Garter Belts and Girl Power: Postfeminism in the Victoria's Secret Holiday Campaign

Curator's Note

It holds the title of “biggest lingerie shoot in history.” The 2016 Victoria’s Secret holiday campaign is an extravagant and over-the-top example of holiday advertising culture. Millions of dollars were spent to create this 3-minute short film that features gorgeous models in stunning outfits at exotic locations. The premise of the film is an invitation-only all-girls party at the enchanting Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte castle near Paris. The short film served as the precursor to the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Each year, the show is the capstone of the lingerie company’s holiday campaign and is still the most-watched fashion show of all time.

I appreciate this year’s short film advertisement because of its postfeminist approach. In previous Victoria’s Secret commercials, the models were shown as pure sex objects. Women were submissive to the sexual desires of men and were treated as such. Women were supposed to buy lingerie to make their man happy and play into his fantasy. But this year’s ad is strikingly different.

The 2016 holiday campaign is a celebration of girl power. The models arrive on horseback and are treated like royalty as soon as they enter the castle. They are presented with a beautiful holiday table with pastries, cakes, and candies. They are waited on by white-gloved male servants in full uniform. In fact, the only men shown in the ad are portrayed in servant-like roles. Women are no longer shown as sex objects, but as independent thinkers who choose to be sexy. The ideas of choice and sexual empowerment are classic staples of the postfeminist school of thought.

It’s refreshing to see Victoria’s Secret take such an approach because their media reaches millions of people worldwide. According to Nielson, the 2016 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show won the social media ratings across all television that night, even beating out Monday Night Football. With such large reach and so much influence, it is critical that these ad campaigns perpetuate a positive message for females.

Lingerie can be criticized as a sexist product that encourages women to be submissive to men. I applaud Victoria’s Secret and their latest holiday ad campaign for engaging with the idea of sexual confidence and empowerment for all women. This ad serves as an energizing celebration of female sexuality.

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