The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Victoria’s Secret for You and Your Self Esteem

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Shopping at Victoria’s Secret is a harrowing experience for any woman who has not been photoshopped until the only visible things about her are her butt and her boobs. They pretty much only carry Size XS – sometimes M in underwear, lingerie and other wear, and between size 32B-34D in bras in store.

Your brave author wearing underwear. On her head.

Your brave author wearing underwear. On her head.

Now as we all know, there’s really only a few reasons to ever go into a Vicky Secret’s:

  1. It’s the semi annual sale and 5 for $25 undies is just too good to pass up.
  2. You forgot your last trip there, and you REALLY want new lingerie, and maybe this time you’ll look like Karlie Kloss.
  3. Your 5 year old son ran in there and is now running around with the only GG cup bra in the whole place on his face, and you really can’t afford to have someone thinking you’re that bad of a parent. (True story.)

However it happened, you ended up in Victoria’s Secret, and now you have to survive. Now typically, an experience (for almost any size woman) goes like this:

You walk in, enticed by [insert your reason here]. You look around at all the pink and lace and think about how beautiful everything is and how beautiful you’re going to look in this stuff. As beautiful as the model in the window. Or, like, at least close, right?

You walk around trying to find your size in something you like, and slowly, as you move from thing to thing, you realize, nothing comes in your size!! Maybe you manage to find one or two things in your size. You count yourself lucky.

A sales associate asks if you need help. If you’re larger, she gives you a dubious look, and hopes you’re shopping for your skinny friend. When you ask her if they have a size in the back, she responds in one of two ways. A. If you’re below a size 8, she runs to the back, but probably comes back empty handed. B. If you’re above a size 8, she smiles weakly and tells you everything’s out. If you’re a larger girl shopping with your small friend, you feel crappy, because you know she just went to the back to see if they had the same thing in a different size back there for your friend, so they’re definitely not out of everything.

Finally, you head to the fitting room, where everything you try on somehow makes you look totally unlike your normal self. “That’s not my body!” You exclaim to the mirror. “How is this happening? What have I done to deserve this??” Perhaps you get lucky, and you find one thing that fits, and looks ok. You purchase it at the register, grateful that Victoria has chosen you as one of the special ones who is still allowed to wear her lingerie.

Alternately, you find nothing, feel like crap about yourself, and leave to eat donuts.

As far as I can tell, this is a fairly typical experience at Victoria’s Secret. I’ve been there a lot, and it is only through the strength of my iron self esteem that I’m able to roll my eyes at the fact that they don’t carry above a size L in store, rather than blaming myself. In fact, I’ve frequently found myself comforting women in the store who don’t have my iron self esteem and can’t understand why the store doesn’t carry 30AA bras, or XL undies. So I’ve developed a guide for all women to shop Victoria’s Secret with success and happiness, rather than leaving with a serious hit to their self esteem.

1. Before you go in, seriously consider giving your business to a more inclusive store.

Victoria’s Secret is expensive, and their quality-to-price ratio is way disappointing. Compound that with the fact that they are only really aiming to sell to 5’10” models, and you’ve got plenty of reasons to switch to a new store. My favorite alternatives?

  1. Amazon sells good quality lingerie for dirt cheap. $15 will get you something 1000x sturdier than anything Vicky’s sells. (For most of the corsets on Amazon size up about twice.)
  2. Aerie. I’m a HUGE fan of aerie bras and underwear. They make from sizes 30AA to 38DDD, so they have a fairly wide range. Their bras are better made than Victoria’s Secret, and cheaper. They have fantastic sales, and I never pay more than $20 for a bra there. The best part is #AerieReal: Aerie does NOT retouch their photos.
  3. Hips and Curves. My favorite plus-size lingerie company. Unfortunately, they don’t make sizes for women smaller than a 12, but their lingerie is good quality for fair prices.

2. Bring a friend.

It’s so much easier to survive VS with a friend. Friends will remind you of how perfect you are when you’re feeling down. They will pick out fun new underwear for you to try that you would never ever pick out yourself. You can joke with your friends about how ridiculous it is that they DON’T CARRY SIZE D IN STOCKINGS! LIKE, HELLO? SO MANY OF US ARE 5’3”+ AND ABOVE 160 LBS HERE. Phew! Sorry about that.

Also, it’s way less weird to put things on your head and pretend they’re hats when you have a friend. Strangers don’t think g-string hats are funny like your bestie. Or maybe that’s just me and my bestie. Whatever. Stop judging me!

3. So you’re still going in? Alright, take a deep breath.

You can’t walk into a VS without being mentally prepared unless you’re Karlie Kloss.

This is totally what I look like in underwear.

This is totally what I look like in underwear.


And even then, I’m pretty sure Karlie Kloss might be shaken. Remind yourself that Victoria’s Secret has a weird vendetta against its customers, and it has nothing to do with you. You’re just going in to peruse the semiannual sale, find something naughty to take home, or buy your flawless best friend a great bridal shower gift. If you don’t find anything, c’est la vie! Vicky Secret’s is not a place you can really go with a solid purpose.

4. Tell yourself they probably don’t carry your size.

Upon walking in, keep your expectations low. If you weren’t expecting to find a medium, you won’t be sad when you don’t. And better yet, you’ll be excited when you do!

5. Resist the urge to yell at the 15 year old who just keeps finding her sizes in everything!

There’s always a sprightly perfect teenage girl gleefully running around finding all the perfect sizes in EVERYTHING! How does she do it??? (My theory: she’s actually employed by VS.) Resist the urge to yell at her and tell her that one day, she’ll have to shop online for all her sizes and that you hope she turns into a fat whale! and then cry. This is not productive. The enemy is VS, not this teenage girl, and we mustn’t envy her lovely body.

Instead, take a deep breath, remind yourself that you have an equally perfect body, and try to be neutral or happy for the undercover VS agent.

6. Take advantage of the free shipping.

Most stores offer free shipping if you order in the store. VS, wisely, offers this option. If you see something in store that you love, but they don’t have it in your size, don’t be afraid to order it. Hunt down one of those perky sales associates who can never find anything and put her to work! They send the product(s) right to your door, and you can try it on in the privacy of your own home where you can weep out loud if it doesn’t fit or immediately put it to good use if it does. Major game-changer.

7. Bring EVERYTHING to the fitting room.

Literally bring everything you’re interested in into the fitting room in multiple sizes. It saves you from waiting on those sales associate to turn up empty handed. And don’t be afraid to make a mess. Those sales associates can’t find anything anyway, so they need the work.

I’m kidding. As a former retail sales associate, I’m begging you: DON’T make a giant mess on purpose. At least try to hang things back up or stack them nicely.

8. Try everything on in backwards size order.

Assume you’re the largest size you brought to the fitting room with you. This is good for two reasons.

First, it’s typically more pleasing if something fits the first time you try it on. This way, if you really do need the bigger size, you’ll feel good that it fit the first time, and won’t care as much about sizing up.

Second, if you need to size down, trying on multiples of the same thing will be exciting, not frustrating and time consuming.

You’re already in a frustrating environment. Don’t add to it.

9. Don’t look in the fitting room mirrors unless it fits you.

This is actually a serious tip. Put on all lingerie facing away from the mirror and first determine its fit and comfort level. If it fits, awesome! If it’s comfortable, even better! Only once you know it fits, turn around and assess your looks. You’ll likely feel a lot better if you’re only seeing the things that you know fit you.

Pro tip: It doesn’t really matter what lingerie looks like. What matters is how it makes you feel. If you feel sexy as hell, you look sexy as hell. If you love the fit of something, but you’re not sure it looks perfect when you turn around, screw it. You feel sexy = you look sexy. Buy it.

10. Resist the impulse buys at the counter.

You are already going to spend a small fortune on virtually no fabric. Get a quick self esteem boost by doing the financially smart thing and NOT buying a bunch of useless, crappy lipglosses right as you leave. Now, you may not look like Karlie Kloss, but you’re probably savvier than her.

If you follow all these rules, you’ll probably make it out the store feeling good about yourself. If not, definitely locate the nearest [insert your favorite store here] and therapy shop til you drop.

Cara Wood is a body-positive libertarian feminist. When she’s not writing third person descriptions of herself with pretentious adjectives, she can be found riding horses and annoying her husband.


  1. Lil

    I have a few 38DDD bras from Victoria’s Secret that fit beautifully, along with some underwear in XL. In other words, you’re lying to make a point. There’s plenty of stuff in “your size”. You just need to find it.

  2. david

    Some men, me, for example, would rather women didn’t pretend to be VS types unless they really are VS types — body-wise.
    Wearing undies meant for VS bodies when you have a different kind of body succeeds only in highlighting the shortcomings. The opposite of what you want.
    Instead, as they say, you want to accentuate the positive, which is better accomplished by wearing something that’s not teeny-tiny, but more appropriately sized. Brief enough, but not so brief that the garments look as though they violate some kind of ratio involving height, weight and skin surface vs square inches of fabric.
    Anyway, in the eyes of most men, millions of women look better than women believe. Really. Best bet is to relax, get comfortable and eventually, get naked.

  3. Mel

    What a FUN and interesting read! Enjoy knowing that you are not the only one who understands the frustration of shopping at VS! I must admit that with all of your suggestions that VS may be a little less daunting. Thanks for sharing. You look especially nice in the undies…on your head(: Keep writing…

  4. Mel

    What a FUN and interesting read. Know that you are not the only one who understands the frustration in shopping at VS. With your suggestions I may find that it is a little less daunting. You look great in the undies…on your head. Love your style. Keep writing(:

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