An Open Letter to Women: Why Do We Shop at Victoria's Secret?

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

An open letter to Victoria's Secret from a young father went viral this week. He’d heard a rumor (untrue) that the lingerie giant was starting up an underwear line for middle school girls.

His concern was how Victoria’s Secret new target market would impact his three year old. Said the Rev. Evan Dolive, “I don’t want my daughter to ever think that her self-worth and acceptance by others is based on the choice of her undergarments.”

Really? So what does that say about the grown ass women who shop at Victoria's Secret? After all, we’re the ones keeping them in business. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve bought plenty from them and have recommended their bras to others. But what exactly do women get from this shopping experience? Why have we made Victoria's Secret the number one lingerie brand?

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Is it style? It can’t be right for everyone. One reason I don’t shop at VS much anymore has to do with the amount of padding used in their bras. I like the molded, t-shirt bras but that’s not all I want in my lingerie wardrobe. I’m also not interested in having my boobs pushed up to my chin at my age (makes for an odd look on a post-menopausal woman). Their definition of style seems more focused on baring cleavage. I do love that look. But it’s not one I choose to highlight every day.

What about fit? Victoria's Secret isn’t known for well-fitting bras. Many bloggers have chronicled the problems with their measurement guides. Others point to photographic evidence that their bras don’t even fit their own models. And then there’s the limited range of sizes available from the aptly named Limited Brands brand. Victoria's Secret offers A to DD while other manufactures range from AAA to KK (and beyond). Plus most professional bra fitters acknowledge that the average young woman is closer to an “E” than  a“C” bra cup size.

How about value? Bras can range from $25 to $55 and up. They’re not as cheap as the faux-VS styled bras sold at Wal-Mart or Target. Victoria Secret’s prices are comparable to the bras and panties sold in many department stores, though. And women can now find greater variety and better buys on larger Internet lingerie sites.

It could be convenience. Victoria’s Secret stores are located in almost every mall in every part of the country. And they’re spreading across the world! So it is an easy place to walk in and grab what you need -- if you can find your size.

Maybe we consider a purchase of lingerie from Victoria’s Secret as doing a little something special for ourselves? I’m all for empowering women to love what they’re wearing underneath it all. But Victoria’s Secret was the brainchild of a man who wanted to create a better place for men to buy lingerie for their wives. All their advertising is directed at the male gaze, not to celebrating a woman’s individuality (or individual sexuality).

Yes, we grown women are responsible for making Victoria’s Secret the most successful lingerie brand. We’ve voted with our wallets. We’ve literally bought into the belief that we should buy our intimate apparel at a place where a (heterosexual) man would shop for us. And it’s pretty funny when you think about it. Most men don’t care that much about a woman’s underwear. They’d rather see us naked.

Here’s the message that Victoria's Secret sends to women: yes, we can look sexy, but only for someone else. Not for ourselves. Do men base their underwear choices on where women shop for them?

Forget about fit, fashion, or functionality. Let’s pick our most intimate items based on what a straight male sexual partner might think of it -- if he happened to see us undressed. That’s one strange message to send to any young girl or woman.

What do you think? Why do -- or don’t you -- shop at Victoria's Secret?

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