Victoria’s Secret has officially apologized, via Facebook and Twitter, for the really, really awful Native American headdress/bikini look they showed on model Karlie Kloss at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show last week. They’ve promised to cut the entire look from the December broadcast “out of respect.” The company said it had “no intention to offend anyone.”
Karlie Kloss followed up the brand’s apology with one of her own: “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.”
Although I’m glad Victoria’s Secret and Karlie both apologized, and also that the look will be cut from the runway broadcast, I don’t think we should let either party off the hook so easily. This is the second time in recent weeks that a pretty, fashion-y white girl has worn a headdress replica like this as part of a major pop culture event; the item also made an appearance during a climactic scene in Lana Del Rey's Ride, a strange and tone-deaf moment in a video that was otherwise deeply affecting. The whole cultural appropriation thing is a serious and common problem, and Tweeting out a quick statement shouldn’t be enough to address it.
The headdress as fashion accessory relies on and reinforces stereotypes of Native Americans, a minority culture and race which the United States destroyed to build itself as an empire. I don’t know anything, but I do know that the headdress belongs to a specific spiritual practice, and commodifying it to sell corporate panties for Christmas — or a pouty-lipped pop star’s latest albums — fits nicely into the genocide-y, pillage-y relationship America has with American Indians.
I’m just saying that maybe saying, “I’m sorry I like, offended you or whatever,” isn’t good enough. No: be sorry for being racist! Or ignorant and thoughtless, at least. Any other kind of apology is just smart, politically correct PR.
The Fashion Spot.