An unnamed source described techniques used to shape models’ bodies before and after shoots to Refinery29, adding whole body parts are sometimes swapped with another model’s in Photoshop.
A former Victoria’s Secret retoucher recently spilled the tricks of the trade to Refinery29, dishing on everything from hairy models to making ultrathin bodies look curvier.
The anonymous photo editor no longer works for the lingerie giant because the ethics of the business took too large a toll — “I know what I’m doing is wrong,” she told Refinery29 — but she racked up insight into the making of a Victoria’s Secret ad.
One gem: Models often show up to shoots unshaven, knowing that any body hair would be edited out.
“They come to these photo shoots and, like, they have their arms up in the classic beach pose, and they have, like, hairy armpits. They all have stubbly pubes — all the normal stuff [nonmodels have],” the source says. Even if their armpits were unnaturally smooth they’d still have to be edited — all armpits show up gray in photos, the retoucher says.
And as much as Photoshoppers trim off after the fact, stylists add in on shoots. During swim shoots (a thing of the past, now that VS has exited the swimwear business), models would wear pushup bras under their suits, the source says. Retouchers would then edit the bras out and — voila! — instant, gravitationally impossible cleavage in a bandeau top.
Photo editors also softened skinnier models’ bones and added padding around the hips, but couldn’t use more voluptuous models from the get-go — they didn’t sell for the brand.
“One time, during a swim season, they had these two girls come in that had abs and thick thighs and busts,” the retoucher told Refinery29. “They were really toned and their skin was amazing. They were still obviously models. They were [just] a different look. But, they didn’t sell anything and so they stopped using those girls.”
Using composite bodies is less of an issue. If a model’s body part looked awkward in a pose, the retoucher explained, they would swap it out with another model’s body part — i.e., one model’s arm on another model’s body. The solution to naturally occurring but still off-putting “where did her leg go?” shots: Frankenstein’s monster.