Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Victoria's Secret is Dead, Long Live Victoria's Secret

I miss Victoria's Secret. I realize the company is still in business and flourishing but to me the store and catalog that I came of age with is long gone. Their image and who they market to is drastically different today from when I became a young woman. Let me explain...

I didn't step a foot inside the Victoria's Secret store at the local mall until I was in college. Any younger than that would have seemed a bit wrong to me, because back in the 80s and 90s, VS was definitely marketed towards adult women. All this teeny bopper "PINK" crap that you see in their stores, online, and in the catalogs didn't exist. Victoria's Secret was for grown up women only.

That isn't to say that teenage girls never ordered from them or weren't allowed in their stores, but I can honestly say that up until about ten years ago when they expanded their product lines towards a younger demographic, I never saw pre-teens in their stores.

Victoria's Secret stores circa 1990 used to be mature and classy, like a French woman's boudoir. Classical music was softly piped through the racks, the walls were cream and pastel colored, and the stores smelled like lavender and other hints of whatever fragrance they were selling at the time. The salesladies were professional-sometimes to the point of coming across as a little bit snooty-but always helpful.

And the clothes were classy and romantic as well (I had that multicolored flowered print robe at the top.) I always thought there was a distinct difference between VS and the more tarty Frederick's of Hollywood. Frederick's of Hollywood was for women who wanted one night stands, while Victoria's Secret was for women who wanted a committed relationship. Maybe that analogy is too broad but needless to say, I was always a VS woman. 

I used to love their regular clothing - which was only available through their catalog. I bought several dresses, skirts, and suits from them back in the day which were suitable for work - sexy and flattering, but remarkably never revealing. At the risk of sounding gay, their models were pretty, too. Jill Goodacre (Harry Connick Jr's wife), Stephanie Seymour, Elle MacPherson and other big names regularly modeled their clothes and while they were thin, I never thought of any of them as anorexic.

Anyways, the point is I don't recognize Victoria's Secret anymore. I only visit a store now to get my free underwear when I get a card from them in the mall (call me cheap, but the one good thing I can still say about VS is that their cotton panties seem to last forever.) 

Everything about the store and how they market themselves has been completely overhauled. The music and interior design is all techno, there are tacky plastic mannequins, and the salespeople I've encountered are mostly a bunch of bubbleheads. But the worst part is the fact that every time I go in there, I'm nearly overrun by a bunch of giggly, gum popping 12 year-olds. No doubt they were drawn in by the PINK line despite the fact that PINK is geared towards the collegiate crowd. I'm sorry but they don't belong there. They're still kids. The PINK line attracts them and from there they start exploring other areas of the store where adult women are shopping for thongs, bras, and other garments that don't belong on a 12 year-old. Yes, I know adolescents are going through puberty earlier these days, but still...something about the whole thing bothers me. It's bad enough that society pushes sexy toys and clothing to grade schoolers.

VS today: um, seriously???
Back to VS, with the exception of their undergarments, the quality of their clothing has really gone downhill the past few years and reflects teenage fashion - pants on the ground and rags that look like they'll fall apart after about three washes. The models at their annual televised fashion show and in their catalogs look like famished giraffes trying to keep their balance in stilettos. 


Everyone is marketing towards a younger demographic today because they know they have greater buying power and influence over their parents, but do you have to change the entire store image to attract one age group?

The company that I used to know and love is gone. Long live the memories.  



28 comments:

weeshaus said...

It's sad. I stopped shopping at VS about 10 years ago, when they stopped carrying a wide range of bra sizes like they used to. It used to be one of the few places I could find 32 bands in a cup size above a B. And the quality and selection was good. Now all the bras are basically a variation of the same style--cheap molded cups. The lingerie is trashy looking, where it used to be pretty and classic. I also used to love their pajamas, but now those all seem the same as well--nothing you couldn't buy at Walmart cheaper, but because it's got the VS tag it's twice as much.

Clothing stores in general have gone downhill. I miss the old Old Navy too. Everything's made to fall apart. :(

Amanda said...

I couldn't agree more! The pink brand has entirely ruined it. The company used to be about becoming a sexy woman. Being able to go into Victoria's Secret was a right of passage and a special occasion.

The quality has definitely gone WAY downhill. And I agree with weeshaus, you could really get the lingerie anywhere. It's not a special occasion anymore, and I feel 100 in there when I'm only 31 because there are just teens in there. After I hit 25, it felt like I was imposing in a young person's store.

Desiree said...

I completely agree with you guys, and I'm 23. Not only is it bubblegum crap, it's low quality (their bras fall apart) and they don't have basics. Just try finding a slip in Victoria's Secret!

It's still a rite of passage, though. When I was in 7th grade, everyone saved their babysitting money for a thong and somehow couldn't keep it in their jeans during Spanish class...

Marlene said...

Oh, you are so RIGHT ON with this post! I hate going in there anymore for the very reasons you cited.

g said...

Awwww. This reminds me of my girlfriend during the college days. Contemporaneous with Stephanie Seymour in the GNR November Rain video.

LaraAnn said...

I was only in that store a few times a long time ago and all that I bought was body washes and lotions - peach and vanilla. It is a shame that the quality of the merchandise and the atmosphere of the stores are not good anymore. I wasn't aware that they had a catalog with regular clothes.

Amy said...

I was never really into the brand, we've got our own here, Elle, Bendon etc.

Dr. Julie-Ann said...

Yes! You put your finger on it! In the 80's and 90's, I felt like I was going into an elegant boudoir. I even bought the cassette tapes (and then CD's) of their classical music compilations!

Now, when I walk past it, the atmosphere is sterile and plastic. They don't have lingerie for women with taste, anymore.

Of course, it is getting harder and harder to find anything that is made with taste and quality anymore...No wonder I prefer retro and vintage...

Pam@GoRetro said...

Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm glad to hear I'm not only ex-fan of VS because of their contemporary image and product line. I used to like their bras until I discovered that many of the brands at Macy's are cheaper for what I need and tend to last longer. I just can't deal with shopping in their stores anymore.

A said...

I bought for my wife there; no more as I cannot find anything "tasteful" for my age group.
s-a-h-d

Lacey said...

When I got my first job after college, and felt like an "adult," VS was the first place I went to. I felt that I had earned the right to shop there.
Like you said, this was for "Women" not college "girls" and not "teeny-boppers."

Sad that there are no places for a woman to shop anymore.

Anonymous said...

They weren't just brick and mortar, they also had a catalog. I agree with the idea that they were a lingerie store for 'grownups', not the teeny bopper/college aged crowd. They had a maturity that I appreciated. It wasn't that I was thrilled with everything that they offerred, but they did have something for everyone, and it was relatively tasteful.


I knew that it was over the first time I got a catalog and it looked like porn. It was at that point that I realized that they were now marketing to men. VS was our space, and it had now been invaded.

Not to say that men don't need somewhere to go, but there are many stores that cater to them, and now there isn't a single one that caters just to us.

Still have a robe from those days. I enjoy wearing it but sometimes it makes me sad. Thought that I was the only one getting silly over a lingerie store.

Anonymous said...

Very late to the party, but I was pleased to find this post since I went looking for exactly this kind of content (always nice to find validating opinions; lol). I married in 1990, and both my husband and I got a lot of enjoyment out of my Vic's Secret forays. I still have some examples of the lovely, classy, sexy lingerie -- the perfect balance between grandma and stripper. It was always a pleasure to shop in that atmosphere. Today, I won't even cross the threshold, being apparently too old to want to look sexy. Their loss, really, but mine too.

Pam@GoRetro said...

Anonymous--thank for your comments. I think the models back then were classier and more grown-up looking, too. Today's VS models all look like underfed gazelles trying to balance on stilts with a pair of wings on their backs (what is UP with those stupid wings, anyway?)

Minakitty (Mary) said...

I am VERY late to this party, but I was lamenting to a coworker about this very thing a few weeks ago, when I heard a work once featured on one of their in-store music compilations on the local Classical station. I had first seen one of their stores in high school (late 80s), but was too intimidated to enter alone until college. In later years, I used to ride the bus with a lovely young man who worked there, always in a jacket and tie! He said his girlfriend loved his job.

I also remember how incredibly nice the women at the catalog were. I can't speak for them now, as I no longer recognize this chain. When I tell those who are a bit younger (10+ years) how classy VS once was, they don't quite believe me...and I don't blame them!

Pam@GoRetro said...

Hi Minakitty-thanks for your comments. It is indeed an unrecognizable store compared to the one we knew in the 80s and 90s. The catalog seemed to exude a lot of class, too-and the models reflected it. I heard recently that VS is getting their cotton supply from child labor picking the cotton fields. Just another reason for me to stop going into their stores.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. I think it's good that Victoria's Secret is marketing towards the younger generations, they can make more money and younger girls can have cute underwear and clothes.
Also for those of you who think Victoria's Secret was created as a store only for women, you need to get your facts straight.
Victoria's Secret was created by Roy Raymond in 1977 after he felt embaressed when trying to buy lingerie for his wife, Victoria, in the department stores. So Roy decided he would create a store that was marketed towards men so they could comfortably buy lingerie for their wives or girlfriends.
Then Roy sold the company to Limited Brands and they decide to expand the business towards women too. Now they have just expanded again towards the younger generations.
Therefore men are not invading "our" space because originally it was only for men. And there really is no age limit now. Victoria's Secret sells to all ages and genders. People just need to accept the fact that Victoria's Secret styles change with the changing trends. No one still wears 80's 90's clothes anymore so why should we wear 80's 90's underwear.

Anonymous said...

Okay so i just have to say that you should not be calling those models anoxic or too skinny because, they eat. Most of them are just naturally skinny. They stay so skinny because they eat healthy and exercise. I'm sorry if this offensive to you and I don't mean it in a bad way but I had to say something. This has really helped me with a project I'm working on.

Pam@GoRetro said...

Anonymous--thank you for the full history on Victoria's Secret, and I'm glad this helped you out with your project. I'm guessing you're in junior high, high school or college and this touched a nerve with you, but the truth is many of us who grew up with the brand are not happy with the direction that it's gone into. Maybe you wouldn't want to wear 80s and 90s clothes but you also )I'm guessing) weren't old enough at the time to wear their stuff and honestly, I think the clothes VS made back then were much nicer than some of the items they have today. The quality was better, too. Some of today's styles are simply too revealing for me-there is a way to show off your figure with the right clothing (and not frumpy clothing, either) without revealing cleavage or thong underwear.

As far as the weight of models...while it is true that some women are naturally skinny, ABC News reported just a few weeks ago how much thinner today's models are compared to Christie Brinkley's time. They've gotten skinnier while the average American has gotten fatter...and a size 6 in today's modeling world is actually considered too heavy. Also, I invite you to take a look at this article on how one particular VS model preps herself weeks before the annual fashion show...she eats no solids, just liquids, and then starves herself of even that just before the show. http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/article/TMG8872623/Victorias-Secret-show-What-does-it-take-to-be-a-Victorias-Secret-Angel.html

When I look at a model and I see NO muscle tone whatsoever and skinny arms/legs, there's no doubt to me that she's doing all cardio work and starving herself.

Whitney said...

When I was a little girl I would go with my mom to VS (and was always bored out of my mind :) ) But I always thought to myself how beautiful the store was- with the plush stools, the pink and white walls with gold accents. It was always peaceful and I always thought "I can't wait until I am a grown up and can come shopping here." Then I grew up and VS became trashy. You are so on point- they are selling to little teeny boppers and have completely turned away so many people who used to buy from them. Not only that, but every bra I have gotten from them in the last 8 years has been defective from the start. The only thing I will stand by is the cotton panties... and even those are trashy sometimes!

Anonymous said...

I'm very late to this conversation, but I hope I'm able to throw in my two cents. I remember as a young girl (like around ten) that I couldn't go to Victoria's Secret as it was for older women because of all the lingerie. Eventually I started shopping there, but I guess I missed the old Victoria's Secret and started shopping from the "new" store. As I once was a heavier person, I was very disappointed when they stopped carrying larger sizes in store and I did think that some of their selection was too revealing.

But now as someone who has been working in the store for about 3 weeks and learning all the bras and panties we carry, there definitely is still something for everyone.

Now I know it's going to sound like an ad, but I just want to touch on some points: We offer for those who don't want the short cut style of bra what is called "the perfect coverage," which I have worn way before I worked at the store (I personally don't like or own any of the push ups) and I really liked it as it covers a significant amount of the breast and comes in solid basic colors as well as the basic colors with some little embellishments of lace!

Also with the panties- yes, we do have some...questionable panties like thongs that have sparkles and have some sort of "witty" phrase, but we still carry basic briefs in a variety of colors and some patterns. Especially in our cotton section.

While the quality may have gone downhill, yes, I do have to say that statement has applied to pretty much every retail store. Don't even get me started on Forever21. I will say though, in terms of the bras, you can machine wash them, but you are supposed to hand wash them (yes, even the ones you get from Macy's. If they have a cup/underwire, you should be hand-washing them.)

In terms of Pink, I never liked it nor shopped there, and I try to make sure I don't work that room just as its not my style. It's a personal preference, as I'm sure your blog entry was about. But I do say that today I had one young girl buying her first bra to a 60 year old trying on some new lace bras. Again, it is about preference and how comfortable you are in walking into the new Victoria's Secret.

But if you would like to try, you should definitely stop by. I know in the store I work at we are great at customer service (I have heard on more than one occasion a customer telling us this versus the other Victoria's Secrets around us) but I can't speak for any other store.

Again, I hope you give the store one more try. But yes, I do know what you mean about the old Victoria's Secret that my mother used to shop at. Was very classy.

Anonymous said...

I so totally agree with you! I loved the Victoria's Secret catalogs from the 90's. Looking through their catalog was complete joy, I wanted everything in it. They could still do a catalog for us and leave the store to the new generation.

Anonymous said...

I really wish corporations would stop sending fake commenters to blogs like this. I am pretty sure that at least 3 of the responses are from the VS "online reputation management team" (ie: underpaid bloggers who have to follow everyone around that says that VS is crap and try to say they are wrong).

After all who else knows the history of VS off the top of their head or would really defend their use of pathetically emaciated sticks with eating disorders they call "models".

Consumers are not stupid, and we see through your fake reviews and poor attempts at "brand management". Perhaps if you focused on making less cheap clothing instead of running around pathetically trying to quiet people who tell the truth about your crappy products on the internet, you would not need a "reputation management team".

The TRUTH is that VS produces cheap crap now, and their models are sick looking (and so over-photoshopped it's pathetic).

Anonymous said...

My daughters and I have made our last trip to VS. We were there last Saturday and they had changed the entire store in the last 3 months. Crummy crowded cheap looking layout, store filled with flat chested teeny boppers and crying babies. Gone are the soft simple no wire bras, everyone in the family now MUST have their own dressing room, which is inconvenient and ties up space for other customers. My daughters needed to go up in size and requested PLAIN WHITE BRAS like they used to sell, NO WIRE. What does the saleslady bring them? Black lace underwire. SERIOUSLY?? After giving this salesgal the Look of Doom, she said they don't make those simple comfy bras anymore. Time wasted, you could've told us in the beginning. Good-bye.

Akemi said...

I found your post while searching for photos and descriptions of the 1990s Victoria's Secret. I have a lovely Made in England for VS teapot that would look so out of place in that garish store now.

This post prompted my search: http://evandolive.com/2013/03/22/a-letter-to-victorias-secret-from-a-father/

Akemi said...

I found your post while searching for images and descriptions of the 1990s Victoria's Secret. I have a beautiful Made in England for VS teapot that would look so out of place in the garish store that VS has become.

This post prompted my search: http://evandolive.com/2013/03/22/a-letter-to-victorias-secret-from-a-father/

Anonymous said...

Super late to the party...

What once was classy and special is now trashy and bubble gum.

In the 90s, getting a VS catalog was an event. I would pour through them again and again. I would save up my money for wonderful pajamas, lingerie and lotions and feel like a million bucks wearing them. :) Going to the stores was an experience. I felt sophisticated the minute I crossed the threshold. The classical music, the ivory bureaus with gold accents, the pink and ivory motif, adult shoppers...I was in heaven.

I rarely buy from VS now. The catalogs I do get, more often than not end up in the recycle bin, unread. The photoshopping...ugh. I haven't set foot in a store for years.

I really miss VS...

Anonymous said...

Super late to the party...

What once was classy and special is now trashy and bubble gum.

In the 90s, getting a VS catalog was an event. I would pour through them again and again. I would save up my money for wonderful pajamas, lingerie and lotions and feel like a million bucks wearing them. :) Going to the stores was an experience. I felt sophisticated the minute I crossed the threshold. The classical music, the ivory bureaus with gold accents, the pink and ivory motif, adult shoppers...I was in heaven.

I rarely buy from VS now. The catalogs I do get, more often than not end up in the recycle bin, unread. The photoshopping...ugh. I haven't set foot in a store for years.

I really miss VS...

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