Arts and Entertainment

Angels On The Runway: The Return of the Incomparable Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

The Victoria’s Secret fashion show will be returning in 2024 once again due to many requests for the brand to relive its glory days filled with glamor and fashion.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Given teenagers’ growing obsession with Adriana Lima and other supermodels, it was inevitable that the Victoria’s Secret fashion show would return. Despite being discontinued in December 2018, the show recently became popular on Pinterest boards and in TikTok edits. Victoria’s Secret attempted to recreate the show in 2023, but due to its radical changes (such as varied body types being represented and the show being lax and basic), it flopped, creating even more nostalgia for the show in its original format. The original show created a name for itself with a theme consisting of unimaginable luxury and dreams, leaving many viewers mesmerized. The combination of sultry and sweet models, beautiful angel wings, and stunning million-dollar bras created a heavenly atmosphere that most viewers could only dream of. Soon, the memories of the old show will be no more—the show returns to the runway this year, and Victoria’s Secret has announced the beloved show’s return to be even better than before.

The show debuted at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1995 to further promote the brand. The goal was to create unreal, beautiful personalities through the models that would entice buyers to purchase more. It took the brand to a luxury level, which it had never before been a part of, and despite its “humble” origins, it became a lavish, global event that became synonymous with the brand. The first show was introduced by model Stephanie Seymour, who entered wearing a basic white bra and black bottom. Despite the brand’s current reputation for its lingerie, the 1995 show featured fewer extravagant pieces and was more subtle and conservative; most of the iconic features, such as the wings and popping makeup, were not there just yet.

Over time, the show grew in popularity and style, and the angel concept was introduced. Crowned as the first official Victoria’s Secret angel, Karen Mulder amplified the heavenly and out-of-this-world beauty of the show. This was developed even further when Tyra Banks was awarded the first set of wings, and it quickly became a trend, though they seemed basic compared to more recent styles. They were often paired with fantasy bras, which were usually bedazzled with diamonds and other extravagant jewels and were priced at a couple of million dollars. They became the centerpiece of the show and an honor to wear, with models flocking at a chance to wear them. 

The once-basic show had since grown in luxury and extravagance, especially after it was televised for the first time in 2001. As Victoria’s Secret had pioneered the idea of a lingerie fashion show, many couldn’t have predicted its popularity; once it first aired in 2001, it peaked in viewership and streamed on prime time. The show grew from being a simple advertisement to mainstream entertainment. The proceedings featured singers like Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake, and models became personalities. Some flirty, some sultry, and some sexy; models like Gisele Bündchen and Alessandra Ambrosio emerged from giant presents wearing themed push-up bras with massive wings. Soon enough, the show went global, hitting cities like Cannes, London, and even faraway Shanghai.

Despite its smashing success and beautiful models, the show was always controversial. When the show first began in the ‘90s and early aughts, people vaguely accepted the necessity for fashion models to be skinny and white. As time progressed, they started including more people of color, such as Yasmeen Ghauri. However, it still remained a deeply Eurocentric show and deemed mostly white models as “angelic.” Further criticism grew as many realized there was really only one body type prominent throughout the show—supermodel Robyn Lawley called for a boycott of the brand because it was promoting one type of woman, a thin one. This worsened in the 2010s with a growing understanding that this hyper-skinny lifestyle was unhealthy. Victoria’s Secret, however, refused to diversify the body types in the show because they built their brand around skinny bodies. It was believed that using different body types could cause the show to fail, and chief marketing officer Ed Razek responded to the backlash: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” 

With the rise of the #MeToo movement with the goal of ending sexual violence, the show was painted as a misogynistic event that promoted sizeism and sexual violence. Many believed its message of “being sexy” was exclusive and catered to the male gaze. This led many women to decrease support for Victoria’s Secret, which then became known as a womanizing brand. Despite calls for the fashion show to change, the brand ignored the backlash as it didn’t fit the brand’s personality. The hate worsened after the exposure of the parent company’s CEO’s ties to Jefferey Epstein in 2019. Eventually, the show was canceled in 2019 due to its declining ratings, high costs, and its lack of adaptability to changing cultural beauty standards.

Over time, the deep wounds of the backlash healed, and the show started trending on social media. The angels have once again become a beauty standard, and many teenage girls are obsessed. Trying to copy their mannerisms, looks, and lifestyles, many teenage girls have become mini versions of the models. Specifically, Adriana Lima has grabbed social media attention as the designated “Brazilian Bombshell” of the fashion industry. Social media accounts using her face became advice columns on how to “looksmax” (improve your looks) and a gateway to the “angels aesthetic.” Fashion trends have also taken off, as many aspire to dress like “off-duty” angels in cute casual wear, which provided Victoria’s Secret with an uptick in sales. With an increasing obsession with the show, many have called for a revival of the fashion show. Victoria’s Secret responded to the demands with a documentary called The Tour ‘23 (2023); however, it didn’t have the same elements as the typical shows and seemed to have exchanged its glam for dullness. There was a lack of a theme and wings, and most of the outfits weren’t as luxurious as the fantasy bra but rather gave off a vibe of something more commercial. 

As a response to all the comments asking for a new show, Victoria’s Secret announced a return of their fashion show for Fall 2024. As Victoria’s Secret has grown to be open to more body types, it revealed that this show will be more inclusive with its models and more progressive than before by responding to former demands for the show to be less sexist. Though much is yet to be revealed, a teaser trailer has dropped showcasing former angel Candice Swanepoel texting an angel group chat to spread the news that “We are back.” Many have already speculated which former angels will reappear for the show. The show is expected to include iconic singers from the 2000s and to entice viewers once again with what made the former shows magical. With new technology and the rise of other radical fashion shows, Victoria’s Secret has to catch up if it wants to make a big splash as before. And with newer models becoming more mainstream, many are hoping they will make an appearance as well and become the new angels. TikToks and Instagram reels have become full of predictions on what new twists the show will bring. The theme, the wings, and the music have to bring the 2024 show into the modern world of entertainment. With big expectations to fill, Victoria’s Secret definitely has its work cut out to maintain its glittering status.