Some apparently unretouched photographs from a Victoria's Secret catalog have surfaced online under mysterious circumstances. The shots, featuring VS angel Doutzen Kroes, are stunning — Kroes, of course, looks amazing in all of them. But what's really interesting is what they reveal about Victoria's Secret's Photoshop standards.
The images last night appeared in a discussion on the popular image-sharing site The Fashion Spot, where users track the appearances of various fashion models in print and online media around the world and post them to threads dedicated to individual models. They were sourced to "victoriassecret," but other users quickly noted that the .jpgs couldn't be found on the retailer's Web site. Nonetheless, anyone who's ever perused Victoria's Secret's Web site or flicked through its catalog will recognize the setting, the poses, and the particular aesthetic. And even were there any doubt about these being VS shots, know that VS angels are generally obligated to endorse no competing swimwear or lingerie brands for the terms of their contracts.
Because of the images' unexplained appearance online, we don't yet know which VS catalog or which season these photographs are from — do you recognize them? Email us — or how they compare with the final, retouched versions of each shot we assume must exist. UPDATE: These images were posted to a public area of the VS Web site (apparently in error). They come from the forthcoming September catalog, which explains why retouched versions do not yet exist for a side-by-side comparison. They were shot around July 21 in Turks and Caicos. Even without retouched images to compare, the raw shots are still interesting to look at. Click any slide to enlarge.
It's kind of incredible what you can see in the photographs that you don't see in published VS images: Kroes' enviable abs, for one. The texture of her skin. The way she squints in the sunlight. The way her facial muscles actually move. Tiny scars she has on her legs. Moles and freckles. Evidence that Kroes, like most women in the West, shaves her underarm hair. The skin-toned underwear she wears underneath the swimsuit. All of those things are airbrushed out of the final product. And other changes are made, too: to trim from the waist and hips, to add to the bust, to "smooth" out folds of skin, erase bones and muscles. Whether those choices, taken individually, are justified on aesthetic grounds is debatable, of course — and at least some of them could have been done in camera, or with analog retouching techniques — but taken together, the post-production changes that Victoria's Secret and other major retailers make to their models' bodies become kind of uncanny.
They also set an incredibly unrealistic standard. Here's a woman whose beauty is obvious — but who still has to have all evidence that her skin moves when she twists her torso to one side ruthlessly suppressed with the liquify tool. Kroes looks fantastic in these shots — but she also looks like a real person with a real body that exists in three real dimensions. And that's not fantastic enough, apparently.