I’ve always been a thrift store kid.
I like wearing Dickies and boy’s shorts, quirky, old-school t-shirts that I find for 25 cents advertising summer camps that don’t exist anymore, and skater shoes. I’m comfortable with my body and I’m comfortable in my style – it’s never really been a statement about anything as much as it’s been an expression of myself and my ULTIMATE QUEST FOR COMFORT. I hated working in office jobs or anywhere that I had to wear a uniform. Pants suits do not reflect the laid-back vibe I’m attempting to achieve when I dress for the day. And honestly, I couldn’t accessorize if my life depended on it.
Many’s the time I’ve wished for a quiet human willing to live in my closet and produce swanky, coordinated outfits daily.
[bctt tweet=”I’ve always been a thrift store kid.” username=”wearethetempest”]
But some people seem to take to it well.
Recently I began to wonder what it’s like to work in an environment where the entire endeavor is concentrated on looking a certain way. At a brand like Victoria’s Secret, where every piece of their marketing material seems to showcase and promote a very specific and narrow range of body-types, would the pressure to conform be overwhelming?
Surely it would at least contribute to exacerbating any underlying insecurities one might have?
I decided to take to social media and ask around in some of the all-women groups I’m a part of to see if any of the women who’d been employed there wanted to get anything off their chest (pun intended) about what the experience is really like.
Their feedback actually kind of shocked me.
Sarah, who worked at a location in a wealthy area in Kansas said that she also had friends who’d worked at other locations and their experiences seemed to be “completely different” than hers, so she believes it “varies across cities.”
“[The customers] tended to be very bratty and demanding, and even more particular about the service they received, so that was difficult,” she says. She notes that “men will come in and either be uncomfortable or sleazy looking to buy something for their wife or girlfriend – but it doesn’t happen too often.” However, she seemed to feel on the whole very positive about her experience working there, saying that “the training at Victoria’s Secret is really informative when dealing with a conversation at the store and that was definitely unlike anything I had ever seen in a retail training. It was great for working on the floor and definitely helped me feel knowledgeable about the product and how to talk about it.
Plus, the merchandise is interesting, just the different styles and science of bras and underwear. That was probably the biggest positive influence on my life, just being informed about lingerie and underwear and how a woman can feel confident in that product. It just helped with being comfortable and confident in my own skin, so that was awesome, along with the women I worked with being supportive of my beauty and life.”
[bctt tweet=” Men will come in and either be uncomfortable or sleazy.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Jennifer, who worked at a location in Ohio, also notes that much of her workplace strife came from dealing with customers – but in her case, it was “mostly younger teenagers – ungrateful youths.” She also recalled having to deal with shoplifting that, because of store policies, it was difficult to do anything about.
But in terms of her own body image, “I never really got pressure from customers or management about my appearance,” she states.
Nichole, also of Ohio, recalls wanting to work without much prior knowledge, “other than that everyone who worked there wore sleek outfits and seemed like your hip, cooler than thou older sister.”
“When I said I was there to ask for an application, one of the workers phoned into her fancy walkie-talkie that ‘someone was here who looks like she’d be a good fit.’ This warmed my college sophomore heart, even if the budding one-day feminist in me knew that sentiment felt a bit…off. My first day on the job I was told I was ‘asking too many questions,'” she says.
But she also mentions a supportive management team, respectful male co-workers, and people being able to secure time off without trouble or fear of losing their positions.
Laura, who worked at a location in Michigan says, “I applied while in college because my job at the time was closing and I needed to find a new one. I honestly didn’t think I would get an interview because I definitely didn’t look like the other women who worked there. I shouldn’t have sold myself so short.
I also had the advantage of interviewing with someone who really liked me at first and always looked out for me while I was there. I really think this made me love working there more and when she left, I had a much different experience at the store. In all honesty, I liked working at Victoria’s Secret. We got at least one free bra a month, free panties, and a huge discount there as well. I liked helping customers find bras that fit because if you’ve been wearing the wrong size bra and someone suddenly gives you the right sized one, it totally matters. As with most places, the biggest issue can be with the people you work with.
Remember the woman who hired me that I really liked and got along with? [Her replacement] did not like me at all and would take advantage of me all the time. I finally quit because I couldn’t stand to work for her anymore. One of the other things I didn’t like about working there were these ‘on-call’ shifts we always had.”
All of the women I spoke with mentioned similar cons to the job that are fairly universal across retail positions: good management is good, but bad management is really bad, customers are generally the most stressful part of the job because they’re ready to take out a lot of frustration on you (minimal repercussions because you’re a total stranger), and changing store sets can mean all-nighters, it can get especially exhausting around the holidays when shifts and total hours start to run you ragged.
However, they also consistently mentioned feeling apprehensive about even applying since they “didn’t look the part,” in reference to what they anticipated the company was probably looking for – people with body types similar to those of the Victoria’s Secret Angels.
Ultimately, the position seemed to contribute to greater feelings of body positivity and acceptance and taught them how to help other women feel confident and secure in their own skin as well.
That’s the part that surprised me – that working for a brand that advances one type of beauty as the paradigm could actually at ground level help people with all kinds of looks feel comfortable and beautiful.
That’s great news!
However, it begs the question: if Victoria’s Secret is really about promoting body acceptance and body positivity, if they want people who shop there to actually feel good about the way they naturally look why do they generally only showcase women who have a certain (and not very common) type of body?
Wouldn’t it go a lot farther towards promoting body positivity if they had Angels who had lots of different body types?
Other brands have done so, which makes me wonder what effect it could have if Victoria’s Secret did the same.