Victoria's Secret and Distorted Reality

I'm a big fan of Victoria's Secret! I love their fashion show and I used them in my college thesis on beauty ideals, as they are one of the few brands to use happy, smiling, sexy women on their runways as opposed to the pouting, angry-faced size-00 teenage girls that high-fashion brands send out every Fashion Week.

But then, VS fell in love with Photoshop.
I have nothing against the use of Photoshop in fashion communication - when it's used to erase obvious flaws that we all have, such as skin imperfections, cellulite or gray hairs. After all, it's about selling a fantasy and who fantasises about having pimples? But when it's too far, it bothers me. I can't stand it when the figure of an already perfect-looking woman is altered into distortion with the use of a photo-retouching programme - and the picture is then used to make the consumer believe that this is what women should look like.

Look at the picture above. What do you see?

Model Candice Swanepoel is an absolutely gorgeous woman - I bet that she looks stunning even with no makeup, hair undone and ripped jeans, let alone when wearing sexy lingerie and dolled up with sensual hair styling and pretty, feminine makeup. So what need is there to Photoshop her to death, making her look famished and giving her figure a weird, breaking-off-at-the-middle shape?

While several VS models like Doutzen Kroes and Erin Heatherton have defended the use of photo-altering softwares in VS communication, I wonder what message pictures like the above one send to the consumer. Personally, I don't believe that we have to "be smart enough to realise" that the pictures have been altered. Why should they be altered this much in the first place? Especially if they're already drop-dead-oh-my-GAWD gorgeous women.

This is what VS models look like with no Photoshop, no "flattering" lights and no fakery:

...to me, Alessandra Ambrosio (left) and Brooklyn Decker (right) look perfect.
And at the center we have Crystal Renn, a former plus-size model. PLUS SIZE, guys. 
She's gorgeous, but plus size? Doesn't look very plus to me.

Seeing these pictures makes me realise just how much pressure there is on women - just being beautiful is not enough anymore, now we have to be superhuman mannequins with huge boobs and unnaturally small waists. We have to be "womanly" and have "curves" that men like - but we also have to stay impossibly skinny. It's enough to make anyone reach for the chocolate cake icing can.

I say, eat healthily (this vegan thing has been working wonders for me) and go to the gym. Do your hair and your nails, and put on makeup if you like. Or don't, if that's what makes you feel better. But take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Stay happy. Because that's what makes you beautiful. That's the kind of beauty that will last way beyond Photoshop.

Pictures from Pinterest.


  1. *Like*
    I couldn't have said any of this better.

  2. I love the mirror pic! And agree with everything said above.

  3. I hate to say it but naturally my stomach actually does look like the top picture =/ and I eat like a horse, I would blame it on metabolism etc (which I suspect plays a good part) but my mum and grandmother were both exactly the same!

    1. I have no doubt there are people that look like this naturally. I'm naturally slim too and I eat a lot (although I only eat vegan food). And if you're happy with your body, that's great! But (at least to me) in that photo it's obvious that a) Candice is sucking her stomach in like crazy b) the camera angle is arranged to make her waist look smaller and c) her breasts are Photoshopped to look bigger while her waist is altered to look smaller. What I think is wrong about that is that Candice is already very beautiful, with "perfect" proportions (if there is such a thing as perfect - I mean according to today's standards), so I don't see what need there is to alter her body with Photoshop and lights.

  4. One of my favourite posts you've written.

  5. Perfettamente d'accordo con te ed hai fatto benissimo a parlare di quest'uso massiccio che viene fatto di Photoshop non solo per correggere imperfezioni, ma proprio per plasmare e trasmettere un ideale del tutto irrealistico di femminilità e bellezza.
    Io infatti ogni volta che guardo le riviste di moda finisco col deprimermi perché rispetto alle immagini di queste modelle mi vedo sempre troppo grassa, deforme quasi (mentre sono normale, né magra, né grassa e con le imperfezioni che più o meno affliggono le donne in generale: smagliature, cellulite, qualche rughetta ecc.).
    Purtroppo poi la divulgazione di queste immagini hanno come effetto quello di indurre ad una ricerca ossessiva ed estenuante di bellezza che, per forza di cose, sarà difficile, se non impossibile, raggiungere (e per forza, la vita così sottile come ti fanno vedere non è naturale, tanto più che chi solitamente ha un seno prosperoso, ha anche forme più in generale prosperose; è rarissimo che una donna sottilissima, con vita piccolissima, abbia poi anche una quarta di reggiseno. E, chi nasce con una quarta di reggiseno, d'altro canto, se dimagrisse troppo, perderebbe anche una taglia di reggiseno).
    Bellissima l'ultima foto che hai messo, dovremmo tutte scriverci quella frase sullo specchio. :-D

  6. I love VICTORIA'S Secret.. And i love the last pics... The message is very true and important!

  7. I know exactly what you mean, and it's a shame that they've done down this road and this extreme too. I did a body image post a little while ago (http://vanishaslife.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/lets-talk-about-body-image-shape-and.html) and a lot of people thought that all my pictures were photoshoped (they weren't, even though I had the option to have them done). That was difficult for me too, people not believing that that was what I looked like.


Speak your mind.