It’s funny how some things filter through almost without you realising. Case in point – I currently know that today the Victoria’s Secret show is happening in London. This is not usually the kind of fact I’d seek out. Yet the number of references to it on Twitter means that its presence has been a tad inescapable.

However, with every tweet I’ve seen, I’ve grown a little sadder. The way most fashion magazines and online media have been framing their announcements is through the lens of the models’ bodies: their exercise regimes, their careful diets, the way they’ve ramped up the amount of squats they’re doing and damped down the amount of food they’re eating – all in prep for the show. God forbid there was even an extra centimeter of flesh! They are depicted as athletes preparing for some kind of grand physical feat (although, to be fair, those wings do weigh a lot…), often presented in a tone veering between awe, celebration and envy.

Currently there are plenty of websites telling you how to emulate their routines, articles gushing over their perfect physiques – and plenty of us sitting at home feeling a bit shit about our lack of a completely perfect set of abs. I saw someone tweet in response to some of the images on the VS Instagram, ‘makes me never want to eat again’ – and plenty of others mentioning how much they’d give to look like one of the models.

Once again we are being fed the tired old message that beauty is epitomised in the slenderest of legs and smallest of waists – that the ‘perfect’ body is only perfect as long as it has been trained and constricted and slimmed and toned into submission.

Let me be clear here – I am not criticising the models themselves. Work is as work does. Walking in the VS show is an incredibly lucrative decision. And it does take work. That kind of modelling is gruelling, requiring a lot of commitment and time and effort. Nor am I criticising the right of a woman to be proud of her body, to be playful, to show it off, to prove its prowess and strength.

However, I have a few questions – why is it that the pinnacle of female success is embodied in the ability to maintain a flat stomach? Why is it that we remain so obsessed with detailing every inch of these bodies? Being encouraged to emulate them, or feel inadequate by comparison?

Why is it that a group of women walking up and down a catwalk in their underwear is billed as one of the top fashion events of the year – some kind of exciting performance or spectacle, rather than a clever orchestration by a big business in order to make more money? Why do so many buy into and breathlessly laud an event that, as described by Ella Alexander in The Independent, isn’t about “really selling underwear”, but “selling an idealised image of women, neatly packaged in angel wings and glitter”?

The Victoria’s Secret models may be beautiful. They may be having a fabulous time. But what we as the viewers are being sold – and told – is something much less fabulous. This event embodies and valorises so many of the drip, drip, drip messages pushed out by the fashion industry – that female beauty is young and skinny and only allowed to be celebrated as long as it fits an identikit formula. And to me, there’s little fun in that.


Words: Rosalind Jana

Rosalind Jana is reading English Literature at Oxford. She won the Vogue Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 16, with a satirical take on an agricultural show written in ‘fashion show’ style. Visit Rosalind’s blog: Clothes, Cameras & Coffee

Thumbnail (featured) image: Samantha Marx, CC 2.0 licence