in the United States with there clothing, perfumes, PINK store, and the infamous fashion show. The “angel” icon is so idolized by many women that just wearing the brand name on your sweatpants is important to many. Victoria Secret may lose customers that are plus size or that do not agree with the sizes offered, but many will continue to shop there either because they fit into the clothes or because they do not care that other women do not and find it as a “status” thing.

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  5. Amanda McKenzie April 21, 2015 / 4:06 pm

    Sure, Victoria’s Secret promotes the “perfect” body type, but I don’t think they are saying everyone has to be perfect to wear their lingerie. Of course every woman wants an angel body, but I think Victoria Secret also promotes strength and a healthy body image. People complain that models are too skinny and make comments like ” give that girl a burger” but If you follow them on social media outlets, the Angels are always working out and being healthy, which I think is a good thing. I honestly don’t think they will shut down. Victoria’s Secret has built such a brand with their fashion shows, the huge sales and even their PINK extension store, I don’t find anything wrong with the company.

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  6. Yuxuan Wang April 21, 2015 / 6:46 pm

    Actually, I think the company just use this customer’s psychology. 99.9% customer do not fit those products and the company also dose not supply enough size for their customers. But there is no doubt that every customer want to wear Victoria’s Secret. In this said, I think the majority of customers are just complaining, because they want to be the minority customers. So, the brand image seems not good, but in fact, Victoria’s Secret brand image is perfect in customer’s heart.

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  7. Kaitlyn Magnano April 21, 2015 / 9:38 pm

    I think that Victoria’s Secret needs to change the image of what an “angel” really is. I Know other retail businesses who do not necessarily use plus size women but women with curves and the body image that is more realistic. I think that by doing this, it will help Victoria’s secret in the long run and help them grow as a company. If they do not have a good brand image, they are not going to be able to grow and will eventually fail.

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  8. beaudoinr April 21, 2015 / 9:42 pm

    I believe that Victoria Secret is only hurting themselves by not expanding into the larger market. I mean America is a country full of obese citizens that can’t shop their do to their larger shape. From a marketing standpoint it doesn’t make any sense as they are going to lose out on what all of the money that they could possibly make from this other market that they are completely ignoring.

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  9. Emma Tkachuk April 22, 2015 / 1:41 pm

    I agree that Victoria’s Secret is hurting itself by promoting this type of perfect body, but I do not think it will totally effect the sales they produce. Many women shop there because the products they provide are well made and functional as well as maintaing a nice or intricate design. When most women think of bras and panties their heads immediately go to Victoria’s Secret. They also are more than just lingerie selling perfumes, lotions, workout clothes, and a separate store, PINK, for sweatpants and sweatshirts targeted to a younger audience.Yes they pose unrealistic body image expectations, but it does not mean that only supermodels can shop there. Many women of all shapes and sizes can fit into the products they sell, and although they do cut off the sizes they provide at some point they are not the only store to do so.

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  10. David Collins April 22, 2015 / 11:43 pm

    A lot of companies choose to have a very small, niche market…it’s just not always segmented in such a superficial manner. As a man, I can’t really comment on the unrealistic expectations and pressure it puts on a woman and her body, so I won’t even try. I do know, that recently the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition has made a conscious effort to include models with more realistic, and “normal” bodies. Before this movement for more realistic female body aspirations, I highly doubt Kate Upton would have been on a cover, never mind back to back covers.

    Regardless, I agree with Emma’s comment. I think Victoria’s Secret recognizes that their lingerie isn’t for everyone, so they’ve focused on expanding their product line and offering more options. Sweatpants and sweatshirts are almost universal (I would presume) and the PINK brand is a college girl staple, regardless of body shape.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the angel ads also appeal to the irrational man, who may believe that buying their wife/gf Victoria’s secret lingerie will either make their significant other look sexier, or at least feel sexier in their product.

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  11. Zi Wang April 22, 2015 / 11:47 pm

    I disagree with the idea of author. I think that Victoria’s Secret should not change their company’s strategy and sell the big size. As we know why people like Victora’s Secret whatever women and men, because there is a image that women could be beautifull and sexy no matter when as long as they put on Victora’s Secret. However, if company release some big size, even though this way can expand the market, brand’s image of Victora’s Secret would decline among the customers.

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  12. Mattia Lanzi April 23, 2015 / 2:16 am

    I don’t think that Victoria’s Secret should change its strategy and sell bigger size. Victoria’s Secrets its not just clothes but its also other different products.
    Its imagine is that one and they perfectly know their target market. Victoria’s Secret is a big company also because is not accessible to everyone. Just for elite, and that is a good imagine for them.

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  13. Michael Scuderi April 23, 2015 / 10:22 pm

    I believe that Victoria Secret doesn’t change their image then they will have shrank their target market so much that they wont be able to make any profit. In the lingerie business your image is everything. So when you only market to the 1% of “beautiful” women you cant expect have that many results with that small of a target market. Victory Secret is just opening other opportunity’s for there competition to swoop in and steel the 99% of the women’s market. Realistically Victoria Secret has to market to women off all sizes not just the “angles”

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  14. Kendra Van Pelt April 24, 2015 / 4:30 am

    Sasha, while I do totally agree with you that Victoria Secret is not putting the best image and thought out to the world, I do not think they are necessarily reducing their market because of that. As you said, they have a 35% control of the lingerie market – that’s fairly sizable. Despite their unrealistic advertisements, they are still drawing in customers. To a certain extent, because of society’s expectations have turned into, I think the Victoria Secret brand and image that goes with it is growing increasingly popular. Many women strive for that look, whether they should or not, and whether it is right of Victoria Secret to advertisement that their look is the only “perfect” look. I do think, as the current, more heavily advertised, feminist movement grows, Victoria Secret should except to receive more and more backlash. Many companies are now pushing curves – trying to advertise the moral high ground. Aerie, a competitor to Victoria Secret, recently just launched a campaign in which the women in their advertisements have not been retouched. They are trying to reach a broader scope of women – real, average, everyday women. Many other companies are starting to utilize these techniques, while Victoria Secret has still been using old advertisement tactics.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/17/aerie-unretouched-ads-photos_n_4618139.html

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  15. Olivia Boudreau April 27, 2015 / 2:26 pm

    I think Victoria’s Secret would definitely benefit from broadening their target markets by adding larger sizes into their stores. I don’t think that it will change people’s ideas of the brand in a bad way. In my opinion, people would respond positively since people larger than a size 16, which is a huge population in the U.S., will finally be able to shop here. I think they can still promote the idea of the perfect Victoria’s Secret Angel while still catering to a large percent of the population by adding “plus size” product lines. So many people that I know can’t fit into a lot of their clothes/lingerie and I think they would definitely benefit from a business standpoint from adding more sizes in.

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  16. Skye Stewart April 27, 2015 / 4:50 pm

    I disagree with you on the idea that Victoria’s Secret has given itself a smaller target market. Although the angels are stick thin and the most beautiful human beings pretty much ever, they are just human beings and I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people know that those angels work hard for that body. VS isn’t using their angels to say that only women who look like them can buy their clothing. VS is using the angels because they are attractive and everybody loves them and admires them. Most girls even sit around and watch the VS fashion show when it comes on once a year. I see the angels are more the center of a great marketing campaign. VS has created this group, the angels, to persuade customers to buy their products, not to scrutinize other women for not looking like the models. When you walk into VS, you see pictures of Candice on the wall or pictures of the other angels. So, while the angels are pretty close to perfect, I think VS was smart by using these angels to advertise their clothing products. Plus, VS caters to plenty of people of different sizes. They have all of the average sizes and different fits. When you go into the fitting rooms, even their employees are trained to help you out more than at other stores. Overall, I think the angels have made more people shop at VS, if anything.

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  17. Keelyn Crowe April 27, 2015 / 7:30 pm

    I think Victoria Secret would benefit from offering a more variety of sizes for consumers. If they added more models that there more realistic and less skinny it would make a lot more people want to go there and have a more positive image. Victoria secret gets a lot of backlash especially around the fashion show because they show women who have bodies that are near to perfect, but for most women its just not that simple. A lot of the models in interviews admitted to only eating watermelon close to the show and being on very restrictive diets. I think this makes people have less respect for the brand and it makes people not want to shop there. If they offered more sizes it would only be more beneficial for them, with more money and consumers.

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  18. Ryan Etter April 27, 2015 / 9:00 pm

    I think that Victoria’s Secret portrays women on a pedestal that is tough for women to reach but this is the same for almost every other women’s clothing line. By adding more models they could reach out to more customers and hit a greater target market because not everyone looks like the models that they portray. This would also give victorias secret more respect from consumers.

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  19. Meghan Saldutti April 27, 2015 / 9:53 pm

    I for one think Victoria Secret is overrated especially when it comes to the “angels” the company markets. A very low percent of women look the way these women do. Women who purchase VS items tend not to look the way the angels do. The company should really think about a different campaign strategy. It is almost ridiculous and insulting to today’s society of women of all ages that Victoria Secret is saying that these skinny are what “angels” are. It is almost as if the company is saying, “If you do not look this way you are doing something wrong.” Body Image is something that people of all ages struggle with and that is something this company should really take into consideration.

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  20. Mackenzie Kilmartin April 27, 2015 / 11:39 pm

    While I see the Victoria’s Secret line as expensive and sometimes unrealistic, it personally does not stop be from purchasing their products. I find myself buying these products because they are good quality, worth my money, and I feel like I am getting what I pay for. However, I do to an extent agree with consumers who see the company as unrealistic with its advertising. Yes, not all women are fit/financially able to wear the Victoria’s Secret brand, but I do not believe that should have any effect in sales or reputation. Victoria’s Secret has been around for many years and has had the same marketing strategies for years. I believe they target women of all ages and sizes, and whether or not people feel comfortable buying from them is their own decision and should not be held against the brand itself.

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  21. Patrick Barrett April 28, 2015 / 12:49 am

    Victorias Secret by far the most successful company in its field and has done so by maintaining the same marketing strategies that is runs today. yes they are alienating a large portion of the woman that they could be reaching yet as a company I really don’t feel like they care. they are still in the top of the list of lingerie companies and by far the most well recognized. As for the issues of the “perfect” body images that they promote i really can’t get behind the argument. the women they use are models and are meant to look like that for a reason. its not like Victorias Secret is the only company to use models with such a body. It definitely isn’t like they are just doing this to women. Ever look at a Calvin Cline ad, its the same thing with some extremely ripped guy wearing the underwear. its not like they expect their consumers to all look like that, its just the best canvas to promote their products and that make them look the best.

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  22. Lauren Smith April 28, 2015 / 1:56 am

    With so many companies around Victoria’s Secret are changing the way they are going about marketing and also changing their company in order to appeal to all people, specifically women, such as Aerie, Dove, and even Target, I don’t believe that Victoria’s Secret will change the way that they market or advertise in regards to their promotion of the “perfect” body type. Girls every age and race idolize the angels of Victoria’s Secret, and while myself I believe it isn’t a positive campaign as it promotes eating disorders and impossible expectations among young girls, I do believe that Victoria’s Secrets message is not that every woman needs to look this way but that every woman wants to look this way and by wearing their products they can possibly do so. I think as the current and very popularly growing feminist movement grows, Victoria Secret should expect to receive more backlash especially for those that support the Aerie and Dove campaigns of “natural, everyday, un-retouched, beauty”. Victoria’s Secret recognizes that their lingerie isn’t for everyone, so they’ve focused on expanding their product line and offer sweatpants and sweatshirts, and the PINK brand also offers many different things such as lingerie and even hoodies which every girl purchases, regardless of body size. Ultimately, Victoria’s Secret may have to adjust their marketing tactic down the road and chill on the retouching of their models, but for now they will most likely remain a brand that has a powerful name and advertisement technique that all know of (the VS angel) and possibly even strive to be like in some sense.

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  23. Lauren Moran April 28, 2015 / 2:07 am

    I agree with Sasha, Victoria Secret does not advertise well. I am a huge fan of their clothes but I could never imagine even looking anything like an “Angel” because that is just silly and unrealistic. They portray the body that only a tiny percentage of the world looks like, making other women feel horrible about themselves. I just do not believe that they hold a realistic standard for women. Not to mention, a great deal of women do not even fit into their clothes and garments because they only go to a certain size. It is sad and they should fix their “standards” before its too late.

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  24. Patrick Breslin April 28, 2015 / 2:56 am

    I believe that Vitoria secret is absolutely tackling a smaller target market than they are capable of, although I believe they know this and don’t care much because of all their past success. In their eyes plus size woman don’t want their specialized products. If I were them I may market another branch of the company or section for plus size woman and advertise that they too can be made more beautiful with Victoria secret products. This widens their target market while still portraying the “perfect” women. This way they are more advertising that their products can make a women MORE perfect.

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  25. Briana Lynch April 28, 2015 / 3:21 am

    I never pay much attention to Victoria Secret models. However, when I see them, I personally do not feel insecure about myself. It’s not very common or realistic to think “The models are more _______ than I am, so I’m not going to buy products from this store.” I have never even understood why these women are commonly described as being “unrealistic” when we see them on the catwalk, not photoshopped nor retouched, looking just as beautiful and fit as they do in advertisements. I believe that Victoria’s Secret could benefit by targeting more towards plus sized women, however it is clear they do not need to. It is true that most of us cannot look like Victoria’s Secret models. However, it is completely unproductive for women to try to badger the company into catering towards them in an effort to diminish their own self-esteem issues. I’ll never look like a Victoria’s Secret model and I’m okay with that because I have other things to worry about. Perhaps the woman who started a petition against the company ought to find more positive and productive ways to spend her time and energy. By doing so, she may not have her ego hurt by photos of other women she clearly perceives to be better than herself.

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  26. mcdonaldb2013 April 28, 2015 / 1:36 pm

    I actually recently did a research project on social media, companies and the image of beauty. I think that unfortunately no matter what models companies use to advertise, if they are a well known brand valued for their product, people are going to continue to buy from them. I myself am guilty of this as someone who openly thinks that the fashion industry has a lot of work to do as far as their advertising goes and how it influences body image and percetions of beauty AND how the average model is so far off of the image of the average woman in america, but I still buy from the company because it is well known and a brand whos quality I trust and style I like.

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  27. Paige Gilbert April 28, 2015 / 2:48 pm

    I agree with this new approach Victoria Secret should take on, advertising their products on someone who is “perfect” is a good way to market because people want to look like that, but also not appealing because people know they will not look like that. Victoria Secret in the pass years has changed their image from having disgustingly skinny models to having models who are fit. With Victoria Secret releasing their workout line and advertising it through Instagram lets people see that their image is changing, but just to be more in shape. I agree more with this way of advertising instead of having normal women as their image just because it promotes being healthy and exercising can get you where you want to be.

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  28. Andrew Gerry April 28, 2015 / 3:28 pm

    Companies such as Victoria’s Secret are only playing into the cultural norms that already exist. They use the “ideal” shape, size, or whatever society expects of a woman in order to show that their product can help them accomplish that expectation. This does not mean that there are not any negative aspects for perceptions of later generations, but it all does not fall onto VS. Men’s brands to a similar thing. Calvin Klein shows “ideal men” in their ads and there is hardly any backlash for them. The point is, brands should respect the sway their brand has over consumers. Consumers should also realize these expectations are absurd, and that they have to power to shop elsewhere and put VS or CK out of business because of this.

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  29. John Parrish April 29, 2015 / 5:59 pm

    This has been a very mainstream and talked about topic the past couple of years. Although Victoria’s Secret and other women’s outlet stores definitely portray the female body to some unrealistic standards, I do not see the end of VS and their campaign coming to a close any time soon. I do not necessarily agree with what VS is doing, but I feel that the need for super thin and super tall models will not go away since it makes their product seem more attractive, and their goal as a company is to make their product seem high quality.

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  30. Patrick Coskren December 6, 2015 / 12:16 am

    Victoria’s Secret has marketing campaigns everywhere, in magazines, billboards, commercials, etc. One of the biggest marketing campaigns specific to this brand is the Victoria’s Secret fashion show that is held every year. Each year on the night of this fashion show girls everywhere post messages about how depressing it is, how much wine or alcohol they need to consume in order to watch, and other varying comments. The fashion show, along with other ads, promotes this “perfect” body image, just like the article says. When in reality, most females do not fit into this so-called “perfect” body image. With all of the negativity that these campaigns spark, the company might want to rethink how they are promoting their products before they pay the ultimate price.

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  31. Alicia March 31, 2016 / 6:09 pm

    I think this article talks about an important topic that has become a growing issue in today’s society. I agree with some of the previous comments in saying that most people understand that the Victoria’s Secret “Angels” are unique in their body type, which is why they are models for this particular company. I am definitely guilty of believing that the pictures in their catalogues and on their website are unrealistic, yet still buying their products because I know that I am getting good quality and I trust the brand. At the same time, these models do work for the body they have and I don’t think we should be judging them personally, but the company for how they use them to persuade their consumers into buying their products.

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