Victoria's Secret Swimwear May Be No More — And We Think We Know Why
The Victoria's Secret swimsuit catalog, the annual display of women bending themselves into unthinkable contortions in the sand, may be no more.
News broke late Thursday that Victoria's Secret is reportedly ending its swimsuit catalog, along with its entire swimsuit line, in order to save money. In a report from CNBC, the founder of L Brands, which owns Victoria's Secret, recently announced that the store would "reduce its promotions, eliminate the catalog and stop selling certain categories," like swimwear.
But we will not be holding a funereal procession of weepy models and self-tanner. Really, we aren't the least bit sad, and here's why: Victoria's Secret swimwear remained, through 2016, completely blind to the body positivity and diversity movement — and that was a very bad move.
This is in a day and age when models like Ashley Graham land the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. This is a day and age when stores like Target are making a concerted effort to bring in models of different sizes, races and ages to model its suits. This is a day and age when bloggers like GabiFresh can partner up with a swimwear company and become a success.
Yet, in none of Victoria Secret's swimsuit catalogs, or even online, is one plus-size model to be found. Even in its recent Victoria's Secret Swimsuit Special that aired in March, not a single one of the 13 models featured was plus size. During its 2015 special, it was the same thing.
As Mic's Anna Swartz reported, "If the Swim Special proves anything, it's that we're still not offering young women enough examples of different kinds of beauty, and when it comes to swimsuits, especially, that diversity is important."
According to a number of studies, swimwear is one of types of clothing that women feel most judged for their body in. With a 2007 survey finding that "83% [of women] feel 'judged' by other women when wearing a swimsuit." Also, it's has been found that women are actually more likely to shop somewhere if they identify with the models advertising the clothing. So clearly, women respond to models who look like them — and Victoria's Secret ignored that sentiment completely. Mic has even reported on how VS has a problem with showing women with actually large breasts, and women of color.
What Victoria's Secret missed out on was a portion of the $17 billion plus-size industry, and the millions of women who come with it. Especially given that the company has more than 1,000 stores worldwide, adding plus-size women to its roster could have been hugely profitable.
To see what happens when you do include women of various sizes, look no further to American Eagle's loungewear offshoot Aerie. In 2014, the company launched the #AerieReal campaign, and promised to stop Photoshopping its models. Less than a year later, Mic reported that sales for the company had jumped almost immediately, and people were overall incredibly pleased with the idea.
The next year, Aerie announced it had experienced a 20% sales jump, and credited the campaign for the spike. To keep the momentum going, they've brought on more models of various sizes, like curvy model Barbara Ferreira; when she was featured wearing a swimsuit in a video advertisement and online, the story went viral.
To put it simply: People love seeing women they relate to in swimsuits. And that's something Victoria's Secret never bothered to do.
Victoria's Secret will reportedly veer its attention to athleisure, and its VS Pink line (which is aimed at younger women) may actually continue to sell swimwear. But we have some advice for Victoria's Secret: If you want to continue to attract customers, maybe think about who your customers really are, and what they look like. The average size of the American woman is a size 14 and Victoria Secret's largest size for clothing is a mere XL.
Maybe the key to success for clothing companies now really does lie in getting real, and not being afraid of women of all sizes wearing your clothes.