sexualization of teenager girls

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sexualization of teenager girls

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

Victoria‟s Secret‟s Sexualization of Teenagers

    Jenna Bartak

    COMM121: Introduction to Mass Communications

    Ted Gournelos

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers


     Victoria‟s Secret, globally known for their sexy catalog and well-anticipated fashion shows- full of women in nothing but fancy lingerie- has been a controversial fashion icon since the early 1970‟s. Founded by Ray Raymond whose original vision was to create an inviting atmosphere for both men and women to purchase intimates for them and/or for their significant

    others. With a women-oriented line of products it was surprising that the initial target audience for Victoria‟s Secret was the male population. Through the use of the male gaze and sexualized advertising Victoria‟s Secret made a big name for itself by hosting a fashion show around the

    Angel” collection using well-known super models. Later, focusing mainly on middle-aged women for merchandise, one can now find a much younger audience within Victoria‟s Secret scope of target marketingteenagers and college students. Introducing the PINK and PINK

    colligate collection in 2004 and 2008, respectively, which depicts how Victoria‟s Secret

    sexualizes girls of a younger age and creates the idea of feminine through the use of lingerie.

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

    The Secret of Victoria‟s Secret

     For years Victoria‟s Secret has set the bar of how women should dress—underneath their

    clothes. Known for their classic yet sultry lingerie, Victoria‟s Secret‟s most known advertising

    strategy was done with super-models strutting down the runway in angel wingsthe Angel

    Across America campaign. Now, Victoria‟s Secret has turned to collegiate campaigns in the

    Pink collection. This paper will perform a contextual analysis of Victoria‟s Secret campaigns

    from Angel to Collegiate, focusing on the Pink advertising, in which Victoria‟s Secret focuses on

    a younger audience than their traditional audience of women in their upper twenties to mid-forties. Found on a Victoria‟s Secret web forum, Ann Marie posted “I think they (Victoria‟s

    Secret) have recently shifted their marketing focus and are catering almost entirely to a younger crowd” (Victoria‟s Secret target clientele, 2007). This younger crowd is composed of preteens,

    teenagers, and college-aged women from 12- 22 years of age. Through this genre of women Pink attempts to create a life-style image for them to pursue through Victoria‟s Secret products

    of bright colors and polka-dotted undergarments. I argue that Victoria‟s Secret‟s target audience

    is shifting from older women to younger women in attempts to create and define the image of what is sexy and feminine in these young minds, sexualizing them at a much younger age.

    The Story of Victoria‟s Secret

     The Victoria‟s Secret legend began in 1982 when The Limited Brands bought out their

    store and catalog for $1 million (Limited Brands History, 2009). By 1986 Victoria‟s Secret was

    a franchise of 167 stores across America with an annual sales volume of $112 million dollars (Workman, N., 1996). These stores specialized in lingerie which integrated the styles of old and th19 Century English into their products and store design, the latter of which has been described

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

as a “turn-of-the-century San Francisco bordello” style (Workman, N., 1996). Since then the

    stores‟ layout has been transformed into a lighter, bedroom type style to create a more personal,

    intimate atmosphere. This bedroom-style look is created through the use of bedroom type furniture (e.g. like dresser drawers with merchandise inside) (Workman, N., 1996). In 2002 Victoria‟s Secret decided to change their look again to match the super-models of their Angel

    Across America campaign: Tyra Banks, Gisles Buchchen, Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima, and Alssandra Ambroso (See figure 1).

    Figure 1

    The bedroom-type look was transformed into a more racy style to recreate the ambiance of the store. Instead of shoppers feeling as if they had merely stepped into a place of business, they would now feel as if they had stepped onto the runway. Kathleen Baldwin, Vice President for store design, said, “Traditionally, our stores have had soft, feminine environments, but the ad

    campaigns were sexier. Those ads and the Victoria‟s Secret fashion show are an enormous part

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

of our image, and the new design is more aligned with that” (Khamsurov, M., 2004, p. 54) (See

    figure 2). Figure 2

     A large portion of Victoria‟s Secret sales are due to their two main advertising

    catalogs and live fashion shows. 330 million of Victoria‟s Secret catalogs are strategies

    distributed annually to the United States alone (The History of Victoria‟s Secret and their

    Seductive Underwear, n.d.). Filling the pages of these catalogs are varieties consiting of beautiful silks and satins of lingerie and casual wear of from which to choose (Victoria‟s Secret

    catalog corporate incentives, 1997). Victoria‟s Secret also distribute topical catalog editions-

    such as Country, City and Swim wear- which guide women on the appropriate lingerie and outerwear for a specific demographic. Along with topical catalogs one can find seasonal catalogs, such as Christmas Dreams & Fantasies, which display an array of speciality underwear for speacial occasions (The History of Victoria‟s Secret and their Seductive Underwear, n.d.). In

    2002, 82% of Victoria‟s Secret catalogs and retail customers are women with a demographic age

    of 25-45 years (Victoria‟s Secret Catalog Buyers, 2009).

     In 1999, for Super Bowl XXXIII, Victoria‟s Secret spent $5.5 million in pitching their

    sexy lingereie ads and spent $1.5 million to show a one 30-second ad (Cobb, C., 1999). In Feburary of the same year, Victoria‟s Secret aired its first fashion show over the internet,

    allowing people to log in and see what was new in stores. To promote this event, $4 million was spent on a full page newspaper ad (Cobb, C.). Though Victoria‟s Secret planned for an audience

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

    of over a million people, the servers could not handle the 1.5 million who logged on; visuals were dark and choppy and the sound was disappointing. This mishap hindered the sales that Victoria‟s Secret expected (Hanover, D., 1999), leading Victoria‟s Secret to air their fashion

    shows via television through ABC in 2001 and then two years later to CBS (Monget, K., 2005). Victoria‟s Secret‟s fashions shows are one of the most anticpiated annual events, the executive

    producer for this spectacle, Ed Rayek, said that “every year it‟s got to be bigger and better” (Rees, R. & Meding, M., 2007, pg 6). This is done by the use of popular artist, such as Kanye West , Spice Girls and Usher, audience particpation, and ,of course, world-known fashion models debuting Victoria‟s Secret‟s hottest new looks.

     Anthony Hebron, spokesperson for Limted Brands Inc., claims that Victoria‟s Secret

    fashion shows drive more people into the storemaking the $10 million production worthwhile

    (Prashad, n.d.). To encourage the viewing of the already anticipated event, CBS held a sweepstakes for viewers to a win a trip to New York to watch Gisele Bundchen and Tyra Banks on and off stage (Advertising Mascots, n.d.). But why all the hype and anticpaition for a once-a-year- event consiting of half-naked women strutting down the runwayexcept for the obvious

    reasons of fantasies and sex appeal? I argue that it is because this event has the ability to attract both men and women by the sheer capability of creating an image of what Victoria‟s Secret

    deems as true feminity and sexualitywhich is being absorbed today by a younger generagtion.

    Contextual Anaylsis of Victoria‟s Secret

    On Valentine‟s Day of 2004, Victoria‟s Secret introduced a new line of products: The

    Pink Collection. This line includes bikinis, thongs, boy shorts, hipsters, short-shorts and pajamas. This line was meant to target 18- 22 year old women (Zmuda, N., 2008). These new products

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

proved popular, but in the last quarter of 2007 Victoria‟s Secret lingerie sales decreased by 7%

    due to the recession. The Pink line was then used to create the Collegiate Collection, consisting

    of license T-shirts, sweats, totes, and underwear designed specifically for 33 United States

    universities, including University of Michigan, Texas A&M, and Harvard (see figure 5).

     Sara Tervo, Victoria‟s Secret Vice President of Public Figure 3

    Relations and Event Marketing, argued that incorporating Pink into the college scene helped foster relationships with students, schools, and communities (Zmuda, N., 2008). Filandroa, an analyst with Susquehanna Finical Group, suggested that Pink has been a tremendous growth

    vehicle for [Victoria‟s Secret] and gives them an opportunity to capture that customer at a much younger age than Victoria‟s Secret was able to do previously. The earlier they can get her, the more likely it is they keep her” (Zmuda, N., 2008, 29).

     In order to establish the Collegiate Collection, Victoria‟s Secret hired brand ambassadors

    to promote their products, using what is called a grass-roots approach. Filandro claims that this approach is “brilliant… a powerful way to connect with the core customer that they are targeting” (Zmuda, N., 2008, 29). For each campus there were two to three ambassadors hired to ensure maximum visibility. Their responsibilities as ambassadors included handling the Recycle Your Sweats Program by placing bins on campuses for used-clothing donations, promoting Pink‟s

    pop-up store on the internet, and traveling to six college football games to promote various

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

games-day events for the brand (Zmuda, N., 2008). Harvard‟s newspaper, in regards to their

    own Pink Ambassadors, posted that Rob Walker from the New York Times believes that

    Victoria‟s Secret real target is actually preteens and teenagers, not college-aged students, with

    Pink being used as an entry brand (College Women Join „Team Pink‟, 2005). On Focus on the

    Family‟s webpage Vicky Courtney advises parents to defer the damaging influences of early

    sexualization brought upon by Victoria‟s Secret‟s outreach to this younger generation. Courtney

    argued “it used to be that you didn‟t step foot into Victoria‟s Secret until you had a ring on your finger. Nowadays girls as young as middle school are stopping in…” (2008).

    Textual Analysis of Pink Ads

     In a line that is aimed entirely at tween, teen, and college students, the Pink Collection represents the manifestation of femininity in today‟s society. In Figure 4, one can see four

    models used to advertise Victoria‟s Secret‟s Pink bra collection. One can first observe that the models used are visibly younger than the models usually used for Victoria‟s Secret advertising in

    order to engage a younger audience. One can also clearly see that the bras have titles which attach an identity to the product- being the biggest flirt, the most likely to succeed, or being the most popular. Through the use of commodity identity Pink‟s image creates an idea that when a

    girl wears a certain bra she takes on the identity that came with the bra. All girls are posed in seductive stances with flirtatious looks, quite similar to the stances and looks of their counterparts in the Victoria‟s Secret Angel collection.

     Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers Figure 4

     “Most Comfy“Most Likely “Most Popular” “Biggest Flirt”

    padded wireless t o Succeed” T-shirt bra scoop neck bra bra push-up Bra

    with gel

     The “Most Popular” T-shirt bra reappropriates a hippie” look in their model with a 60‟s

    type hairstyle, head band and colorful bra. Both models for the “most comfy” and “most likely

    to succeed” bras are highly sexualized by placing much emphasis on the models torso and jutted out chest. The “Most Likely to Succeed” push-up bra also insinuates to impressionable

    teenagers that it is the pushed-up and accentuated cleavage that will assist in success

    diminishing and degrading young women‟s achievement to the style and size of their bra.

    Victoria‟s Secret Pink also incorporates diversity in their models in order to appeal to a broader scope of girls, creating a sense of exoticism by using multiracial models and background settings. All of these models are skinny and fit, just like the models used to showcase other Victoria‟s

    Secret products. By only using models with body types which best represent the Victoria‟s Secret style, even though they manufacture and sell bras and underwear in all sizes. It ensures a belief in girls that if they buy these products, they too will mount onto the pedestal of the Victoria‟s Secret lifestyle. Interestingly, found on the Victoria‟s Secret Pink webpage is a tab that reads “Pink is Life” and when rolled over switches to “Life is Pink”, insinuating that the life

    a teenage girl should have is one that includes Victoria‟s Secret Pink products, submerging girls

Victoria’s Secret Sexualization of Teenagers

into sexualized women at an early age. No longer is Victoria‟s Secret‟s focus directed by the

male gaze or middle aged womenbut over-sexed preteens and teenagers.

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