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Does Victoria's Secret Matter Anymore?

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Where Can I Find an LBD for Holiday Parties That I Can Also Wear to Work?

Dear Racked,

 I’m looking for an LBD that I can wear to my magazine’s casual holiday party, but then will also be able to wear to work layered over a turtleneck or long-sleeved shirt. I’ve tried this velour Uniqlo dress ($19.90) on, and it’s great, but a bit too much of a slip style for my old-school newsroom. This one from Everlane ($70) is nice, but I’m a little worried about the fit. Any suggestions? I want to stay under $75 if possible. —Oset Babür, Boston

Models wearing short black dresses
Photo: Mango

Dear Oset,

This is a question that I, and probably a ton of our readers, can relate to. An LBD is already a classic you can keep for years, but finding one that can be casual or dressy and that you can wear to work is pretty much the holy grail.

I love both of the dresses you already considered! Too bad about the slip, and for Everlane, I’d say the brand runs pretty big in my experience; order a size down and try it out! Otherwise, your first stop should be Mango, which has dozens and dozens of black dresses, including a bunch that can be both evening- and work-appropriate. For example, this flowy-hem dress on sale for $39.99 would be super cute with a collared shirt underneath, while this V-neck option ($59.99) — which has a really similar silhouette to the one you’ve already picked out from Everlane — would look great over a turtleneck, T-shirt, or sheer blouse.

Mango also has a bunch of long-sleeved LBDs, which you wouldn’t even have to layer to wear to work — just add a blazer or coat. My favorites include this knotted hem dress for $39.99, this pleated bodice dress for $49.99, this knotted shift dress for $79.99, and this satin wrap dress for $99.99. (And honestly, I could have kept going.)

Models wearing black flowy dresses
Photo: Aritzia

If you can go up slightly in price (but still less than $100!), Aritzia has some good options right now too. This off-shoulder sweater dress is really pretty, and not bad on sale at $87.50. If it’s too much skin for your office party, wear a sheer or lace crewneck underneath; you could wear it over a white oxford shirt for work. This long-sleeved Sirena dress is the same idea, with slightly less skin, for $70. I know you said no slip dresses, but the silky Harietta dress is too good not to include, and it’s on sale for $49.99 (from $135). It’s a slip dress with off-shoulder sleeves, so maybe it works? I would wear it to work over a turtleneck or long-sleeved lace or silk blouse.

And hey, for everyone else: Aritzia makes our favorite under-$100 slip dresses. The Felicity dress is a very nice midi slip for $80; the Mauricio dress is a great square-neck ’90s-style mini slip dress for $98; the Atro is another midi option for $88; and the Ignace dress, on sale for $80 from $118, has a beautiful sheer textured overlay of a leaf print. (I think you could get away with one of these if you layer with something fun, like the way Aritzia styled the Atro dress above.)

Last but certainly not least, check out ASOS, which is offering 30 percent off partywear right now. This Boohoo twist-front dress is only $53, but looks way more expensive. This $29 ASOS T-shirt dress is very casual, but the open back makes it party-appropriate (just add heels). This $40 cotton-poplin ruffle-sleeve dress by Monki would be great for parties (add fun earrings) or work. There are also some other options from Mango not on the US site right now, like this mod shift dress for $70. For something a little different, check out this $48 tuxedo mini dress, which I think is a very festive party idea.

Any way you go, you’ll definitely wear this dress again! —Cory Baldwin, shopping editor

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In the News
Can Victoria's Secret Stay Relevant?
Models on the runway during the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show

The more the world changes, the more the Victorias Secret Fashion Show stays the same.

Last night, the lingerie giant aired its annual Angel-winged runway extravaganza on CBS, and as always, the hour-long special featured a display of over-the-top costumes, A-list musicians, and toned, tanned, minimally clothed models. The only thing unfamiliar was the venue: For the first time ever, the event was held in Shanghai, where the brand opened a flagship store — its first in mainland China — earlier this year.

The decision was clearly a strategic one, giving VS a huge platform in a lingerie market thats poised to be worth $33 billion by 2020, more than double that of the United States, according to Euromonitor. While the brands revenues have been steadily falling domestically, a new set of Chinese customers could turn the overall downward trend around.

The location may have been the only forward-thinking aspect of the evening, however. From the start, the show was plagued with problems, which experts have said the brand should have anticipated given Chinas authoritative political environment: Gigi Hadid, one of the brands top faces, was denied a visa, along with a host of other models. Performer Katy Perry was also barred from entering the country, reportedly from appearing to support Taiwan, and had to be replaced last-minute by Harry Styles (trading up, in my opinion, but surely a stressful situation). Employees involved in the production complained about emails being monitored by the Chinese government, and the after-party, usually a late-night blowout, was shut down before midnight by local police.

From a viewers perspective, there were other missteps: While the brand this year cast a record seven Chinese models — Liu Wen, Ming Xi, Sui He, Xiao Wen Ju, Xin Xie, One Wang, and Estelle Chen — curiously, it didnt highlight any of them during the broadcast, even during a segment focused on models diverse nationalities (perhaps because none have yet been inducted into the VS Angels). It did, however, play up Xis dramatic runway fall, which had already gone viral on Chinese messaging platform Weibo, showing not only the fall, but the model crying backstage afterwards.

Despite greater racial diversity (the brand only cast its first Asian model in 2009), VS still hasnt expressed any interest in broadening its image of what is sexybeyond the traditional size-2 runway model look, a fact that plus-size model Ashley Graham alluded to this week in a Photoshopped Instagram showing her on the glittery runway with a pair of Angel wings. And while its the brands prerogative to choose who to cast, the uniform thinness feels outdated, particularly for such a mass spectacle at a time when fashion as a whole is waking up to the need for more inclusivity. The New York Times also posed the question earlier this week of what place this kind of sexualized display has in a world grappling with revelations of widespread sexual harassment and assault in all industries, including fashion.

Finally, the brand was admonished on social media this week for cultural appropriation, after choosing yet again to show a white model in a feathered headdress. (Seriously, guys? Again?!) However, the response felt distinctly lukewarm compared to the backlash that occurred in 2012 after Karlie Kloss walked the runway in full Native American-style garb, which resulted in a public apology and the look being cut from the televised broadcast. Maybe were all just too tired to be outraged at this point, or maybe Victorias Secret does indeed need to look beyond its US customers to recapture its relevance. —Hilary George-Parkin, reporter

Features
Would You Take Out a Loan for a Pair of Jeans?
An illustration of a phone with several "next installment due" notifications.

Jocelyn Vera Zorn is not eager to talk about the loan she took out to buy the pants. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” she grimaces.

Really, she just wanted the pants: a special-edition pair of Imogene + Willie jeans in a vintage wash with a frayed raw hem that cost around $200.

“I don’t usually shop like that. I don’t usually buy new things, period” — but the pants were on sale, and she liked them, and “they were kind of an impulse buy,” facilitated by a new kind of point-of-sale personal loan from a company called Affirm.

Co-founded by former PayPal chief technology officer Max Levchin, Affirm promises a clear-cut, premium consumer credit experience. Since its start in 2012, the company has partnered with more than 1,000 retailers across a variety of categories to make more than 1 million loans with simple interest and predictable pay schedules. The installment loans, made at 10–30 percent annual percentage rates, or APR, and averaging $750 according to the company, are offered for everything from mattresses and plane tickets to motorized skateboards and coding classes to $500 boots and $200 limited-edition denim.

Backed by more than half a billion dollars in investments and debt, Affirm is hardly at the radical fringe of consumer finance. It’s been dubbed “the credit card killer.”

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