Cultural Appropriation within the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show


"Regalia is seen as being sacred to Indigenous people. When their regalia is made, it’s made thoughtfully."

One fateful day in November I was doing my homework and I remembered that the Victoria Secret’s Fashion Show was airing that night. Since I had never watched it before (not trying to sound pretentious or high and mighty, I had just never watched it before), I was interested to see what all the hype was about.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions as to what I’m going to be writing about when it comes to the Victoria Secret’s Fashion show let me be very clear: I am not slamming these women for their bodies or their careers. I think that these women are beautiful, all bodies are beautiful, and all should be celebrated.

No doubt these women work very hard to obtain a “model body.” Do I think that these body types being perpetrated into the media influence the self-esteem of many, mainly girls? Definitely yes, but that’s a different article for a different time.

I went into this show blind; the only knowledge that I had before going in was that this is lingerie wear, so I was expecting really pretty bras, fancy underwear and some women wearing wings.

What I did see caught me largely by surprise. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. One of the themes for the night was ‘Nomadic Wear’, and I thought I was seeing dream catchers being draped from a woman’s body. Then I thought “nah, they can’t be dumb enough to do something like that.”

Sure enough, about 20 seconds later, I could not believe what I saw: the model was wearing a headdress. My roommate and I sat there in shock not really believing what we were seeing. The worst was not over yet, the models then continued to walk out in tribal printed sexy lingerie, moccasins, African tribal jewelry, neck rings, feathers… you name it, they wore it.

You may be wondering, “Sal, why are you getting so mad about this? You’re too sensitive, shut up.” Well too bad, I’m going to get mad. I will be sensitive about this, because it’s not right and in 2018 it should not still be happening.

Right off the bat, one of the many issues with what these women were wearing was how they were being perceived as a costume. For the women that appeared to be wearing native clothing, such as moccasins, the headdress and the jewelry, it’s not a costume. In indigenous culture, the clothing that indigenous people wear for ceremonies is called regalia.

Regalia is seen as being sacred to Indigenous people. When their regalia is made, it’s made thoughtfully. Every bead, feather and stitch that goes into their clothing has a meaning to it, a prayer is said for each of the beads. It’s certainly not made to be worn by women who were predominantly white and not of indigenous culture, trying to sell this wear by selling sex. Regalia is not made for an audience to be turned on.

As far as the headdress, you probably read about how they are banned from being worn at music festivals, as they should be. That’s why I was absolutely floored to see the model wearing one. A headdress is unique to each indigenous nation. It is typically worn by the chief of the band; the headdress represents a different culture for each nation. Is it beautiful? Yes! Is just anybody allowed to wear one? NO.

“Why can’t everybody just wear whatever they want?” The problem with cultural appropriation is that, it’s taking from a different culture to benefit oneself, and use their traditions because you like it, not because you really care about the culture and want to be more informed about the culture.

You see people are taking from black culture, indigenous culture, all the time. These groups of people are the minority, and it’s the majority in society that is taking from them. A portion of the majority isn’t even trying to educate themselves on the other cultures, they’re just borrowing the culture to fit an aesthetic.

These people are not trying to help the minorities with the struggles that they face or minimize the oppression that weighs on them. Instead they’re using their white privilege to yet again take something from the minority groups.

I’m not trying to attack white people, or the models that wore these outfits. I’m also not saying that no white people educate themselves about different cultures – surely some try to help and understand the oppressions that minorities face. But there is a large portion of society that is blinded as to what the problem is with cultural appropriation.

I’m more so REALLY annoyed and mad with the director behind the fashion show, thinking that it would be a good idea to have an entire collection that was taking from different cultures, in an effort to sell a brand.

News flash: taking from cultures and using their traditions to sell products is not how you build a brand, it’s just ignorant.