The VS fashion show: an under-represented, potentially damaging display?

In the aftermath of this years Victoria’s Secret catwalk in Shanghai, Charlotte discusses lack of representation and the promotion of a single body type.

It’s that time of the year again. The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is gracing our television screens once more.

It’s safe to say the fashion show has become an iconic part of modern day popular-culture, likened to the ‘superbowl of fashion’. Their constant supply of prestigious models (ranging from Naomi Campbell to Candice Swanepoel) and on trend musicians makes for an undeniably key event for fashion lovers. The show has had a number of criticisms for their lack of representation of different body types, races and disabilities, which leaves me wondering: in 2017, is representation really radical?

The brand caters for sizes UK 4 to 16. So why does the fashion show not accurately represent this range? With models like Barbara Ferreira, Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham becoming increasingly popular in the fashion industry, I think it’s time Victoria’s Secret ditch their strict family of lean, tall models and represent a broader spectrum of body types and shapes on the runway. VS don’t just have a lack of representation for plus sized people; they also fail to represent shorter, androgynous and disabled women.

Over the 22 year period that the show has been running throughout, the directors have made minimal effort in including a broader spectrum of ethnicities on the runway. In previous shows there have been heavy criticisms for the almost all white cast, and the consequential ramifications of this. The show alludes to the women being goddess-like, and in their most beautiful form, so their lack of representation has some malicious undertones. This year has been the most racially-diverse cast, which is one step towards diversification for Victoria’s Secret, but their sheer lack of body diversity is still a huge problem. Not to mention that the cast is still heavily Caucasian.

In order to walk the show, women must attend rigorous gym training regimes and follow strict diets while being constantly monitored by doctors. After having her baby, which is arguably the most natural thing a woman can do, Adriana Lima admitted to going on a 9 day liquid diet while simultaneously doing 6 hours of workouts, 7 days a week in order to lose her baby weight for the show. As much as it can be argued that the runway has always had a homogenous body type and that will never change, it is definitely not okay to be idolising body types of people who will publicly glorify a dangerous diet.

Learning of the lengths a model would go to to look the way she does could be incredibly damaging for women with self-esteem issues. Not only that, but it normalises the behaviour. Trendy diet fads come and go but one like this can have serious mental and physical consequences if followed by someone who is not under constant surveillance by a doctor or nutritionist, like the VS angels are.

It is important for viewers not to base their understanding or conception of ‘beauty’ on what they see in fashion shows and on social media. Whilst the models are doing their jobs by promoting the Victoria’s Secret brand and their products, they are also advertently telling the audience what to eat to look ‘pretty’, or how to exercise. It is difficult to not compare yourself to what you see on TV, especially when the image is placed so highly on a pedestal. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, races and abilities – you should love you for you, and not dwell on what others have.

Charlotte Loughlin

Photo credit: