I’m large

The 16th of November of 2011, a pink helicopter arrived to Puerto Rico for the opening of the first Victoria Secret store in the island. The models: Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio and Erin Heatherton arrived and started a “panty” fiasco, where people made huge lines to buy underwear. A long time ago, I heard that the reason why they hadn’t opened a store in Puerto Rico was because the island was the #1 buyer through catalog orders. This inspired me to tell you my story when I saw the first store in the United States.

Victoria Secret is a brand that sells something we should hear often “you are sexy”. However, positive reinforcement might be inexistent in a lot of women that don’t hear those words, which I believe, leads to an obsession of the intimate apparel of the store and the products which make you believe that if you buy from there, you will buy “sexiness”.

And what is sexy? Based on several dictionaries the word means being sexually attractive, very exciting or appealing. I know people that go to the store to find “sexiness” and “buy” it, because wearing “Victoria” gives you some points on the sexy scale. When I went to a Victoria Secret store for the first time, I went as many, for the curiosity that brings the store and its brand, but what I found was a list of questions that I had to do to myself and made me wonder, who else had them.

I was in Miami when I saw a store invaded by the color pink, as it was a trademark for our gender we inherit the first time they see what we have in between our legs. Then I got in, and what I personally liked was that the store had “pretty” underwear. I liked that they had different styles and colors, and it was a certain change on my perception of this “undies” that for years my mom and grandmother had bought in packages that had 5 or 6 in a plastic bag.

My first instinct after seeing one I liked was to check the price tag. I was in shock! it was a $30 panty. No matter the money I earn, I’m an official bargain shopper, and this outraged me. If I was to buy a panty that expensive, I really had to use it weekly or something, because that for me was awful. I suppose you know I didn’t buy anything that day. However, months later I went to Orlando driving, and found what seemed to be the best way to obtain a “Victoria”, the outlet. You could get 10 “undies” for $30. So, from one at $30 to buy 10 for $30 it was a huge difference. However, the reason I wanted to write this today, was because Victoria Secret store made me rethink what I thought of my body and I wonder if it will bring the same questions to this island. When I bought those first 10, I went, as I always did before, looking for a Medium size. You can’t try them out in the store for obvious reasons, so when I tried going to my house and tried modeling to my mirror. For the first time, a Medium didn’t go up. I was frustrated and mad, not because I felt “fat”, I don’t, but because I felt bad that once again, being curvy and Latina, made you a Large.

If I’m a Large how would someone with much more pounds in their body feel? Is sexiness something only thin people get? A good self esteem starts by acknowledging who we are and accepting who we become. Sadly, they are many studies, that link marketing of women and clothing as a standard that defines beauty. This is why many women have felt pressure to “fit” that image and have experienced bad psychological and physical consequences like anorexia or bulimia; an issue that is not necessary, that it could have been stopped by positive reinforcement.

When stores started opening in Puerto Rico, a lot of women found the same issue that I did that day; they were standards for a type of body that wasn’t the one the majority here had. What amuses me the most is that with the fast track life we have, fast foods have won nutrition, and image defies reality. That is why instead of eating and exercising to be healthy, we see people dieting and spending money to “look good” by what the market defines.

I remember seeing the movie “Real women have curves” in 2002 when it came out because of its title. Then I learned that the main character was actress America Ferrera. I felt the issue of being Latina and curvy was going to be discussed in this movie and it was mostly about image, eating habits and what it meant to be a women. I remember two scenes that struck me; one had the grandmother of the movie putting a “San Antonio” upside down to attract a “husband” for the girl. That made me thought of the cultural idea that you become a women, when you are a mom, and that to become “successful” you have to find a man. This was presented in the movie as something traditional and common, sadly it is. It is another way to define identity and image, and the first part of the title of the movie “real women”. The other scene shocked me more. America Ferrera in the movie was shy and ashamed of her body, trying to diet, but with a mom and a grandmother that pushed her to eat. However, we see that America, which in the movie was named, Ana, has a sexual relation with a guy. Ana starts looking at herself in the mirror in underwear, and while she does that her grandmother passes by her room and by looking at her “she knows” that she had sex. Her grandmother starts chasing her all over her house, and I wondered wasn’t this the women that wanted a boyfriend for “Ana”? And what is worst, do you really need to be with somebody “naked” or have somebody be with you to look yourself at the mirror and embrace who you are. And then I asked, IF I AM A LARGE, what will the X-Larges and XXX-Larges of life think of themselves, don’t they have the right to look at the mirror without feeling ashamed, to wear lace underwear? Aren’t they angels too?

The Victoria Secret store was created in San Francisco, California in 1977 by Roy Raymond. They say he opened the first Victoria's Secret store at the Stanford Shopping Center after feeling embarrassed trying to purchase lingerie for his wife in an awkward, public department store environment. To open the store, he took a $40,000 bank loan and borrowed $40,000 from relatives. The company earned $500,000 in its first year. In 1982, after five years of operation, Raymond sold the Victoria's Secret Company, with its six stores and 42-page catalogue, grossing $6 million per year, to Leslie Wexner, creator of The Limited, for $4 million. In 1984, Raymond started My Child's Destiny, a retail store for children which went bankrupt in 1986. On August 26, 1993, Raymond committed suicide by leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge at the age of 46. It’s sad to think that the reason this amazing retail store started was because of shame. What is worst, they are a few stores that sell the same idea of being “sexy” in underwear and beauty products to women that are bigger.

I remember reading in a magazine about a place called Torrid, owned by Hot Topic, but made for “plus” sizes. I applaud this, as well as those stores that have been created for bigger feet. So after being in shock with this new size I had to embrace, I kept buying (the cheap specials). I noticed that their bra’s made optical illusions that made something else bigger. I learned that a big "seller" was the tiny g-strings and that they were considered the most sexy type of panty, I on the other hand thought that it was even more difficult for me to believe that I would pay $30 for less fabric and I remembered that when I took modeling the only reason they MADE me wear that thing was to make sure the clothing didn't "make a mark and show" my underwear. With all this, I embraced with that, my new size.

I wonder how will the people that go to this store feel, when the size they were is not the size they sell. When will a lingerie store will open that will sell that the biggest “sexiness” comes with empowerment. And then I thought, maybe some buy the brand thinking this will make them beautiful (which is not something you can buy), but the power to be confident could be something that could draw more buyers. I hope however, that the reason they buy it’s because they embrace their body and their curves; because is pretty or it smells good. I would feel sad if they only spend this cash (because there is not an outlet here) just when somebody else gives them a compliment is the only moment they can see themselves in the mirror.

So with this, Victoria, I end my secret, with you I’m Large. Is not that I didn’t fit, the clothes didn’t fit me. Life however comes in one size, one big size that fits us all. May Roy Raymond rest in peace and that we never feel ashamed again for giving ourselves a gift.

1 comment:

Vanessa Grisalez said...

It's all about what you feel and a nice lingerie ensamble from Victoria's or from wherever it's always a nice spice, to normal underwear. Feeling comfortable with who you are whether you are 110 pounds or 200 goes beyond. There will always be standards, there have always been standards, it's just that now we live in a highly marketed world, not a bad idea to start a new super sized Victoria's Secret for the bigger mammas that also love to wear something different here and there. Having an awesome pair of cute panties and bras is the equivalent to putting on some banging high heels on, you can play with your personality and bring out that little diva in you. If you are doing it because someone else needs to recognize it, hence there lies the problem, but I'm sure a lot of non-petite girls out there feel every day the power of simple chemistry and fun, and the acknowledgement of simple biology (and some fun)attracting two people. I say we start Victoria's even bigger and juicier secret!