Victoria’s Secret received plenty of well-deserved approbation for their role in helping out with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the week leading up to their annual fashion show, and this year’s spectacle was every bit the glittery, star-studded bash that we’ve come to expect.
But all is not well in lingerie land, after the company sent (white, American model) Karlie Kloss down the runway in a feathered headdress, buckskin bikini, and oodles of turquoise jewelry as part of the “Calendar Girls” segment of the show. Predictably, the outfit, meant to represent “Thanksgiving” (yeah, seriously), sparked outrage within the Native American community for its misappropriation of cultural attire.
The controversy came mere days after No Doubt pulled their video for “Looking Hot”, which featured (white, American singer) Gwen Stefani dressed up in similarly stereotypical garb. And let us not forget the Urban Outfitters “Navajo” debacle that put the company in hot water with both the Navajo people and the law.
Aptly-titled blog Native Appropriations points out that, beyond merely jumbling all American Indian cultures into one tacky mish-mash, the VS outfit is especially hurtful to a group of women who face widespread sexual violence:
Besides the daily harm of these ongoing microaggressions for Native folks, the sexualization of Native women continues to be an ignored and continuing epidemic…So Victoria’s Secret, now is the time to apologize. It’s not too late to cut Karlie’s headdressed outfit out and leave it on the editing room floor. This isn’t “fun,” this isn’t a “fantasy” character. This is about our cultures, our bodies, and our lives. Native people demand and deserve far more respect than this.”
Well, Victoria’s Secret has indeed apologized and promised to remove the look from their December 4 broadcast, via Facebook and Twitter. The company sent the following message to their fans and followers this Saturday:
We are sorry that the Native American headdress replica used in our recent fashion show has upset individuals.
We sincerely apologize as we absolutely had no intention to offend anyone.
Out of respect, we will not be including the outfit in any broadcast, marketing materials nor in any other way.
The apology has received almost 10,000 likes and 700 retweets since it was posted.
Karlie likewise apologized on her personal Twitter:
I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone. I support VS’s decision to remove the outfit from the broadcast.
So while this isn’t likely to be the last culturally-insensitive outfit we see from a major retailer (even VS didn’t seem to learn from the “Sexy Little Geisha” incident), we’re happy to see that the company is taking steps to make sure the offensive look doesn’t get the chance to reach an audience of millions.
Take a look at a photo of the controversial outfit below. Are you as bewildered as we are about how it made the cut in the first place? Or do you find it no more inappropriate than their scantily-dressed witch, cowgirl, or Mrs. Claus ensembles?