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Victoria's Real Secrets


A brand that needs a walk-in closet not for the wardrobe, but the skeletons.

Purveyor of sultry bedroom wear, finicky snap clasps, and freakish angel-model hybrids, Victoria's Secret (LTD) has become a favorite among fashion-conscious women and preteen boys alike. So popular, in fact, that the 33-year-old company represents the chiefest segment of its parent company Limited Brands, which recently posted a net income of $356.1 million in its fourth quarter -- adjusted to $332.8 million, or $1.01 per share, after tax and restructuring issues. Despite a sluggish 2009, Limited Brands and its racy subsidiary is predicting a hefty boost in 2010.

Part of that optimism is heaped upon the new stand-alone Pink store, which opened March 13 in New York's trendy SoHo neighborhood. Targeting a younger, college-age demographic, the shop marked the first outpost of the Victoria's Secret Pink line. The grand opening featured the likes of models Chanel Iman and Behati Prinsloo as well as free lollipops and a cupcake truck -- an odd choice for a brand that depends on a hassle-free fitting room experience.

But as fashionistas squealed in delight as the Pink store's ribbon was cut, few were thinking of the lesser known facts about Victoria's Secret -- many of which would cause them to slowly back away from the racks of Lycra Spandex. Here are a few lurid and seldom-told tales from behind the curtains of Victoria's Secret.

1. In 1982, after finding success with the company's mail-order catalog, Roy Raymond sold Victoria's Secret to Limited Brands. But Raymond's next venture couldn't match the enlivened success Victoria's Secret was enjoying under new ownership. Distraught over his bad luck, Raymond committed suicide by leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

A recent NBC report conducted in a New Jersey mall exposed a dirty habit practiced by several women's clothing retailers. The stores, Victoria's Secret among them, would restock and resell used clothing items -- yes, underwear, too -- straight from the customer's hands. Lesson learned: Always thoroughly wash new clothes before wearing.

3. Already well-versed in featuring models who perpetuate an unrealistic body image, Victoria's Secret was hit with a maelstrom of criticism from Fox News' Bill O'Reilly when Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio was photographed in an emaciated state, appearing to rehash the controversial early-'90s "heroin chic" trend. Making matters worse, the models beside her -- representing an ideal body shape for many women -- were referred to as "plus-sized."
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