Victoria’s Secret underwear goes after younger teens. And we get to respond.

victoria's secret bright young things line for young teensFirst came Ambercrombie with their padded bras in size 8T, and now, here comes Victoria’s Secret, with an eye on creating sexy underthangs for the young teen market.

We’ll get to that. But first, let me digress as I tend to do:

When I was in 10th grade, I plastered buttons across my gray Le Sport Sac tote. Lots and lots of buttons. I had Canal Jeans buttons in every color, with their Vans-like checkerboard pattern; the true sign of indie NYC cred circa 1984. I had buttons naming bands I had never really listened to but sounded cool. I had an anarchy A (pathetic, I know). I had one that said “uniquely maladjusted but fun,” not entirely knowing what that meant. And then I had one more.

In black letters on white, it read, “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

I was 14.

I, in actuality, was not particularly close to “everywhere” with boys at that point. But I liked the idea that the preppy yacht club parents in my community might somehow see my button and think I was some sort of renegade, mind-of-my-own, rule-breaking, non-blonde who wasn’t the preppy yacht club type. Whatever that meant.

The thing is, I wore that slogan on my tote bag. Not on my underwear. Certainly not on lacy, sexy underwear meant to be seen by boys, who you desperately want to think of you as wild, uninhibited, fun, available.

But hey, I guess I could have. Easily.

In fact, Victoria’s Secret, feel free to stick my slogan in with your line of “PINK collection” panties–nah, no double entendre there–as part of the new Bright Young Things collection aimed specifically towards younger teens who “want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college,” according to the company’s CFO.

(The sexually uninhibited girl in college, Stuart. Let’s be honest here. )

I don’t think the slogan is trademarked, so you probably wouldn’t owe me anything for its usage. And from what I’ve seen, it would fit in just perfectly.

Now in case I’m not the very last person to learn about this (thanks for the tip, Craig!), I found a few images on the site. Makes things easier to imagine. So to speak.


Wow, the 14-year-old set today sure will be able to mess with the establishment with those panties! And how!

Or wait…how?

See, that’s where the bad but understandable choices I made then are different than the same bad but understandable choices being made by girls today.

(And yes, I’ve become that mom who’s shaking my cane at the youngsters, yelling THINGS WERE DIFFERENT IN MY DAY YOU WHIPPERSNAPPERS while clutching my lower back. Deal with it.)

My “good girls” button was of course ridiculous in that expected 14-year-old ridiculous way. It’s your prerogative in adolescence to experiment with identities and boundaries and perceptions of you, sexual and otherwise. It’s natural to want to feel wanted by boys, and liked more than that girl with the big boobs and the not-so-training bra. I totally get it. I remember it well. Hell, I was Class Flirt in my senior yearbook.

However–and this is a huge however–I didn’t have the unforgiving Internet looming over me, daring me to make a mistake so it could be documented and preserved and follow me around forever.

I didn’t have Instagram to publicly post selfies of myself in my new “Feeling Lucky?” panties for the world. I didn’t have the option to make a Vine video of myself dancing around bottomless after discovering access to an unlocked liquor cabinet with my girlfriends on a Friday night. I didn’t have a boyfriend who could whip out a smartphone and grab photos of me trying to post like a girl of questionable age in an American Apparel Ad.

I certainly didn’t have Snapchat.

So yeah, I made dubious choices at 14. Kids today will make dubious choices at 14. The difference is–and here’s what’s terrifying for parents of girls like me–those choices can now follow you around your whole life.

victorias-secret-too-hot-panties-mom-101You don’t get to burn the one stupid photo negative of you flashing your bra for your girlfriend’s disposable Kodak camera and know it will never be seen again.

Film fades. Google cache is forever.

Victoria’s Secret, c’mon. This is not days of the week briefs. This is underwear meant to be seen by boys. Probably more boys than should see them. Probably boys you don’t even know, who have access to social media. Boys you may want to think of you as wild, uninhibited, available. Even if you’re not. Even if you’re still figuring out who you are.

But they don’t know that. Especially those boys you don’t know.

They just see some girl in a blurry photo, the one flashing her “call me” hipsters beneath her unbuttoned jeans.

When my girls get closer to their teens, and probably well before that, they’re going to know why some experimentation with identities is okay and some is not. And they’re going to know that there are marketers who will always try to capitalize on their inability to tell the difference.

I just never imagined that one day, a major, publicly held brand would be actively marketing “too hot” panties to girls young enough to fit their entire bodies into a single leg of my own underwear.

Bright Young Things?

Well, yes. They certainly are. Let’s not try to ruin that for them before they even get a chance to prove it out.


105 thoughts on “Victoria’s Secret underwear goes after younger teens. And we get to respond.”

  1. I’m willing to give them a pass on a lot of things—they are VS, after all—but “I dare you” on underwear is tasteless no matter the wearer’s age. Like, makes-me-physically-uncomfortable tasteless. And their timing couldn’t possibly be worse, too. Way to be completely tone-deaf to current events.

    (I had a button on my backpack that said “WARNING: I’m naked under my clothes!” I was such a rebel!)

    1. You are a rebel! And I want to add

      I dare you…

      not to get a yeast infection in cheap underwear.

    2. I was just thinking the same thing. “I dare you” makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t think young girls really understand what that implies, but VS definitely should have.

  2. This absolutely disgusts me! With an opportunity before them to do the right thing, maybe even offer a positive message for young girls, they chose not to do that. Way to go VS, a new low.

    1. Maybe we should write some new panty slogans for them?

      If You Can Read This You are Too Darn Close.

  3. Not sure why you are surprised… I feel like we’ve been heading in this direction for a long time. The early sexualization of girls is revolting, and this is just one more step. What makes me saddest, though, is that I imagine there are some parents out there who think it might be cute to buy their 13yo daughters these underwear… like another post I read (I think it was yours?) with the little kids wearing those terrible t-shirts. We can’t tell VS what to do; the only way to stop it is to vote with our wallets. I hope I’m wrong about which way the vote will go.

    1. I’m with you entirely Deb.

      I guess I’m just surprised that they’re so aggressively marketing it. Or maybe I’m just super out of touch with the VS culture. I tend to buy my underthings elsewhere.

    2. The problem is that teenagers have their own money. Their parents may never even think of buying them, but my rebellious teen self very well may have!

      1. I bought myself a tube top in 3rd grade. My first clothing purchase. I was super proud of myself.

        It was navy and white striped, and cost $2.

  4. This is interesting. I was just thinking about this today before I even knew about the new VS line, trying to recall when it was I got my first “grown-up” underwear. It was in 10th grade. The reason? Because I had to change in the locker room for PE and I was tired of wearing granny panties in front of the other girls. I finally drove myself to VS to buy something “big girl.” They were very appropriate but I felt more grown up. I can get on board with that line of thinking but lacy thongs and provocative messages? How about fun colors and a slightly different cut, something moms and daughters can agree on?

  5. The idea of some middle-aged guy named Stuart explaining why a 13 or 14-year-old deserves to have underwear that says “I dare you” on it makes me want to puke. Or as my 1980s, late bloomer, young teen in plain cotton undies might have said, “gag me with a spoon.”

    1. Tracey, that article takes the perspective on whether girls should shop at VS at all, and whether it’s inappropriate for them to wear zebra print underwear. I’m fine with that. I’m not fine with slutty (let’s call a spade a spade) messages on panties being marketed hard to young girls.

  6. “I dare you”? On the butt? I love beautiful lingerie, it’s one of the perks of being a GROWN woman. Tacky and desperate and cheap isn’t beautiful or “cool like the older girl in college” — jeez, is this what 14 year old little girls are supposed to aspire to?

    There is nothing wrong with pretty underwear for girls. This is just stupid.

  7. How about a pair that simply say, “private.” Isn’t that what we really need to be teaching our girls- AND BOYS? Wouldn’t it be great if everywhere boys turned they saw girls in fully covering undergarments that labeled the appropriate parts as private? Then maybe they’d learn that…

  8. The issue isn’t with VS. The issue is that shows on the CW and ABC Family for godsake, show girls in highschool having LOTS of sex and no parental supervision. I am 32 yrs old, and while we have BH 90210, it was not the same as these shows are today. We also grew up with Dawsons Creek. These shows today are what our young girls at 14 or even 12 watch. ABC Family in particular could do way better.

    1. It’s an interesting point. And wow, I guess ABC Family doesn’t mean what I think it means?

      I’m older than you and I grew up with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Porky’s and of course, Animal House, in which he beds the dean’s 13 year-old daughter. Spoiler! Those are movies, I know, but it’s what everyone was watching.

      However I can’t say the issue is pop culture as opposed to marketers who are leveraging or reflecting those norms. It’s all intertwined.

    2. My kids will occasionally watch movies on ABC Family, like over the holidays when they do their marathons (one a day) and the commercials for their shows are like soap operas.

      (And for the record, I let my kid watch Twilight and those were way worse).

  9. “I Dare You”? I dare you, to do what exactly? That’s what I’d like someone to ask Stuart. What did VS imagine the answer to that question to be when they sat around that design meeting?

    We just came off a week of screaming at each other & anyone who would listen about rape and boundaries and control and who has it and who is entitled to do what to whom and VS is daring kids to come & find out what’s under those panties?!

    It’s too much. How come Jockey doesn’t come out with 10-year old boy boxer briefs that say “The Next Ron Jeremy” or “Wanna See?” on them?

    1. They exist. Remember “Home of the Whopper” on men’s briefs?

      The difference is, men aren’t shunned for promiscuity or promotion of their sexual prowess in the same way. Gah.

      1. Liz –

        If any of those were marketed to 8-12 year old males – I would have just as much issue with it as these. 8-12 year old children don’t need anything written on their undergarments. And they certainly don’t need phrases which market their genitals.

        Not prude – but I do think I’m going to be teaching my daughter “modest is hottest”

        1. THANK YOU for sending me the piece in the first place, Craig. And I’m glad to hear you’re an equal opportunity common-sense father 🙂

          1. “Moddest is hottest”–Thanks for that line. This VS venture is sickening on so many levels, and I appreciate all the intelligent comments posted here.

    2. Lisa, I agree with your second paragraph. I think the reason we had to have that week of screaming and the reason VS is marketing “I dare you” underwear to tweens is all part of the same thing.

  10. I think the confusion about this is that VS Pink is made in sizes that run the gamut from stuff a teen could wear to stuff an ADULT could wear. There aren’t MADE for teens/tweens. Obviously, this is where the parenting comes in. You take your tween/teen to Pink, and you steer them from the underwear clearly suitable foradults with somewhat risque phrases on them, and steer them toward the zebra stripes (which, cute, and totally appropriate). Much rests on the parent’s influence and appropriate judgement. Like in most things. 🙂

    1. According to their own representatives quoted in the article, within the Pink line is this young teen line called Bright Young Things. It’s the same items, made for them, and now now deliberately marketed to them. Think Seventeen instead of in Marie Claire (for example).

      Personally, I’m steering my kids to Hanna Andersson forever for underwear!

      1. Well that’s just gross. Obviously those with the phrases on them are totally inappropriate for teens. Bleech. That said, just like there’s stuff in the freakin’ Target lingerie section that I wouldn’t let my kid wear but there’s also stuff that’s cute and age appropriate, there’s stuff at Pink that fits both descriptions. I guess the moral here is: NEVER LET YOUR GIRL GO TO PINK UNATTENDED AND UNSUPERVISED. BEWAAAAARE. 😉

        1. Tracey, I’m at the point where I’m heading my 12-year-old (who has more breast than me at 39 BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT, ARNEBYA) away from padded bras in Target into the kids’ section only to find…padded bras. She has asked for a jacket from the Pink line and when we went inside, I had to question my mothering: why is she automatically gravitating toward pants w/words across the butt (thankfully it’s not Juicy, but WHY DO THE WORDS NEED TO BE ON THE BUTT?) And she likes the padded push up bras. Has society already shown her that this is required? Have I failed to show her that this is NOT required? Love yourself the way you are blah blah we’ve discussed it. And yet…she kept eyeing the things that made me give her the “you be illin'” face.

          So, I agree: yes, Pink indeed has some things that are just colorful and cute and do happen to walk the fine line of something I like that also appeals to my daughter. The new line, though, with these phrases? Still in agreement. Gross. And just wrong. And why don’t they know this is wrong?

  11. This makes me sounds like an asshole, but when I found out I was having a boy, and then found out that I was having another boy, I actually thought to myself, relieved, “Thank goodness I won’t have to deal with all that girl stuff.” Stuff like this. (Okay, maybe not an asshole, but certainly naive.)

    Now I see that while we come at the issues from different perspectives, depending on whether we have boys or girls, depending on our kids’ personalities, depending on our own experiences, we all have to deal with all of the issues. These issues are all of ours.

    As the mom of two boys, these underwear make me sad (I never thought underwear could make me sad, but there we have it!). Sad that we have to explain to our girls that maybe it’s not so safe to plaster “I dare you” across your ass and to our boys that just because it says that doesn’t mean it’s true.

    I can do it and will do it. But, goddamn, sometimes it’s hard not to be angry and feel like the whole world is working against parenting our little ones in a way that helps them grow up into respectful, self-possessed, confident, caring, responsible people. But maybe that’s just the angry punk rock 15-year-old in me. (I wonder if I can find my old “fuck corporations” pin somewhere. LOL!)

    1. NO, Staci – your anger is beyond justified.

      As one who has no children (but uses that mass between my ears to THINK), it is absolutely infuriating that an entire corporation has so little regard for the next generation that it is willing to prioritize THEIR bottom line (NO pun intended) over the need for healthy modeling — IF, that is, the next generation is going to grow up to do well by the world we all live in (and that today’s adults will grow old in).

      What’s wrong with our world today? IMHO, lack of boundaries restraining capitalist narcissists.

      No, I’m not suggesting legislation – I am calling for ALL of us who care about the world we inhabit to step INSIDE the capitalist paradigm and vote with our pocket books – refusing to purchase one single item from Victoria’s Secret *or* The Limited (parent company – same CEO).

      If or when they are forced to consider lay-offs, I’ll bet SOMEBODY will grow a pair large enough to speak up and restrain this teen brain in a grown CEO body. They can’t ALL agree with this direction, can they?

      He either has something ON everyone else in the company, or has Mesmer’s influence over anyone with a fully functioning prefrontal cortex (capable of restraining action on baser impulses — like sexualizing kids, justifying it as an “an untapped market”).

      We CAN – together – draw the line on this kind of nonsense.

      We can boycott, we can write letters, send emails to the stores, to the CEOs, to the Boards -and sign petitions. We can certainly blog for impact, altlhough corporate decision-makers are not likely to be reading. (FaceBook sells demographics to corporations, so reposting THERE and encouraging likes from our FB community of friends might make an impact.)

      The real question is this: will we choose to step into our power or continue to complain online as if we were helpless? NUMBERS speak truth to power these days.
      GREAT article, “Mom” THANKS. It’s linked to a reblog of another great article on this topic – posted on MY site.

      Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
      – ADD Coaching Field co-founder –
      (ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)
      “It takes a village to transform a world!”

  12. My middle school daughters say that VS is all the rage in the gym class locker room. And that middle school boys – even “good” middle school boys -can have mouths like trash cans when talking to girls and commenting on their body curves (or lack thereof.)

    And I absolutely do NOT go for the insane argument that young girls need sexy underwear to boost their self-esteem. The response to this so far has been, “Oh, so you want your daughter to be embarrassed being the only kid wearing WWII granny panties?”

    First of all, if my kid were wearing WWII granny panties IT IS STILL THE PROBLEM OF THE OTHER KIDS MAKING FUN OF HER, NOT MY DAUGHTER’S PROBLEM. Jesus Pelt, can we not get through to everyone that on ANY TOPIC from rape to not having a $100 hairstyle, that the person choosing to look how they want to look has a right to feel okay about it, not get assaulter – either physically or “helpfully” – and that advertising has pretty much created an unrealistic image of what humans should look like so that they can then SELL UP PRODUCTS SO WE CAN LOOK THAT WAY. Omg, do people really not see the Ponzi Scheme that is women’s fashion and trends?

    Secondly, any kid whose self-esteem hinges on her underwear – and let’s be clear, underwear is meant to holster jiggly bits so they don’t hurt when you walk and keep the bodily fluids from your nether regions from completely ruining a pair of pants after one wearing –

    anyone who says that underwear is a feel-good, self-esteem choice is really having a laugh with the very notion of self-esteem.

    So sure…give girls colored underwear that don’t look like granny panties for those seconds during the day when their self-esteem hinges on what other middle school girls are saying to them in the locker room. But let’s be very clear on the difference between pink Hanes hip-huggers and lacy thongs that say “Date Me” or whatever on the crotch. Because the middle school girls do think there is a difference and at 11yo are judging their female friends on their underwear. Let’s be very clear that THAT is the real problem.

    1. And to be clear, I honestly don’t care what kids choose to wear. Even if they do want to wear “Hot Stuff” thongs at 9yo. The kid and parent should be able to test out and explore and experiment with choices and without shaming from other parents or kids. I’m not getting between any parent and their kid; the assumption is the parent knows what she/he is doing.

      It’s when kids are made to feel bad about themselves for not being/looking/feeling more grown-up at a younger age that I have a problem with. That’s a problem I have with locker-room talk and VS.

  13. The social media/broadcast angle is well put. And while showing someone your underwear on snapchat is clearly ill advised, it’s not nearly as dangerous as showing it to someone in your bedroom. Maybe kids are showing more and doing less. Which might explain why, despite the increased “sexualization” of girls, STD transmission and pregnancy rates are down among teens — the age of onset of sexual activity is on the rise — even rates of sexual assault against kids is down. I’m alarmed at this stuff (my daughter is in 6th grade), but trying to reconcile that with the data. Thoughts?

    1. It’s not just about kids having sex. It’s about young girls falling prey to marketing that depends on hyper-skinny, Photoshop-enhanced, perfectly-perfect images of what females should look like – should BE like – and spending money buying into it. And then judging their friends for not buying in.

      I don’t care so much about kids photos online. If a perv wants to get off on photos of young girls with barely covered crotches, he could go to any teen gymnastic meet and take his own photos.

      But there is still bullying in school, and – maybe ironically – “slut shaming” and kids freaking killing themselves over photos that are passed around that they didn’t think would be passed around.

      So, yes, if kids are holding back sexually, that’s great. On the other hand, young girls still have so many really dreadful and dangerous body image gauntlets to run through and make it safe and sound on the other side. The showing more is just the end result of diving in to focus on body image earlier and earlier. Popularity and personality building via snapchat bra-and-panty shots a dangerous lie with less room to “forget and move on” to developing a personality based on intellect, ethics, and empathy.

      Yes, kids try out being idiots. Our job as parents is to keep herding them back; not throw up our hands and say, “What the hell, I can’t win anyway,” and rationalizing away any harm.

      1. I totally agree with the bullying/shaming issues Josette. The idea of perverts actually hadn’t crossed my mind.

        I love your passion.

      2. Great point. I get it that the potential harm goes beyond measurable sexual behaviors and crosses over into less quantifiable areas like body image distortion and bullying.

        I would never advocate rationalizing away dangers or throwing up hands. I’m just trying to come to terms with what seems to be a conundrum: More openly sexual content and products being marketed to younger and younger girls, yet encouraging numbers.

        Is it possible that while this stuff is awful for body image, a reprehensible way to turn a buck, and ammo for bullies everywhere, it has a side effect of giving girls more agency over their sexuality?

        1. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply *you* were throwing up your hands. 🙂 I had just read an article where a response was “if you don’t give kids what they want, they will sneak around and have sex and do drugs behind your back.” That kind of response is crazy making, and it’s what I had in mind when writing.

          I’d ask exactly what is “agency over sexuality” for 9yo or even 14yo girls? I’m sorry if I do now sound like my WWII granny, but since when is healthy sexuality solely defined or expressed by wearing smutty-language on the cloth covering your rear-end or mons veneris? Sexuality is a total body experience that includes a sound mind and spirit, as well as knowing where the bits and pieces are and what they do. Sexuality needs to include conversations and thoughtfulness regarding physical responsibility and emotional consequences, as well as “it feels good.” Lots of things feel good to young kids. While we don’t shame them for natural feelings, we also do what we can to make sure kids are fully aware of the big picture and heading on a path of well-roundedness before allowing a focused journey down the “feels good” or “it’s natural so it’s okay” path. And this not even delving into the questions of whether benefits outweigh the risks.

          If I were raising my kids on a deserted island, I might see things differently.

        2. This

          “More openly sexual content and products being marketed to younger and younger girls, yet encouraging numbers.”

          I’d say I’d have to see a proven cause and effect. It could be that parents are pulling back the reins and tying them down, and the $$$-making opportunists are pulling out bigger guns to fight with. Right now, the good guys might be winning, but I wouldn’t say that it’s not without a fight. I’m not looking for easy ways to parent, but I am going to fire back when people try to make my job tougher.

  14. The thing that confuses me is that VS is a big company and I’m sure they’ve got some experienced people running their marketing department. So, that leads me to believe they didn’t just come up with this idea and run with it. That they did their homework and determined there is a market for it. That there *are* parents out there that would allow their kids to wear this smut.

    And really, that’s the problem. I’m not one to protest products I don’t like. I’d rather just not buy the stuff and protest that way because no company will continue to sell a product that no one buys. But it scares me to think that there might actually be a lot of people out there that will buy it and give VS a reason to continue selling it.

    1. Marie, I did think this. When I wondered (and typed) something about why don’t they know (way too lazy to go back up and quote myself, sorry) it hit me: maybe they do. I hate to continue using Juicy as an example (BUT REALLY, COME ON, IT SAYS JUICY ACROSS YOUR ASS!), but there are parents who see nothing wrong with that or other phrases on other garments. So maybe there are parents (and VS researched and determined this) who will buy these up (whether for themselves or their young teens. Doesn’t matter to VS, right?)

  15. As a mother who already has one entering this stage of her life, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

    And I don’t of course mean that in an actual you have no idea sense but a JUST YOU WAIT sense. Because? This shit is a full time job. You thought diapers and waking up at 3am was bad? Wait until you’re trying to manage a tween’s reputation with social media and marketing campaigns like these breathing down your neck. They have no idea what any of this shit means. Yet? They have to navigate their formative years through a sludge pit of it.

    You don’t win as a parent of girls these days. You just hope you come out of the game alive and with less than 90% of your bones broken. There is no winning.

    1. This. So much this.

      I was in my 40s before I knew what “teabagging” is. My now 18yo has known since she was 11. From listening to a boy who was describing it to another boy in Social Studies while she valiantly tried to ignore them and write the skit the three of them were supposed to be working on together. For a group grade, of course.

  16. There is absolutely NO REASON for Victoria’s Secret to be marketing to teens at all. NONE. I have three girls, and this terrifies me, because as much as I try to raise them to be strong, empowered individuals, there’s always this part of them that will want to be defiant and will want to feel wanted by boys. If girls at my school weren’t doing this when we were younger, it was because it wasn’t readily available. I was appalled when my SIL came to visit at 14 and was picking out some very grown up things from VS.

    1. I think it depends on the choices the teen is making, Leigh Ann (as far as what to purchase.) VS does sell some nice cotton panties and I must admit, I do rather like their offerings for unpadded, non-wire bras (which I prefer my 12 yr old wear, that I can’t seem to find in Target (on a regular basis.)) I believe wholeheartedly that the phrases on these underwear are inappropriate but I also think we need to look at VS not as just a sexy lingerie seller. At the same time, I’m turned off by this marketing so I’m contradicting myself. Confusion. I has it.

  17. As the mom of a nearly 13yo I’m getting increasingly sensitive about these things. I’m trying to preserve her innocence, without over sheltering her, for as long as possible. VS certainly doesn’t help, but at least I can be glad we don’t go to malls much so she’s only sightly aware of them. And really, I don’t think I would ever buy my daughter underwear there. VS should be a store for adult women.

    1. Jennifer,

      I have 11yo and a 14yo daughters. We don’t have cable TV.We don’t just “go to the mall” or shop as a past-time, and there is no hanging out at the mall. They do not have smart phones or unfettered Internet access. They do not have Facebook accounts where teen girls can gripe at each other 24/7 instead of having weekends and entire summers to get out of each other’s hair. And even with all this, they are in no way sheltered. They are enjoying being kids without the weight of the world on their shoulders. When they want new information or experiences, we talk about the pros and cons and how genies can’t be put back in bottles; that once they enter a “game,” it’s very hard to back-out completely. So, if you ever do get hassled about “sheltering” or raising kids like veal, don’t listen. Unless you live in a cave, it’s impossible to shelter kids. It is possible, however, to mitigate the onslaught of messages telling them to grow-up quickly and along a specific path, and then regretting being stuck in a places where it’s tough to return to a place of paths diverging in the woods.

  18. I’ve been trying to write a post all week about this…and ended up in tears each time. So, thank you for saying all of this. Exactly.

    My 10 1/2 year old daughter still wears Hello Kitty undies from Target. I hope she just keeps asking for those.

  19. When I heard about this line…I was mortified. Mortified that a company would think this was where they needed to go. I have sisters that are going to be 17. I was ashamed when my mother was letting them wear lacy underwear at 12 and watching things like Gossip Girl and vowed any daughter I had, would not. I don’t care how angry my daughter gets and who thinks I am a prude!

  20. Imma just going to step over here and vomit a sec, mkay?

    So, yes, I have girls. I’ll be buying them pretty underwear forever. I buy them now, I’ll buy them until they are buying their own underwear. I’ll be trying through example to show them that pretty and tasteful and comfortable should rule the day.

    But what about my son whose stupid friends will be posting this crap on social media? What chance does he have not to look at girls – at least a little bit- as sex objects? It’s one thing to have a poster of a girl you’re never going to meet and a whole other ball of wax to have girls you go to school with sending pics of themselves like this. Maybe this is why God gave him 4 sisters. Maybe that will help him maintain a little decency.

  21. It’ is scary. Like you I had my share of raunchy buttons. I specifically remember one that said “I’m into S&M (sex and money)” even though I didn’t even know what S&M really stood for. I also remember trying to get the sexiest underwear I could find. I also remember going too far too soon because I thought it was the only way to get boys to like me (and always regretting it.)

    As a data privacy specialist I understand all too well the permanence of the Internet, and I have thought many times about what you state here. I have not come up with a solution. I hope I do before my daughter is old enough for it to matter. (She is only 2.) I’m afraid for her (and my son as well really).

    The Internet has so many wonderful uses, but it’s dark side is very, very dark.

    1. A more annoying than scary thing about the Internet is my inability to fix the it’s/its error that I made in that comment that I saw just as I was clicking “submit.” So embarrassing.

  22. Such a great, thoughtful article Liz.

    My friend told me her son’s Facebook page is filled with his 13-14 yo female classmates’ “cleavage” shots—not even a face in the image, just two tween breasts squeezed together in a v-neck. I wanted to throw up.

    My 12yo recently asked me, with complete sincerity, why I would want wear cute patterned bikini underwear. She’s still wearing day-of-the-week underwear! The idea that her peers are sliding into thongs is unbelievable to me. I wouldn’t never shame a child for buying these, but the parent? Shame on them. Sometimes, as a parent, we have to say, “I’m sorry if Katie is wearing VS thongs, you are not. Period.” Though, much as I did with eyeliner, I wonder if the kids would leave school in cotton undies only to change into thongs before class starts. Sigh. I rebelled with black eyeliner. The stakes seem much higher now.

  23. As a professional in criminal justice and expert witness on sex offenders, this plan bothers me on so many levels. I have five nieces – all of them adults except for one high-schooler. I have one son. It bothers me that I am trying to teach him to respect women – not see them as sex objects – and these folks sexualize young girls. VS apparel is great for an adult woman who can make her own choices. But its time we take Miley Cyrus off the stripper pole, get her out of her father’s lap, and let our young girls be young girls.

  24. Am I the only one who didn’t know that VS had anything for girls under 16? Yeah…I might be. Whoops. I’m with Christina. My 11 year old (and my 8 yr old) still wears days of the week underwear from Old Navy. Her ‘bra’ that she has absolutely no need for is a tank top with a sport bra in it that she wears under her shirt every day. Then again I do have to admit that I have very petite skinny little things who are no where close to hitting puberty. So in the moment it’s a bit easy for me to avoid certain things.

    That all being said I have a line that I use, even though I swore I’d never say it. My kids are not doing that. It works in all parts of parenting and I use it often. We don’t buy pants that say things on the butt. I allow it on the leg, if it’s like Peace, Love or you know whatever Old Navy/Children’s Place/Gap are currently putting on the side of their sweats. No slutty shirts and I decide on a shirt by shirt basis. I’m very careful what I buy my girls. No short shorts. I get crap about it every summer, but I always say: Sorry, we don’t do that here.

    What’s sad is VS didn’t just come up with this. There has to be a market for it.

  25. I agree these are so inappropriate. I am the mommy to two daughters also and I am afraid of the world they are growing up in.Girls are being sexualized at younger and younger ages and boys are seeing them as sex objects and nothing more. We need to teach our children to respect themselves, their bodies and each other. BUt VS is not the first, nor will they be the last,


  26. I will still lament the perceived (and real) innocence of my childhood. One where my wearing of black corset as rebellious, boundary-testing experiment had no greater meaning then couple of shocked looks (both genders included). It truly is “it takes a village” effort, but what village are we left with when we get into pure, capitalist, money-making mindset? One tha has middle-aged Steve describing business benefits of “dare you” on thong, size for 14-year old?
    I have recently visited local museum, that had special presentation on history of gaming. From pinball machines, through pacman and Tetris, to wii remote and angry birds. Aside from feeling old (for knowing too many games of pacman-age), most striking was life-size model of Laura Croft. THE Laura Croft. Some tween boys were half-heartledly listening to curator explain how size of Laura’s bust was a mistake that was cheered by development team, and boys did not blink an eye. Nor they understood my passing comment that no real life woman can ever measure up.
    Precedent setting happens in various forms and in various places. And public, marketing oriented presedents are rarely contributing to greater good – just to company bottom line. Somehow, catering to lowest common denominator always has positive business case in Steve’s presentation.

  27. Hello! I want to thank you for writing this article. I realize many of the moms out there would never venture into a VS to purchase underwear for their tween or teen girls, however my daughter is 12 and as it was time for her to be fitted for a bra, I had considered taking her into VS since they seem to have helpers with tapes ready to assist in finding the exact size. Definitely won’t be going in there for that! We’ll just go to a department store and wing it.

    Thank you again for the investigative and informative article!


    1. Thanks Judy – I have to give a shoutout to Nordstrom, if there’s one near you. Best bra fitters! Wish they had had one near me when I was 12.

  28. I went through all the same emotions already back when Abercrombie started to aggressively go after preteens, but claiming they were targeting college age kids. My kids were very young and A&F was considered ubercool. Their marketing and catalog was already then beyond tasteless. I do not have young kids anymore, but I have noticed the VS trend, it’s tasteless and wrong and VS should know better. It is hard enough for little girls to do the transition into healthy teenagers/women, without having the big companies tempting them to go for messages for a more mature audience. Well said, Liz.

  29. Hoping and praying I can keep my five year old daughter in her boy short undies as long as possible (from Walmart no less!).

    Absolutely disgusting VS!

  30. There’s a name for the sexualization of children: pedophilia.

    Abusers are very good at manipulating their victims into thinking that this is what they actually want.

  31. In our suburban cookie-cutter town PINK is seen as the height of fashion by the kids as young as 6th grade and their moms alike!! I always chuckle to myself when I see someone trying so hard to be like one of the “hot” moms. I can easily see some of those misguided moms buying this stuff for their kids. It is just sad. I’m with you Liz. Hanna Andersson forever!!

  32. Update – from NYT’s parenting blog: “But while staunchly defending its brand, Victoria’s Secret is apparently quietly removing the worst offending items from its online store…On the Victoria’s Secret Web site, at least, “Bright Young Things” seems to be gone…But even without the words, the message of PINK comes through loud and clear in that “date night” panty, and it’s still a message that’s ill-suited to tweens and young teens…The company’s job is to sell a “cheeky little bikini” definition of what it means to be young, cool and fun, and our job is to convince our daughters and sons not to buy it.” – The New York Times reports that Victoria’s Secret has responded to consumer pressure regarding some of their clothing marketed to teens.

  33. Hi there,

    have you SEEn the sizes of underwear they sell in their women’s line?????? They sell ans XS that would not fit any 14 year old I know…they are going for younger than that!!!

    1. Well…I was about a size -12 when I was an early teen. So not sure. But then, I haven’t tried their XS. That would terrify me today!

  34. Okay – got to represent the guys here. I’m 25 now so still young enough to remember and old enough to know better.

    I’m really sickened by all of this. As a guy in my teens, the last thing I needed to worry about was what girls were doing to “lure” me in if they were even doing that. It’s a teen boy’s duty to be oblivious to other girls and have great friends. Did I want a gf, yes of course. The last thing I was concerned about though was whether or not we would kiss. At that point in my life, seeing a girls underwear like this would be cause for a spanking still…and being grounded for life.

    Girls are already pressured into thinking that they have to “put out” for guys. Unfortunately, however, when a young girl buys these and puts these on, there’s going to be an expectation level behind wearing these. That’s not good. Boo VS.

    1. Thanks for your perspective Chris.

      It’s a nice antidote to the young male HuffPost commenter who said “I lost my virginity at 14 to a 12 year old girl and I wasn’t even her first. That’s how things are these days. Get used to it.”


  35. I’m beginning to lose faith in not only the media and in advertisers but in the parents who you know will buy these for their teen daughters.

    I saw the complete parental apathy for over sexualization of young girls this past weekend at my daughter’s dance competition. Mind you, she’s in the 8 and under age group so we’re talking YOUNG. I was appalled at the number of bare midriffs and booty shorty shorts worn to dance to song that I wouldn’t want a 16 year old dancing to. One dance featured 7-8 year olds dressed up in Britney Spears “Baby One More Time” school girl outfits, which were disturbing…but then at one point, they rip off the pull away skirts to reveal ultra shorty shorts. All they needed was a stripper pole. AND that’s not the worst. In the audience, a number of their DADS were yelling “WORK IT ____(insert child’s name)”. How can we expect better of companies when parents are out there who see no problem with this!!! It blew me away and left me speechless

  36. You may want to interpret this as targeted toward young teens but the models are not. To say that these images mean the girls only value is to be sexy is a major overstatement and duplicitous. The girls in the videos that are being shown are not having sex or anything close, they are just having fun.
    This campaign against VS actually has given them more free publicity and I’m sure will profit them greatly. While they may be publicly showing a little remorse (but hardly any), privately, they are probably popping open bottles of champagne!

  37. First, my bonafides: Married father of five including two girls and I am a clothing designer.

    Now, where do I start?

    Obviously if you don’t like it… don’t buy it.

    But why not celebrate young people of any age who are physically fit and having fun. Your editorial ends with the comment, “to fit their entire bodies into a single leg of my own underwear.” THAT I would argue is a far more serious problem in modern society! Why is acceptable to feed our daughters high-fructose corn syrup, packaged foods, food dyes, artificial flavoring, Happy Meals® only to see our daughters ballon into unhealthy blimps who DO have an unhealthy view of their bodies? How is that being a good parent? Why are you not protesting against McDonald’s, Monsanto, etc?

    Quite honestly ANY underwear that features ANY text on them lacks class. You will not find Dior panties that scream “pick me!” not because parents would complain but because it is crap design.

    By the way, all of this brouhaha accomplishes one thing… Victoria Secret is getting plenty of free press and racking up nice sales figures.

  38. Simon, aren’t you a wee bit outraged as a father that early sexualization of girls is a not so uncommon in marketing? Of course, don’t buy products you don’t endorse, but this kind of marketing is adding another nail to the coffin for young girls’ healthy view of sexuality. Its one more push to be provocatively sexy a bit too young – and being sexy is not for their sake, right? Its about them seeing themselves as sexy in boys’ eyes. And trying to fit into the mold of precocious sexy teen. We hope our teens will have healthy bodies that they are comfortable in, as you say. When young women are ready to feel desirable and have a healthy sense of themselves, fine, women should buy what kind of underwear they like! But, actively, agressively pushing young girls toward an objectified, sexualized view of themselves is just as tacky as the messages on the underwear!

  39. I am raising my girls to think of themselves as more than sex objects. I am also raising my sons to think of girls as human beings not just bodies to have sex with. How stupid is a culture that hyper-sexualizes young girls/women and how dumb are the adult women of said culture to let it happen!

  40. I say the same thing. All of my stuff is from VS, but if I pay $15 for some panties I don’t want trashy words scrawled across it. I also think that a company like that should have created something more respectful for teens. It would still sell, after all it is VS. Having been a teen mom myself and a single parent I think too few girls understand how long the choices they make will affect their lives. Stuff like that is geared too much towards making women choose to be skanks because that’s all men expect of them. When I wear my VS it’s for me, not anyone else. But I think some women never have that idea cross their minds. The companies are going to continue to get worse. The best you can do is when you see things like those panties you point them out to your kids, yes the boys too, and explain how that makes for a bad representation of the person wearing it.

  41. And that cool college girl? The sexually uninhibited one? Probably being seen frequently at the student health clinic for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and/or depression. Those two diagnoses constitute the biggest reasons students are seen. Dare to be different….don’t be media-driven! And VS could do so much better than pandering to underage hormones.

  42. I couldn’t agree with the idea of new taglines more.. though, if little miss wants to play the sexually uninhibited college girl, whose to say she wouldn’t angle after college guys? Wrong kind of college guys if you get my drift there…

    my idea for a new tagline would be;

    “don’t drop the soap”

  43. Thank you for writing this… and I wish more people would. I explein to my nephew and ahave these talks with my wife all the time, about how the internet has ruined people public image, because sure we weren’t doing the most world saving, honest things ourselves when we were kids, we also didn’t have the instant documentation… I tell the kids I talk to now, “if you want to go to college on scholarship, or even become president… this shit’s going to catch up with you.”

    But then there’s people like Anthony Weiner sending d*ck pics and still getting paid by tax payer salairies… so who knows who’s right in that argument.

    I’m not a father yet, in fact I’m expecting in May, or rather my wife is. I just started a blog,, and I can ONLY IMAGINE what I will be writing about when my kid is 14…. ungh….

    But I wish more people would make this an issue. So thank you.


  44. Thank you for writing this… and I wish more people would. I explain to my nephew and a have these talks with my wife all the time, about how the internet has ruined people public image, because sure we weren’t doing the most world saving, honest things ourselves when we were kids, we also didn’t have the instant documentation… I tell the kids I talk to now, “if you want to go to college on scholarship, or even become president… this shit’s going to catch up with you.”

    But then there’s people like Anthony Weiner sending d*ck pics and still getting paid by tax payer salaries… so who knows who’s right in that argument.

    I’m not a father yet, in fact I’m expecting in May, or rather my wife is. I just started a blog,, and I can ONLY IMAGINE what I will be writing about when my kid is 14…. ungh….

    But I wish more people would make this an issue. So thank you.


  45. And yet they ‘sell’ or rather they are bought. Especially the underwear for ‘just arrived there’ teens and well under teens. And it is not dads wandering through the clothing racks for little girls at Target or any of the other department stores who stock similarly grossly adorned underpants. It is mums.

    The shocked and disgusted remarks from other commenters here are quite understandable and show a sense and sensitivity that is not universal.

    VS is responding to ‘the market’. The market for such sexist underwear is not simply created by a male CEO and offered with no option, but by a team of designers and seamstresses, mostly women. The women’s magazines that publish pictures of such goods for sale to females of all ages are almost totally staffed and run by women.

    1. Interesting perspective. Though I’m not sure why you are reducing this to a male vs female issue. How is that important in the discussion? Women marketers can be as sexist as men can be, and the sex of the Limited Brands CEO (male) or the Victoria Secret CEO (female) or the marketing team responsible for these choices is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. I also understand the capitalistic/free market argument, but don’t underestimate the voices of consumers–if only a strong, vocal minority–in making meaningful change.

      Ellen Degeneres remains the JC Penney spokesperson, and New Coke ceases to exist.

      Also, for what it’s worth, Bangladeshi sweatshop workers (or “seamstresses” as you call them) don’t have a lot of say over style or marketing. To somehow hold them complicit seems an unfortunate stretch of the imagination.

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