washingtonpost.com > Business > Local Business

Skimpy Underwear, Ample Commentary At Tysons Corner

Little is left to the imagination for shoppers outside the Victoria's Secret store. The display is part of a marketing campaign, the company says.
Little is left to the imagination for shoppers outside the Victoria's Secret store. The display is part of a marketing campaign, the company says. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Tongues were wagging. E-mails were flying around PTA message groups and church listservs. People who heard about it came by to take a look for themselves. The issue was tiny underwear -- women's fine lingerie, to be exact-- and how it should be displayed on lifelike mannequins in the newest wing of one of America's biggest malls.

"Little Shop of Whores," huffed one woman standing outside the new Victoria's Secret in Tysons Corner Center. "Slut wear," declared the father of a teenage girl, looking at a feathery-thong-clad mannequin bent over as if she were adjusting her spike heels.

"I love it," said another woman with a bag of fresh purchases.

The store was doing a brisk business yesterday as shoppers walked by, some nearly snapping their necks as they caught a glimpse of what the mannequins were wearing and their suggestive poses.

"Well," said Steina Rubin of Bethesda, "I find it just totally disgusting." And, no, she would not be shopping there. "I'm not entering a whorehouse," she said. "I come to the mall with my daughter. It's disgusting. And I'm from Europe !"

Last week, a 362,000-square-foot expansion opened at Tysons Corner with 24 stores, five restaurants and a 16-screen movie theater. The new wing is jammed with stores targeted at teenage customers, and among them, between Free People and Guess jeans, is the new Victoria's Secret. Yesterday, it was parents of teenagers who were flocking to the mall.

"I'm anxious to see for myself what the buzz is all about," John Zolldan wrote in an e-mail to the mall management, "and if it is really true that Victoria no longer has any secrets . . . maybe your intent is to provide consumers in Northern Virginia with our first erotic boutique."

Inside the store was a display of one scantily clad female mannequin crawling toward another who reclined on a left hip and leaned back on both hands.

A woman inside the store who said she was the manager declined to comment, referring questions to a corporate public relations person.

Anthony Hebron, a spokesman for Limited Brands Inc., the parent company of Victoria's Secret, said in a telephone interview from his office in Columbus, Ohio, that the Tysons display is not a special design for the store opening but is part of a national marketing campaign in the chain's approximately 1,000 stores. He said that "a few" complaints have come in from Tysons and from one other market.

"What we do with all of our marketing is to display the products that we sell, which is lingerie, and that is done on a national basis," Hebron said. "What we do from time to time is take into consideration feedback we receive as we decide what our future marketing will look like."

A spokesman for the mall management company said "many" complaints had been received. "The comments we receive from our customers are valued and appreciated," a spokesman said in a statement, adding that the mall management had shared the comments with Victoria's Secret.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company