An In-Depth Study Of The Secret Hierarchy Of The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

Since the first runway show's relatively humble nascent, Victoria's Secret's annual pageant has become a phenomenon that has its own rules and secretive culture

Study Of The Secret Hierarchy Of The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

by Lucy Morris |

Since the first Victoria’s Secret fashion show in 1995 in the Plaza Hotel, it’s grown into a mammoth, outrageous and extravagant affair. Since it’s relatively humble nascent, it’s become a phenomenon that has its own rules and secretive culture. Walking for VS is one of the most prestigious gigs a model can book. Since it’s the most-watched fashion event on the planet, it can be the making of an unknown girl’s career. But, for a VS model securing a place on the catwalk is only half the battle as gaining wings and being anointed as one of the underwear brand’s select crew of Angels is the goal. The hierarchy doesn’t stop there for there is one exalted honour that is saved for a single model. Glory, fame and fortune are given to a girl that gets to wear the ‘fantasy bra’.


Unlike traditional catwalks - by which we mean the type that cares more about the clothes than the spectacle and don’t get watched by six million odd people - the models VS book are more than hangers with a pretty face. During the rigmarole of fashion month, it is unlikely for an editor to see anything but waif-like creatures tottering down the runway. At Victoria’s Secret, the ideal is still slim, tall and beautiful, but also cheery and approachable with lean gym-honed physiques and a healthy glow. These models are in a league of their own, which explains why the casting directors have to search far and wide to find models that aren’t too edgy and editorial. For many the haute couture bookings come after they’ve walked for VS and become subsequently become a household name.

After spending a year watching international catwalks and keeping an eye on new scoutings, the in-house casting team whittle models down to 100 candidates. Those that make the cut have to go through an audition stage even if they’ve walked for Victoria’s Secret before. This year 60 girls, including Adriana Lima, Karlie Kloss, Candice Swanepoel, Gigi and Bella Hadid and Leonie Anderson have been handpicked. There’s no age limit and there’s seemingly no restrictions on how many times one model can walk for the brand, but the expectations of how hard they will train to gain a spot remain high. With numerous fitness tie-ins from protein shakes to gym wear deals for the taking, these girls treat getting in shape like a competitive sport. That said, regardless of hard they sweat there is no way they can guarantee they will get their wings.

Nabbing a pair of wings can come with obvious advantages, but it does require a heap more work on the part of the model. Supposedly, the VS team have created an iron-clad contract that reportedly requires the girl to commit 30-50 days of the year to the lingerie giant as well as appear at a number of their special events and star in their commercials. For a model that books editorials and shows around the world, this can restrict their flexibility to work with other brands enormously. However, for some this can be a real incentive as the industry offers little security and this is as close as they can come to a full-time job.

In a world where the most engaged with fashion event is a runway of barely-dressed women a blingy bra created out of 18 carat gold, diamonds, sapphires and topaz is obviously the centrepiece. This year this prestigious distinction has been saved for Lais Ribeiro. She’ll be wearing a custom demi bra made by jeweller Mouawad that weighs more than 600 carats and took over 350 hours to make. Talk about a little razzmatazz! Just like Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum and Alessandra Ambrosia who’ve previously enjoyed had the honour of modelling the ‘fantasy bra’, Ribeiro has a long history working with the underwear label. She’s appeared six times on their runway (though she’s been booked seven times but had to skip 2012’s catwalk because of a sprained ankle) and starred in two of their commercials.

For all the criticism thrown at Victoria’s Secret and it’s annual pageant, there is something to be admired about how hard every single model has worked to get to the point of walking in the show. Between the secretive contracts and barely-written about hierarchies, this outrageous event is an inspiring lesson in camaraderie in the face of competition.

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Follow Lucy on Instagram @lucyalicemorris

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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