The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is known for being extravagant and over-the-top. Models descend on the runway in lingerie and elaborate costumes: ornate headpieces, gigantic angel wings and sky-high stiletto sandals. Such adornment usually inspires awe, but one costume is causing controversy.

Supermodel Karlie Kloss hit the catwalk in Native American headdress wearing a bra and panties set replete with beading and fringe details. Critics were vocal about their distaste for the garment, specifically the headpiece which is traditionally reserved for the Chiefs of a tribe.

Following the backlash, Victoria’s Secret has decided to remove the look from the national airing of the show. They released this statement: “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.”

Karlie Kloss followed with: “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.”

Not everyone finds the garment deplorable, but cultural appropriation always straddles the line between insensitivity and blatant disrespect. When you take into account the hyper-sexualized stereotype of the Native American woman, the costume appears even more offensive.

What do you think of the Victoria’s Secret costume, Clutchettes? Do you agree with critics?

  • Shirl

    I didn’t know that Native American women were stereotyped as hyper sexual. This, in my 46 years on this earth, is the first time ever hearing that. No sarcasm meant.

  • LS

    “When you take into account the hyper-sexualized stereotype of the Native American woman, the costume appears even more offensive.” Exactly and according to statistics Native American women are more likely to get raped than the average American woman. Glad they removed it.

  • http://mommaused2say.com Kirsten

    I always wonder why people act first and then have to back track and apologize? A quick phone call asking Native American’s if they found this look offensive might have eliminated the negative publicity. Just sayin’!

  • LS

    All women of color are unfortunately. :/
    Their stereotype called the “Sexy Indian Princess”.

  • Gotcha

    I agree. The band No Doubt recently had to pull there video for the exact same thing!

  • Pseudonym

    I agree. Never heard of Native American women being hyper sexual. I’ve only seen them portrayed on television fully covered in loose potato sack/hemp like outfits with a feather and very little jewelry/accessories (no peacocking or sneak peeks) or in real life they are usually shown in a laid back solid-colored t-shirt and jeans and tend to be obese.

    From the comment below: if it is true that Native American women are more likely to get raped than the average American women, I doubt it’s because of their hypersexualization: how many Native American women do we see making it clap in music videos? how many have boob implants and are seen living in Hugh Heffner’s house? How many Native American female porn stars are out there? Their vulnerability probably has more to do with the high rate of alcoholism among Native American men coupled with the sometimes isolated societies in which they live on reservations. Saudi Arabian women walk around covered from head to toe with only their hands showing (and I hope we can agree aren’t portrayed as hypersexual) and they have a problem with rape and teenage molestation b/c of their bans on casual dating and not being able to have a wife without dowry money.

    Unfortunately, there is not a place on this earth where a demographic of women can be said to be free from the threat of rape. However, if it is truly higher among Native American women, it’s probably due more to the reasons listed above than them having a hyper sexual stereotype.

  • Rue

    Sigh. Know what the saddest part is? VS has one of these offensive costumes every year. This one it’s native Americans, another year it was “primitive” bikini clad black wome. Makes you question their apology….

  • Dee

    It’s kind of crazy to take native american headdresses and put it on a white girl. I mean didn’t your people do enough, You have to step on their traditions and attire too?

    on a side note: when is it appropriation or appreciation? I mean this obviously does cross the line because they’re sexualizing a culture. Can people really wear styles from cultures other their own for the sake of style without offending.

  • LS

    Your dismissive attitude towards stereotypes Native American women face is pretty gross tbh. If you didn’t believe me you could’ve just looked it up yourself instead of coming up with excuses for why it can’t possibly be true~.

    Those portrayals you’ve seen on tv are racist caricatures created and perpetuated by white people.
    The reason why you don’t hardly see Native women in the media, and Natives in general, is because 1) They’re like 1% of the population. 2) If they’re not being ignored people think they’re all dead. And not all Native Americans live on a reservation and are isolated. All your claims in your 2nd paragraph don’t make one lick of sense but congrats on stereotyping a whole race of people!

    Here’s some articles written by actual Natives.

    On this Victoria’s Secret incident: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/11/guess-we-can-add-victorias-secret-to.html

    On dressing up as Natives in general:
    http://whebrhotub.blogspot.com/2009/10/my-identity-is-not-costume-for-you-to.html
    http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2011/10/open-letter-to-pocahotties-and-indian.html
    http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/but-why-cant-i-wear-hipster-headdress.html

    On No Doubt’s recent video:
    http://www.flavorwire.com/344807/what-a-native-american-expert-thinks-about-that-controversial-no-doubt-music-video

    Honestly, I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to believe that other people of color are subjected to racism and sexism as well.

  • Pseudonym

    Good question!

    I’m not particularly moved by the outfit above b/c I see it the same as if I had gone to India, fell in love with the fabrics and bangles, came back and designed something inspired by that. I don’t see this as saying anything in particular about Native American women AT ALL but rather a fashion designer’s take on those items a certain culture uses to adorn themselves to signify strength and/or beauty. When I saw this white woman with a faux Native American headdress on, there was NO association with actual Native American women. My opinion of Native American women is NOT going to change. I’m not going to find them any more or any less sexy b/c a white woman wore a faux chief’s headdress in a lingerie fashion show.

    HOWEVER!!!!!!!

    ..Given the fact that white people have a history of treating non-white people HORRIBLY and dressing up as them on television and in theater and mocking them in racist ways, it seems that white people now cannot wear the clothing of other cultures without bringing back flashbacks to those actions. and that’s just the way it is and they have to suck it up and wear their own clothes. That’s what happens when you treat people like sh*t- you lose certain privileges.

    I, personally, am not offended, but I can’t get mad at those who do b/c of the history and think that this is a fair consequence of past wrongdoings.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    If the outfit is so inappropriate, why publish the picture here? Especially if VS removed it from the broadcast? The argument can be made that by exposing us to the picture, we are seeing another example of hypersexualized native american woman. Since most of us are black and not native american, do we really need to see the picture to make our own judgment of whether or not is offensive?

    In addition, this is giving the fashion show more publicity. Just like how all of a sudden Justin Beiber broke up with his “girlfriend” and is allegedly involved with one of the models. What a coinkeedink.

  • Jus Makin an Observation

    Didn’t Victoria’s Secret just get slammed for their appropriation and insensitivity to Asian women with the Geisha lingerie they had online earlier this year? Who is apart of their marketing team and when will they get a clue??? This is just getting ridiculous!

  • Pseudonym

    I’m not saying other people aren’t subject to racism and sexism. I’m just saying I don’t see Native American hyper-sexualized in a country where black women make it clap half-naked on television, white women walk around topless at the Playboy Mansion, and Latino women wear second skin on variety shows on Telemundo. I don’t see such sexed-up portrayals of Native American women. That’s just a fact. and I have looked it up- hence me making the statement and providing solid examples.

    In terms of being informed, I understand the difference between correlation and cause. The reasons I cited are more likely to be the reason for Native American women being raped more often than this “sexed up Native American woman” stereotype you made up.

    If you want to tell someone to look it up, how about you look it up: (I’ll help you: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/us/native-americans-struggle-with-high-rate-of-rape.html?pagewanted=all)

    “One in three American Indian women have been raped or have experienced an attempted rape, according to the Justice Department. Their rate of sexual assault is more than twice the national average. And no place, women’s advocates say, is more dangerous than Alaska’s isolated villages, where there are no roads in or out, and where people are further cut off by undependable telephone, electrical and Internet service….Reasons for the high rate of sexual assaults among American Indians are poorly understood, but explanations include a breakdown in the family structure, a lack of discussion about sexual violence and alcohol abuse.”

    [*BOOM*].

    The men raping these women are Native American men who suffer from an epidemic of alcoholism and these women are on reservations that are isolated (Both reasons I cited.). These aren’t non-Native Americans coming onto these reservations with their fantasies about sexed-up Native American women b/c a white woman wore a headdress on a Victoria’s Secret runway.

  • Pseudonym

    (Also, that site you referenced isn’t particularly strong reference. There’s no real background on the author in order to be able to tell if she’s Native American women who grew up in Native American culture or if she has some Native American roots somewhere (a-la “I got Indian in my Family!!!) and is getting in touch with those roots by focusing on Native American portrayal in the media through her studies as opposed to her actual life experiences as a Native American woman. Just sayin’)

  • http://kalihuru.wordpress.com Kalhu

    I feel like it is possible to have an appreciation for a culture and wear clothes in the style of that culture but in this case VS went too far. Honestly, when I first saw this I laughed because it’s so silly to see a woman in a headdress. That just never happens in our community and it almost akin to the side eye most people give to a man wearing a skirt here in the U.S. So in this case VS should have done their research, maybe brought in consultants from the culture and worked it out from there.

  • but really…

    when people stop wearing togas/greek goddess or swedish milkmaid costumes, i will say that people should stop wearing native american or geisha costumes. why is it that its offensive to where a minority/”ethnic” costume, but not traditional european outfits? [and im black saying this] smh…

  • http://www.superstarisms.tumblr.com Courtney J.

    VS just has to be more creative from what I see they keep missing with their cross-cultural appeals. Globalization gone wrong.

  • apple
  • Love Sosa

    it’s extremely offensive, and i find it appalling that the women on clutch aren’t supportive.

    if these models walked out in clothe and their breast hanging to the ground, you all would be enraged!(this is said to make a point)

    it’s crazy that you won’t support other women in the problems that they face also.

  • Pseudonym

    None of the comments I see so far are saying that it can’t be offensive, it’s just not appalling b/c of a “hyper-sexualized stereotype of the Native American woman” [reasons stated above].

    It’s offensive/annoying b/c it’s VS taking something that may have sacred and symbolic meaning to a cultural group and trivializing and sexing it up for their own entertainment. I’ll vouch for that view. The USA popular only-practicing-through-Christmas-presents Catholic/Christian culture doesn’t use clothing as symbolically as other cultures do: men and women wear skirts, women and men wear pants, adults and kids dress like hookers,…etc. Given this, they often borrow things without realizing that, to other people, it’s not just something to put on their head (re the headdress above)!!

    I think that’s why a lot of US and European cultures totally miss why their “[insert culture]-inspired” attempts at fashion often fail: to some cultures these prints, outfits, and accessories actually mean something and to them it’s not just material to cover up your private parts and accessories meant simply to complement them.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Victoria Secret is becoming a brand that lacks cultural sensitivity more and more. You don’t have to be Native American to know that using a headdress that way is inappropriate…they just didn’t care. Someone need to give VS a memo, if you are taking certain aspects from cultures you don’t understand to marginalize and capitalize off it than most likely it IS offensive. Wasn’t there an uproar last year when they made mostly the black models walk the primitive/tribal segment of the show?

  • Pseudonym

    There are people who learn and those who don’t. It’s hard to get this through the skulls of people who come from a culture that doesn’t have sacred clothing, bc they just think, “What the big deal? It’s just clothes!” It’s annoying and frustrating to get across. Sometimes Westerners who think they’re liberated and free-spirited are the most intolerant and disrespectful to others’ cultures?

    I always thought African fabrics were just a regional thing “x, y, and z” were from this country/province/city/village/cultural sub-group. But then I learned that they get as specific as having certain prints only meant for childbirth! and you know them shopkeepers wanna make their money, so they’re not going to give me a heads up that I’m making a teenager a dress made from a fabric meant for birth- especially if it’s obvious that I’m probably returning to the States. I went the safe route and went for the print I saw a girl rocking at a picnic, but if I do accidentally end up with that print somehow, I hope it’s not taken as offensive. At the end of the day, if it’s that sacred, then don’t sell it to outsiders or- if you do- give the lesson that comes along with it before selling it. But anyone who’s ever gone shopping ANYWHERE knows that is not going to happen…

  • Treece

    I think American Society at large needs to recognize that people’s cultures (or cultural dress/skin color) are not “costumes”. Stop using dress, that has cultural significance and may be sacred in some populations, as a trendy new costume choice for your entertainment. Not cool at all. Be more creative VS…..

  • trey

    Back in the day native woman were raped by the white man. Why do you think some white people say they have native blood.

  • Shirl

    You’re serious aren’t you? Don’t know nothing bout no milkmaid costumes (haven’t seen too many minorities sashaying down the catwalk in those) also it is called Greek Mythology (emphasis on the MYTH) Can’t offend something that never was…

  • Pseudonym

    Greek Mythology, current Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Hindu, Buddhist Mythology. What’s the difference?

  • Shirl

    Pseudonym says: “Greek Mythology, current Christian, Muslim, Judaic, Hindu, Buddhist Mythology. What’s the difference?” and to that I say touché. I’m not a religious person but am very spiritual. I feel the Presence of God, but flatline when it comes to Greek Mythology. I understand where you’re coming from tho’.

  • Jazmine

    I am absolutely fed up with corporations doing whatever they desire at the expense of ethnic minorities. Upon seeing this headline I was annoyed. Not for it being posted but for the fact that yet again I come across an article of ethnic offense, something that seems to be a regular occurrence (across different media domains). I am frustrated because while some may not think appropriating traditional ethnic aspects into fashion or other forms of “fun” is a big deal. Companies–exuse me–the individuals who run marketing campaigns at all levels–need to be more sensitive and aware of offenses they make with their “light-hearted” cultural incorporations.

  • EJ

    WHAT! You are Extremely Offensive: Breasts hanging down to the ground? For someone supposedly sensitive to cultural appropriation are you implying that “African” (according to marketing’s homogeneity) cultural appropriation or some culture where loin clothes and no top is worn…would involve breasts hanging down to the ground? You have cancelled out the validity of your claim by glazing it with ignorance/racism/bigotry towards another ethnicity.

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