February 21, 2020

"There’s been a real shift in how people, especially young women, think about beauty and desire. We’re in the age of #MeToo. Ideals are changing..."

"... and people want diversity and representation, ethnically and racially, but also in terms of shape and body type. For retailers to not adapt or evolve can be a fatal flaw."

Said marketing professor Kalinda Ukanwa, quoted under the heading "Out-of-touch, overly sexual marketing," the 3rd of "5 factors that led to Victoria’s Secret’s fall" (WaPo).

From the comments at WaPo:
Originally, Victoria's Secret sold pretty underthings and nightgowns in a time when women were wearing practical or professional clothes. Then they changed and the merchandise was more about overt sexuality and tartiness. It was like they were trying to replace Frederick's of Hollywood. The store windows could be embarrassing to people shopping with kids. Go back to things women want to wear for themselves, drop the stripper vibe, and the business could flourish again....
Do you remember the original Victoria's Secret — in the 1970s? It did always have to do with the male shopper, but it was created by a man who felt bad about the way he was treated when he went shopping for lingerie for his wife — like a "pervert." That is, it wasn't so much about the kind of leering, domineering male #MeToo is fighting, but about a male who himself feels dismissed and judged — the subordinate man.

61 comments:

Fernandistein said...

I think she swiped the idea for this article from Sailer and his "this is why we should talk about people like me" analysis, and its variants "this is why we should talk about my hair", and "this is why people like my relatives should be admitted as immigrants".

I Callahan said...

but about a male who himself feels dismissed and judged — the subordinate man.

Well, that’s one take. Here’s mine: I’m so old, I remember when feminists used to call what this professor said “prudish”.

Andrew said...

My ex-wife shopped at VS, I bought her things there in the late 70s and early 80s. Almost all of it was tasteful and feminine.

rehajm said...

There's a recurring theme amongst the clients- the one where there's the teenage daughter with the boyfriend and the parental discovery of the hidden bag or the credit card statement from Victoria's Secret.

Who's out-of-touch exactly?

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

maybe the Les Wexner/Epstein milieu went deeper/darker

gilbar said...

IF you (a man, or a woman) want to buy lingerie in this Brave, New World...
wouldn't you buy it the way you buy ALL your clothes? Through Amazon?

gilbar said...

Didn't we Just talk about how no one buys clothes (any clothes!) at the mall?
So, some dude (that HATES Shopping), is supposed to make a special trip, to the abandoned, desolate mall; so that he can buy a lace teddy?

J. Farmer said...

Some random thoughts...

1) Has there actually been a "real shift?" It seems every few years we get this message and some fashion magazine puts a morbidly obese woman on the cover and some fashion designer puts a balding tranny on the runway. It gets a flurry of a attention for about 15 minutes and then everything goes back to business is usual.

2) Isn't it possible that Victoria's Secret is just falling victim to the broader trend against brick-and-mortar retail. They were typically located in malls, and the mall has been decimated over the last decade.

3) What is the difference between shape and body type? Unless, "shape" is referring to the cut of the clothes. Every time I hear "body type," I think of the old ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph classification system.

n.n said...

Diversity and exclusion... color judgments and denial of individual dignity among other religious imperatives.

Jess said...

I'm thinking the price might have something to do with the changes. A retail outlet costs money not required for online purchases. A few months of hanging on to shops losing money can lead to substantial losses requiring a bankruptcy court. Also, when the same product is available online, and the buyer is anonymous, any scrutiny by clerks, or the public, disappears.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim maguire said...

Said marketing professor Kalinda Ukanwa,

Ahh, the academic who gets paid to talk about it tells the people whose livelihoods depend on actually getting it right that they needed to be more woke.

Noted.

n.n said...

Victoria's Secret may have been aborted... cancelled, but the fashion industry, local, here, and abroad is unfazed. Men and women do not generally conflate matters of public and private concern. Progressive confusion seems to be a woke anomaly.

J. Farmer said...

In the third season of Roseanne, they tackle this subject when Dan attempts to buy lingerie for Roseanne for Valentine's Day at Big and Beautiful.

p.s. The video and audio are little screwy to avoid copyright claims.

MadisonMan said...

Do you mean to say that VS didn't lose customers to online shopping like every other retail outlet, marketing professor Kalinda Ukanwa?

Nonapod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@Fernandistein:

I think she swiped the idea for this article from Sailer and his "this is why we should talk about people like me" analysis, and its variants "this is why we should talk about my hair", and "this is why people like my relatives should be admitted as immigrants".

No, no. You've got it all wrong. According to Dr. Ukanwas's bio, she is a "a theory-driven empirical modeler." It's science!

Nonapod said...

@J. Farmer

1) I'm not convinced that there has been any "real shift" either. My feeling is that what's going on now at most is a slight adjustment to certain cultural norms around commercial sexual imagery of women that is targeted towards women, but not anything particuallarly extreme. Maybe I'm being grossly unfair here, but I really don't believe most women generally want to look at models who aren't tradionally attractive when they're shopping for clothing. Rather they want the illusion of what they could look like (even though rationally they know they may never will).

2) That's my guess pretty much, yeah.

3) That I don't know. So many terms weirdly interchangeable I can't keep track of them.

Mr Wibble said...

The shift hasn't been good. We've seen a coordinated attempt to promote ugliness in all aspects of life. Don't wear any makeup, let yourself get morbidly obese, drive an ugly car, live in an ugly house, work in an ugly building.

Then whine about how unhappy you are and blame the "patriarchy".

Achilles said...

Victoria’s Secret has fallen because there is no reason for a brand in clothing anymore.

This is in part due to the fall of the brick and mortar store and in part due to the expansion of capital.

1. The means of production in textiles has become available to many more and smaller entities.

2. My wife searches for women’s underwear online. She gets all sorts of results. She used to go to the VS store to try stuff out. Now it shows up at our door and she returns it if she doesn’t like it.

There is no reason for the overhead costs associated with a brand like Victoria’s Secret.

Kai Akker said...


"We're in the age of #MeToo."

"This IS 1183." --Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"

Achilles said...

Of course the social justice warriors are going to try to claim Victoria’s Secret fell because we are more accepting of fat people and diversity.

They are a racketeering outfit.

That is how they get money.

They threaten your company and if you don’t pay the gig they break your kneecaps.

But a smart company will realize the market for people who tell the SJWs to get fucked has much more demand and is underserved.

Achilles said...

Autocomplete does not recognize vig.

Spellcheck doesn’t even like it.

Hmm.

Francisco D said...

About 30 years ago, my mother gave my (ex) wife a $200 VS gift certificate for her birthday. The ex never used it, saying that she would be embarrassed to even walk into the store. On-line shopping was rare those days.

My ex is very professional in her dress, and maybe a little bit of a prude. She thought it was beneath her dignity to patronize the store. My current wife has no such qualms about VS except for the prices.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

We’re in the age of #MeToo. Ideals are changing..... and people want diversity and representation, ethnically and racially,

Are we really? Weinstein is going to walk, Trump is president, the front runners for the Dems and millionaire and billionaire old white men

J. Farmer said...

@Nonapod:

Maybe I'm being grossly unfair here, but I really don't believe most women generally want to look at models who aren't tradionally attractive when they're shopping for clothing. Rather they want the illusion of what they could look like (even though rationally they know they may never will).

And of course the obsession is always with women's portrayal in fashion. There is never any demand that Calvin Klein hire a bald sad sack with a beer gut to model their underwear. No concern about how unrealistic the chiseled physiques of male models are. And certainly no one cares that male models earn far less than female models for doing the exact same job(!).

mccullough said...

Are you actually allowed to try underwear on at the store?

Anthony said...

The store windows could be embarrassing to people shopping with kids.

One store in Seattle had a half-mannequin dressed in a little lingerie set with a hole cut out of the bottoms for obvious access to. . . well, both 'access points'; not in a window but just inside the open doorway. I thought that was in poor taste.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Armani piggybacks on #MeToo by likening sexy ads & fashion trends to RAPE… but that’s never stopped him from embracing them

https://trends.gab.com/visit?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.rt.com%2Fnews%2F481416-armani-rape-fashion-hypocrisy-trends%2F%3Futm_source%3Drss%26utm_medium%3Drss%26utm_campaign%3DRSS

Unknown said...

Their biggest brand is PINK. I mean really...

bagoh20 said...

I sure do miss clawing my way through a dozen yards of petty coats, then the bloomers to get a good look at those granny panties hiding the chastity belt. Those were the days of true hotness.

Women refusing to wear the sexy stuff are missing out on a hot and huge opportunity, and I mean huge.

Todd said...

The original business model for Victoria's Secret was to sell hunting apparel to women stalking for men. They wanted their customers to think/feel that putting on that "gear" made them ravishing and alluring for their chosen prey. Then Victoria's Secret had to go woke. Same sad old story...

Ann Althouse said...

The headline cites 5 factors. I talked about one. Don’t you think the other factor you’re thinking of is in the article?

walter said...

bagoh,
Perhaps a ME trip could get you similar.

Narr said...

I used to enjoy going to VS and telling the clerks I was looking for things for my daughters.

Not really--I have a son. But I did enjoy going with my wife to select 'fuck-me suits'. Alas, those days seem to be over.

Speaking of over, said wife was laid off from her commission sales job (big ticket, Macy's) and may now be applying for unemployment at least through August . . . and given this economy she might even find a job.

Some of the same factors in the decline of VS apply to traditional high-end rugs etc too.

Narr
Market dynamism at work

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wendybar said...

Then it went Epstein on us...https://nypost.com/2019/07/14/inside-the-victorias-secret-pipeline-to-jeffrey-epstein/

buwaya said...

"There is never any demand that Calvin Klein hire a bald sad sack with a beer gut to model their underwear."

In spite of the fact that I am available!
A somewhat older Antonio Banderas, true, but still.

They have wifi in France!

traditionalguy said...

The new advice is that every body type gets a trophy. Vive there is no difference.

William said...

Isn't a snug fit the beau ideal of lingerie and don't you have to try on a few garments to find just the right one? When you order lingerie through Amazon and later return it, where does that tried on lingerie go?....Who needs lingerie anyway? Have you seen those yoga pants they wear at the gym? They're really doing some fine work with stretchable material. Such clothes are not for everyone though.

n.n said...

Nothing has changed. Boys still chase girls chase boys. Socially, there is still an effort to normalize a favorable juxtaposition of the sexes. That said, perhaps social liberal club has progressed to be less divergent and more self-moderating.

Real American said...

this post made me think of the quote from Liar Liar:

Max: My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
Fletcher: That's just something ugly people say.

Achilles said...

Francisco D said..:

My current wife has no such qualms about VS except for the prices.

Precisely.

VS has overhead she doesn’t need or want. She can get the same thing without the brand and the internet makes those options easily available and convenient.

None of those other options use fat women to market their underwear either.

n.n said...

every body type gets a trophy. Vive there is no difference.

Ahh, diversity or color judgment without... while avoiding reconciliation: interchangable, exchangeable, and, in fact, disposable. The moral of the story is: don't rage while "baking" or prepping.

Achilles said...

mccullough said...
Are you actually allowed to try underwear on at the store?

Score another point for online shopping...

walter said...

"They're really doing some fine work with stretchable material. Such clothes are not for everyone though. "
Bears repeating
Farmer,
Remember the beefcake billboards of Abercrombie and Fitch?
Some of those cropped the head completely out, leaving just the bare Abs.
A weird approach to selling clothes...especially $60+ T-shirts.
Supposedly the have gone woke. Toning down ads and hiring the imperfectly configured for store staff.

tim in vermont said...

I find these instagram cuties cloying.

Max: My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside.
Fletcher: That's just something ugly people say.


Nobody knows that beauty is only skin deep better than beautiful people.

J. Farmer said...

@walter:

Remember the beefcake billboards of Abercrombie and Fitch?
Some of those cropped the head completely out, leaving just the bare Abs.
A weird approach to selling clothes...especially $60+ T-shirts.


I remember them fondly. I used to get A&F Quarterly back in the late 90s and early 00's. They featured beautiful, homoerotic photos taken by Bruce Weber and was quite controversial since many of the models were often nude. But of course, Abercrombie wasn't really selling clothes. They were selling a lifestyle.

Supposedly the have gone woke. Toning down ads and hiring the imperfectly configured for store staff.

They were sued into submission starting back in 2003. Part of the settlement was that they would hire a VP of diversity, higher recruiters to seek out non-white employees, and "Abercrombie will reflect diversity, as reflected by the major racial/ethnic minority populations of the United States, in its marketing materials (taken as a whole)."

tcrosse said...

Redd Foxx used to say that beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

I think these folks are fooling themselves if they think desire is a social justice construct.

buwaya said...

Abercrombie and Fitch is just a name unfortunately.
In the old days it was a high end sporting goods store where one would go for shooting jackets, shotguns and canoes.

Its an interesting cultural phenomenon that led to its demise, where the upper class abandoned these sports, hunting, shooting, and the outdoors in general, or where they became declasse. I suspect it had a lot to do with the ethnic replacement of that class of people with money, from the New York WASP aristocracy (see Whit Stillman) to the modern melange. Jews for one were never great outdoorsmen.

Known Unknown said...

I applied to be a Creative Director at VS about 5 years ago, before the precipitous fall. When I was being interviewed, I was taken to a model store (inside the gargantuan office complex) to look at how it works. I wasn't offered the job and I almost doubt I would have taken it because it seemed like the only thing I would have been responsible for is "rearranging the Angels" -- there was a stunning lack of creativity about how else to sell the products without relying on the world's top models. I think the schtick has grown stale. Sure, "wokeness" has had an impact but not as much as people think.

There's still a need for brick-and-mortar VS-type stores. A lot of women like to fell what they're buying before they put it next to their skin. That will likely never go away.

stevew said...

Farmer's list makes sense to me, and tracks somewhat with the article. I completely disavow his use of "tranny" though. ;-)

The Epstein connection mentioned in the article, as one of the causes of the decline, strikes me as a stretch, perhaps an obligatory reference from a thoughtful female author? Consumers buying clothing are not thinking about who owns the company and who the owners may associate with.

Decline of malls and the volume of visitors there, and the waning of interest in the fashion style that VS offers have to be the great majority of the decline.

Chicks with big, bushy unibrows are unlikely to favor scanty underclothing.

Howard said...

Nothing from VS or F of H is sexier than the little woman wearing nothing but one of my t-shirts... preferably with holes in it. If you need or want silk and lace to pump you up, you're probably on the transgay spectrum. (NTTAWWT)

Howard said...

Blogger Steve's says...Chicks with big, bushy unibrows are unlikely to favor scanty underclothing.

They favor Burka's... which is a feature not a bug

Seeing Red said...

Lately VS’s offerings looked like their clothing belonged in Vegas.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Heh, Mr. Pants said many of the same things when he spoke with an AP reporter yesterday who was writing about VS. He had a good quotation in her article. I won't link it though because it of course has his name, job title and employer and I don't need you weirdos stalking us.*

*just kidding. I'd love to hang out with [some of] you.

tim in vermont said...

Cute is better than beautiful. It doesn’t ruin the soul of the posessor as easily.

Paul Ciotti said...

"people want diversity and representation, ethnically and racially."

Actually, people don't really want diversity. They just know you're supposed to say that. Certainly they don't want it in marriage. Otherwise they wouldn't marry their own race and social class. Same thing with schools and housing locations. The only kind of diversity people really want is in restaurants.

Lewis Wetzel said...

None of our cultural leaders realizes that the problem is men and women working together and socializing in a forced non-sexual environment. This is unheard of in all of history until a century or so ago.
I turned twenty years old in 1980, sixty years (at least) after the first sexual revolution, and my values are hopelessly retrograde by current lights. I open doors. I pay for meals. I date women who are marginally lower on the social scale than I am (though I am pretty low myself). I appreciate the fact that these girls (if you can call a woman in her late fifties a girl) are pretty, and entertaining. They wear cute pajamas. What can I say?
I introduce these women to new experiences. I appreciate their willingness to be ornamental. They appreciate my willingness to be bold. It is an altogether wonderful thing.

Tina Trent said...

If underwire isn't one of the reasons, the reporters didn't do their homework.