“It feels like we’re training for the Olympics,” a model confided during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show on Tuesday evening. She was not being ironic. Among the many tensions implicit in the annual spectacle that dubs itself “the most watched fashion event in the world”—“fashion” that does not involve, strictly, clothing; an appeal to girls presented as an appeal to men; advertisement in the guise of entertainment; etc.—the most striking was the lingerie company’s insistence that its statuesque models are, in fact, elite athletes. “It might be considered the Super Bowl of fashion,” another model declared of the show, before sashaying down the runway in a lace demi-bra and bedazzled bikini briefs.
The sportiness of Victoria’s Secret’s models (who in this case included both the company’s standard runway walkers and the ones whom it has elevated, Milton-like, to its arsenal of “Angels”) was an idea the show returned to again and again. In between the event’s official, hour-long proceedings—the heeled-to-the-heavens Angels and sub-Angels stomping and smizing as of-the-moment pop stars including Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, and Selena Gomez performed in the background—the show filled its air with tales of the rigorous training the models went through to prepare for the event. And with supercuts of the women sharing their favorite workout routines. (“Pilates, racket sports, barre, weight training, resistance bands, squats.”) And with languorous shots of them kickboxing and trampolining and running and lifting—all while clad, of course, in VS-branded athletic wear.