Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Too beautiful to model?

That underwear chain in no need of further promotion, and thus that shall not be named, is not a seductive store. Not in the way that a posh underwear shop can be, where you summon the courage, go in, and think, damn, that's a gorgeous $150 bra, and leave empty-handed (or, worse, with a $90 bra that will have seemed reasonable by comparison). My memory of the chain from high school or thereabouts is that they had good deals on utilitarian cotton underwear if you bought in bulk.

Despite giving this brand no thought whatsoever in ages, despite not visiting its website, I've somehow not managed to avoid multiple news items about how the store is having its annual fashion show, complete with image upon image of the women marketers want us to think are the most beautiful alive. Alas, the marketers may be onto something. I may need to rethink some of my Twitter follows, but there it is.

The overt sexiness of their marketing strategy - famously... appreciated by Borat in the beginning of that movie - has always seemed odd to me. Why cater to the male gaze when selling underwear to women? I mean, why cater so directly to it? Yes, many women past the five-for-$20 life stage want to look good, in their underwear, for men. But why scour the world to find the handful of women who'd manage to inspire both male lust and female insecurity? The women whose looks hit that magic point between porn star and high-fashion model? The women about whom no one, of any gender or sexual orientation, is going to fail to categorize as ridiculously good-looking? Who are so flawless as to be beyond aspirational? Do men really buy enough women's underwear (for whatever purpose) to make that worthwhile? (The company's Wikipedia page says no, but apparently the idea had been to sell women's underwear directly to men.)

Because there's a threshold, right? An attractive model makes you think you'll look more attractive in whichever item. Thus... models. Thus all the unflattering clothes womankind has purchased because they looked good on a personal-style blogger or it-girl. But past a certain point, if you're noticing the model and not the underwear, how can that sell anything?

Or maybe this is more a shopping question than a self-esteem one, at least for those of us who've largely aged out of such concerns. It's easy to suspect that having models that attractive is about distracting from the crappiness of the clothes. That, and it would seem that what you're paying for when purchasing a $50 bra of $20-bra quality is for the company to hire models whose pay grade is far above that of the nicely-built girl-next-door. It's not that other brands don't find other ways to rip off customers. This just happens to be one of the more obvious ones.

No comments: