Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flyover underwear

What is it about Victoria's Secret that brings out the worst in New York writing about the mysterious Rest of the Country? First there was the New Yorker account of how the Myspace suicide wore their Pink line, as though this were evidence that she came from another planet, not just Missouri. Now, there's a whole article in the NYT reviewing the store, and by reviewing I mean mocking. Some choice quotes:

The Victoria’s Secret near Herald Square is a slick, two-story mega-sexopolis, catering mainly to the boudoir needs of angry tourists. If Siegfried & Roy ever wanted to start a Nevada chicken-ranch-plus-amusement park — a stretch-lace and animal-print McDonaldland of acceptable corporate erotica for the family casino crowd — this would be the ideal jumping-off point.

Judging by their names — Love Spell, Romantic Wish, Endless Love — lotions on a perfectly innocent, nursery-color wall seem to be hoping a nice boy will ask them to dance at the church mixer.

“Dream Angels,” according to Victoria’s propaganda, is America’s No. 1 fragrance, which makes sense in an obese nation with no self-control: it smells like an alcoholic Twinkie.

Cintra Wilson's main complaint about Victoria's Secret is that it fails to be subtly erotic, something with which Borat, we know, agrees. I'm pretty sure this is also true of underwear shops generally, from La Perla on down. On the one hand they are selling sexiness, but on the other, buying underwear is the most boring thing in the world (with one possible exception) and it's the store's job to keep you amused. Victoria's Secret is a bit like if Staples went all out on the premise that its shoppers were all going to use its notebooks to write the Great American Novel, and turned the chain's decor from big-box tedium into a wood-paneled, book-lined fantasy-land.

And yet. Victoria's Secret is overpriced and tacky, and a bad choice over such other obvious options as the GAP, as well as some NYC-specific options such as Century 21. There should be some way of telling Times readers that the store is not fabulous that doesn't come across as a tirade against everyone who doesn't live in New York.

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