Glamour Girls from Planet Opulence

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 1 2009 3:47 PM

Glamour Girls from Planet Opulence


On the occasion of the eighth Victoria's Secret Fashion Show , airing tonight on CBS, let us turn our attention to a document titled "Christmas Dreams & Fantasies 2009, Vol. 2," the most recent V.S. catalog to clog my family's mailbox. It advertises bedroom get-ups and underthings including a dubious breed of panties called the "one-size-fits-all thong" available in holiday pink, sparkle pink, dazzle pink, cozy pink, cosmo pink, pink tulip, pink punch, pink sapphire, purple pizazz, raspberry, sour cherry, berrylicious, red chili, cilantro, and even blue.

Near as I can tell, our most recent critical guides to this fantasyland appeared in academic journals in the fall of 1996. In the Journal of Popular Culture , Nancy V. Workman ventured that a Miracle Bra is the modern equivalent of a corset, enclosing women "in rigid positions of cultural enslavement." If you know the first thing about second-wave feminism, then you know the hammer drill. Meanwhile, Social Text gave its fan base the more satisfying "A Pornographic Feminity? Telling and Selling Victoria's (Dirty) Secrets" where Jane Juffer supposed that "the catalogs appeal to working, independent women who return to the home but cannot be fixed there, and who desire a home where their needs and pleasures are fulfilled." A cottage in the Cotswolds, apparently. The catalogs of the mid-'90s strove to class themselves up by leaning on Ye Olde Respectability, offering "pyjamas" and such.

By contrast, the cover girl of "Christmas Dreams & Fantasies 2009, Vol. 2" sets the tone by appearing in a robe and bra of a shade I'd call sultry vermilion. As is common in these contexts, she parts her lips just wide enough to accommodate a delicate bonbon. More distinctive are the Veronica Lake wave in her hair and the pillow-strewn, pizazz-crimson set an MGM idea of a royal bedchamber in folkloric Persia. Inside the catalog, one piece of ad copy booms, "Hollywood bombshell!" while another murmurs, "One gift-a thousand fantasies." This silver-screen Scheherazade is telling a story about stardom and exoticism. Is the bra the gift? Is she? Or does she imagine herself as one of the winged models of an ongoing marketing theme , an angel fallen only as far as the Christmas tree stand? If the Fashion Show is any indication, then you should press Option 3. The promos feature women who, scantily clad though they are, are not highly sexualized. Moving like exquisitely engineered automatons and strapped into theatrical costumes custom plexiglass is not lingerie they are less alluring than strange: Glamour Girls from Planet Opulence.

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Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.