« Advice on Winter Dress | Main | "Sexual Freedom is Damaging to Students" »

December 13, 2006


Erin P

Oh boy...great questions, Cassy.

I happen to think lingerie, specifically, panties and bras in _store windows_ is a big no-no. And what about those headless mannequins? Ugh! I was in a high-end pharmacy this past weekend with my fiance and he pointed out the naked bust of a mannequin scantily clad with a black shawl around her shoulders. People must have thought I was a little nuts, trying to clothe her. The shawl kept slipping off! Anyway...

At the same time, I realize it's hard for stores to advertise their products for passerbys. Is advertising words instead of images in store windows any more modest? How would you feel about seeing the word "bra" instead of seeing an actual bra? I don't know, but I might feel just as "flashed." There might be a difference though between how words and visual images affect men vs. women. It might be a more modest thing for men walking past...


I think you asked a very interesting question about if there is a modest way to advertise lingerie. Off the top of my head, I can't really think of anything.

Would it be more or less sensual to have lingerie stores without any mannequins in the window at all? You would have to go INSIDE to see the products they are selling. I think a new lingerie chain could use that marketing strategy and make a killing because it would seem like the item being sold was more special and personal somehow.


As a man seeking modesty I constantly find myself being visually harassed by the raucus sensuality that pervades our society.

Today I drove by a store window and decided enough was enough. The Forever 21 store in Pasadena, CA was and still is running a visually enticing marketing theme using bright red, headless, naked mannequins. I couldn't believe it. I walked into the store and asked to speak with a manager. A young girl in her 20s approached me. I asked her what the purpose of displaying naked mannequins was. She replied, "for visuals". I proceeded to let her know how this particular visual offended me enough to stop me in my tracks and motivate me to come speak to her. I told her I did not appreciate such a blatant objectification of superficial beauty and I told her my fight for a modest mindset was disrupted by those naked forms. I was surprised by her response.

She told me she didn't like it either. She thought it was silly. She wasn't there to sell mannequins, she was there to sell clothes. She said, "sorry, its up to corporate, not us". I thanked her and walked out. I was glad to have exercised the freedom of speech for the cause of modesty.

I couldn't help wondering what she was thinking as I walked away. She probably didn't even know men like me still exist.


The Victoria Secret at our mall as a huge window display with mannequins dressed up like strippers. I have 4 boys and loathe walking by their store. The one mannequin is laying down and has on fish nets and garters.....ughhhhh!


Doea anyone remember the old Calvin Klein jeans ads of the 70's that implied that a top model (can't remember her name) wore nothing under them? Something like, "I don't let anything come between me and my Calvins." Victoria's Secret could do the same type of thing, basically not showing any of their lingerie in their ads and saying something like, "I'm keeping my Victoria's secret" to their husbands and boyfriends in the ad.
To my way of thinking, parading their merchandise in huge posters just makes ordinary women realize that they can never compare with the supermodels, and there's no point in trying. If the only women men saw in lingerie was their own partners, they would probably think the ladies looked better, too.


It was Brooke Shields in the early 80s and it was also very controversial, because she was 15 at the time and lying on the floor looking very seductive. Was she saying that she didn't wear underwear, or that she wanted to keep her virginity?

I see your point about great ads keeping everyone guessing, but I still have a problem with teenagers put in those situations (or more accurately, their mothers).

Brooke also played a child prostitute and had her first topless scene at the age of 12 in the movie "Pretty Baby."

But don't get me started on Brooke's mother!


It seems to me there's a larger problem here.

Stores like Victoria's secret make a living selling sexy underwear to girls, many of whom are in no position to be having sex.

Many people think that because Victoria's Secret is ubiquitous in upscale suburban malls the store is somehow innocent, even though the whole thrust of their business is the sexualizing of women who have no legitimate sexual outlet.

There is a way to advertise underwear modestly. Look at catalogs from the early 20th century. You'll see line drawings of women wearing underwear whose manufacturers clearly focused on the utility of the garment.

VS's advertising, on the other hand, seems to be all about appealing to men, by showcasing gorgeous, mostly naked women and appealing to women by implying that if men like the woman in the ad, they will like you too if you wear what she's wearing.

So, to move forward with modest underwear advertising producers would have to go back, not just to an earlier style of advertising, but to an emphasis on the quality and usefulness of the product, rather than on the promise of the sexual attention that will come when a woman purchases the right thong.


Actually, Calvin Klein also used Kate Moss in ads that implied she wasn't wearing any panties--when she was 14/15. She also had ads where the jeans were all the she had one. Her arms were crossed over her bare breasts.

Remember when Abercrombie and Fitch was the popular brand? Walking into their store or opening their catalog, you were bombarded with totally naked women, men, and couples. Of course, an arm here or an item there covered up the most secret of places, but... everyone knew they were naked.

My mother never let me shop there because she refused to support "any clothing store that advertises naked bodies instead of clothed ones."

Naomi B.

Interesting topic. I used to buy bras at Victoria's Secret, but after flipping through one of their magazines, I realized that I couldn't in good conscious support them. Now I get my things from Maidenform. They're just as good and cheaper. :)

Anyway. I think for me the problem wasn't so much what they were wearing as how they were wearing it. I get that you're selling underwear and you have to show people what it looks like. But the magazine wasn't so much designed to show people what the merchandise looked like as to be seductive and sexy. Add to that the over-thin models and I realized I just couldn't support it anymore.


I like the idea of having a mannequin-less storefront.

Havent' these people ever heard of mystique? Sheesh, even Spielburg learned about it when he made Jaws and discovered that you could scare people MUCH more by rarely showing the shark.

Plus it would just be classier. Mannequins are creepy as all get-out.


1) I like VS products, but I am appalled by their new ad campaign, which basically simulates a strip club, with all the poles, and flashing lights, etc...I think of myself as pretty open-minded, but this is just trash, and entirely unnecessary. There are plenty of successful companies that sell sexy undergarments without visually assaulting consumers.

2)Dean, I see where you're coming from, but I want underwear that is not just functional, but also pretty, and yes, sexy, even (or especially?)if I'm the only one who knows(I guess that's the "secret" part). Point is, line drawings simply wouldn't do the job when it comes to selling the fashion aspect. This is actually an issue that came up in a discussion in a psych class of mine, and it was suggested that only the undergarments (sans mannequins/models) be displayed. That way the company is selling their products, and not women's bodies. Though that does not solve the problem of 12-year old boys and girls having thongs thrown into their faces, it would be a reasonable step in the right direction. And how about a catalog with the design sketches rather than photos?


When I walked by VS today, the display had SEXY in big lighted letters.

If you have to tell me it's sexy in big lights then it isn't sexy.


I really don't think we have to have everything shown to us to get the idea that these are UNDERGARMENTS and how they're supposed to fit. I think drawings of the items in catalogs are likely to work fine...and as far as in the store, just on the rack....use the dressing room, know your measurements.

I have a problem also with the underwear and bras on display on the aisle at Target, JC Penney, Mervyn's, Wal Mart....where aren't they in-your-face?

It's just like the TV commercials for certain creams or hygiene items....There are other ways to advertise, maybe discreetly in a woman's magazine....Maybe just by being available in that aisle in the store.

I think in the old days ladies could find lingerie, etc., in discreet little boutiques or in more hidden areas of a department store.

I long for those days....the last time I made the mistake of stopping in at Victoria's Secret, there were two "boyfriends" of girls there loitering around, staring at the women there, being kicked out of the dressing room...all the while women are trying to buy underwear.

It's just wrong.


There used to be a huge Baby Phat billboard of a naked Kimora Lee Simmons wearing only sneakers right near Times Square (I think she was supposed to be advertising the sneakers).

I could not believe how huge and just out there that thing was in such a high traffic area. It was horrible.

I believe I also once saw a huge bra advertising billboard in the heart of Times Square on a different occasion. That, too, amazed me. Highly inappropriate.

Wish I'd complained.

Your wrong

America is full of prudes, i think it would be nothing but beneficial for Americans to be exposed to that type of advertising. In Europe people are very sexually free, they embrace the human body, Here in America everyone is so concerned with what there kids are exposed to that they dont really try to look at it as a good thing. Maybe we should educate our children earlier about sexual thing. Maybe this would take the mystery away and make everyone much more comfortable with there body. Sex is great and good for you, its no big secret so lets not act like it is.


Europe has lost their faith in God - lost any sense of sacredness of the body - Sex is great because God created it - and it's only good in the context of a married man and woman



Wow! Umm, that's called being a parent! What is the rush to expose children to anything and everything with no boundaries? That hardly makes sense.

And how does the wholehearted acceptance of half naked glossy women striking uncomfortable-looking poses with their mouths ajar, for example, automatically serve as a positive sign of so-called sexual freedom or body comfortability?

It has nothing to do with being prudish (that's really getting to be a lame and tired accusation, by the way), and everything to do with the oversexualization and objectification of women.

We are bombarded by that crap (excuse my language) and as a 29-year adult woman who enjoys pop culture (among other things, LOL) I consider 95% of it to be damaging, inappropriate and offensive.

If engaging in the world I live in and critiquing the images I am exposed to makes me a prude, then sew me a scarlet P and I'll wear that puppy proudly!

And big deal if someone really is a prude! All that means is that they believe in standards! Hah!

Everyone can't be loose!

(Don't excuse the poor pun!)

Liz Neville

Wendy-- there it is again: We need to be more comfortable with our bodies!!! I think we could institute a tote board feature and put up a tick mark every time we are reminded of this tired concept.


I know, don't even get me started. The tick mark is not a bad idea actually.

For my book GIRLS GONE MILD I interviewed this young French counselor who complained about how young people in France are in fact totally messed up because they are exposed to porn and "sexy" 24/7.

Suffice it to say, they ain't comfortable.

Heather  Carson

I thought the words of this song by Lisa Germano might interest some of you. It pretty much sums up how I sometimes feel when I walk by the Victoria's Secret in my home town. Mostly I just feel embarrassed. My husband and I always walk on the other side of the mall. The song is called "Victoria's Secret" off the album "Excerpts from a Love Circus":

What is victoria's secret
What is victoria's secret, yeah
She says you are ugly I am pretty
Your man wishes you looked like me

What is victoria's secret
What is victoria's secret, yeah
Looking at you has me more blue
Than I was before i got you
Just what i need today shoved in
My face hoping I change someday

Pretty lonely, ugly woman
Getting mail from you
Pretty lucky are you real or am I simply ugly ugly
What is victoria's secret
What is victoria's secret
What is victoria's secret, yeah
What is victoria's secret
What is victoria's secret
What is victoria's secret

He says you are ugly I am pretty
Your man wishes you looked like me



I love those lyrics. I believe Lisa Germano is also the singer of that "You Make Me Want to Wear Dresses" song--which I have actually never heard.

But I like the lyrics!


To address the poster who identified him/herself as "You're Wrong":

If your own generalization of Europe IS true, then I feel very sorry for you, your people and their children (I'm assuming you live in Europe, but, it's no matter if not.).

We, at least at this site, respect the *context* within which we share things of a private nature. Context is everything.

Perhaps you do not believe that the human body is sacred enough to be considered private. I think you are wrong. More importantly, the God of the Bible considers your stance to be wrong. This, above all, should floor all of us who are not in line with Him.

I am not a prude. I simply strive to have standards that are in line with Gods. So, hey,...if you are married, "Go To It," sexually, with your own husband/wife! If you are not married, in waiting have due regard for the one body you were given. Guard it like you would a special heirloom jewel, something not on display to all, a prize not to be handled and passed about casually. Your body was given to you by God...through your parents...and is to be presented intimately only to a specially chosen person who will value this "jewel" enough to become family...your future husband/wife. Do not flaunt or give away what is reserved singly for your future spouse. There is a right time and place for everything.

You want us to take the "mystery away." How sad. Mystery is such a beautiful, alluring thing. It magnifies the pleasure between a man and a woman a thousand-fold. In shedding this sexual mystery casually, we vountarily devalue ourselves as human beings. We make what is Sacred... Common. What a pity.

What is so precious about desensitization? What else in Life do you want to desensitize yourself to?

If anything, I believe that children should be taught about sexual things LATER. Let them enjoy being children. They will have quite enough time, still, in which to adopt the casual, immoral attitudes and "education" to which you subscribe. They will have plenty of time to reap the benefits of acting on sexual impulse: sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, broken hearts, a degraded sense of self from giving away such a precious commodity so freely, and, most importantly, a dire spiritual condition in the eyes of God, who has openly condemned this way of life.

I really, truly hope you will re-think your stance. I wish you the best and that is this: that you will come to *value*, in the deepest meaning of the word, what the God of the Bible has taught on these topics...sexual conduct and modesty. I hope you will learn to respect the natural impulse that is Modesty. Yes, Modesty, too, is a *human impulse* (...humans are the only ones who blush!). Of course, we can choose to desensitize ourselves to this response, but why would we want to...all considered?




By the way, although I'd love to go in and browse Victoria Secret's wares....it's *because* of their GIANT, immodest posters, plastered on the windows for all sexes and ages to see,....that I have actually boycotted them. I refuse to shop there or order their products.

Their commercials are terrible, too.


I hadn't been in a Victoria's Secret store in a while, and I stopped in the weekend before Christmas because of a nice sale on panties. It's interesting to see the other little things they sell alongside lingerie, like lip glosses, perfumes, gum, and mints (called "sexy mints.") Fresh breath is always appealing, but mints as "sexy"? Hmm.


I love Victoria's Secret. Their clothes and underwear are decently priced and fit wonderfully. Seeing a naked woman does not bother me because I see a naked woman in the mirror everyday. Victoria's Secret is marketing towards women who want to feel sexy. What's wrong with that? Who really cares if a woman's butt is showing? People are going to see butts anyway. I will continue to support the company and my boyfriend will continue to enjoy seeing me in their merchandise. I know there's no way in hell you'll post this on your blog but I just couldn't help myself. Thank you.


Thank you for having a discussion on topics that are so controversial. Unfortunately, modesty has so little to do with your world view.

Here's a little story to brighten your day: I was talking with a mom this weekend who has a four-year-old son. The mom and son were walking in the mall recently and passed a VS store. The son covered his eyes with the back of his hand and told his mom, "Hold my hand; that's inappropriate!" The mom was kind of surprised that her son had realized that at so young an age. If only more men in America learned the wonderful habit of covering their eyes. I hope this little boy never forgets to put such a high value on female bodies.


I think lingerie can absolutely be marketed without getting too skanky --- at least the more functional kinds can. I would be much more likely to check out a bra if if it was in an ad that, say, had the model wearing a fitted t-shirt over it, and there were no lines or puckers and her figure looked good. Frankly, I care more about how the lingerie makes me look than how the lingerie looks itself.

As far as more sex-oriented lingerie goes, I still thing it's possible to market it with a little more discretion. (Actually, why even advertise thongs? They all look more or less the same.) Just having the models in less provocative poses would help. Of course, no marketer would go for that... so how about having ads outside the store that merely tantalize and suggest, with the more obvious pictures inside? I think that'd be a more effective strategy, anyway.


I'm not sure if comments from a guy are welcome here but I just have to say I was delighted by Mandi's idea for an advertisement. I wonder if a budding artist or photographer could 'mock up' a few examples of thiis idea? I may be jumping ahead too far but imagine an "I'm keeping my Victoria's secret" banner being the link to modesty zone?

Jeremy Price

I'm respectfully on the other side on this - I shop there for my wife and enjoy seeing how things look on someone rather than laying in a rack.

I think we've all lost the point - sexiness used to be a pleasant game we all played and each had a part to play, male and female. Now everything is so serious that women have forgotten the thrill of being admired and men have forgotten how to admire women. Have we really gained anything or have we all lost? I think it's a really tepid argument or position that ignores the reality of being human.


I am quite disappointed with Victoria's Secret lately because their lingerie and models are not as sexy as they were in the 80s. Back in the 80s, the girls had curves and their lingerie was hot! There is nothing sexier than a girl wearing black stockings with a garter belt and a short skirt. I love it! I don't know what everyone is complaining about. I grew up in the 80s and thanks to Victoria's Secret, I became a man. :)

Julie E.

First of all, a woman's beauty should come from the inside out. What good does it do her if she looks beautiful or sexy, but is not pleasant to be around.

Second, I do think it's good for a woman to look attractive, and maybe even sexy, for her own husband, but not to the extent that she's revealing herself to every other man out there, too. Her body belongs to her husband, just as his body belongs to her. For those of you who are not married yet, you should save your body for your future mate.

Between the internet and women's indecent clothing, men and boys are having a hard time keeping their thoughts pure. For you married women, would you want your husband looking and lusting after another woman he sees in the mall exposing part of her breasts. Women are exposing more and more and I'm angry that I can't stop it. I can only try to set an example by the way I dress. I don't even like taking my boys out in public anymore because scantily dressed women are everywhere. At least my boys have the decency to turn their heads. Thing is, I'm not sure if I should feel sorry for those women or just disgusted.


I realize this is an old blog, but just a thought: I personally love Victoria's Secret because of the quality clothing and lingerie, and the advertising does not bother me as a 22-year-old because it is age-appropriate (not sure how I'll feel if I have kids one day!). But I view the advertising, the fashion shows, the commercials, as a power statement. It's almost as if the women are entirely too attractive to be the seducers: they are there to choose a man if and when they desire, not to BE chosen. Those images to me evoke nothing of sex but instead body image and controlling appearance. Healthy? No, but it is one to consider when you think about how other young women perceive Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie, and others. For some, perhaps it's not so much about sex as it is about completely controlling and de-sexualizing their bodies; and, by default, controlling men who DO perceive women's bodies as sexual.

Julie Maria

I just want to say a "great" thank you for all the comments and the article. I am just a begginer in this kind of "discussion" and I fell how much is necessary to do that in my country, Brazil, and to know people like you just inspired me.

Thank you so much and please keep me up date of all this.

Julie Maria


I personnaly do not enjoy being bombarded by sexually implicit, or even explicit messages and pictures every time I walk down on the street. I believe it is humanly and intellectually demeaning. But I don't see why everyone who doesn't agree necessarily has to try to stop the stores from doing what they want to sell their products: if the posters do not exhibit any explicit sexual characteristics (genitals or other), then the images are not much more schocking than what we would see by walking down the beach, except maybe for the fact that the models in the store windows are usually much more beautiful, and therefore "exciting". I think that if parents have a problem with the ways their chirdren might perceive these images; they should talk to them about it, and explain their morals to them. The problem isn't the images, but the people's reaction. If they didn't make it so scandalous, and tried to resolve the issue personally (at home), it wouldn't that much of a problem. But some people are being too paranoid: the sole purpose of these companies is to sell, not to morally degrade their surroundings. I am 17 and do not approve of these explicit campains, but I am a catholic, I know what my morals are, and an ad campaign, or a few posters I catch a glimpse of walking down the street shouldn't, and aren't going to derail me from them in any way, and if they do, I think that says something about the lack in strength of my convictions.

The comments to this entry are closed.