It involves airbrushing hairy armpits, erasing nipples and swapping limbs.

Photo: Getty/Editorial

Black and blue limbs, body swapping and distorted figures might seem more crime novel than glossy campaign, but for a Victoria’s Secret photo editor this is just your average day.

A former VS photoshopper has anonymously divulged the surprising secrets about how models are retouched to Refinery 29, and its equal parts fascinating and scary.

The woman, referred to as ‘Sarah’ in the pieces, says the retouching process begins on the set, where hair extensions are nearly always used and pads are sew into swimwear to boost the model’s assets. “If you hold up the bathing suit in your own hand, it’s so heavy because they have all this shit sewed into it,” she says.

As most models are A-cups push-up bras are a must. “They put a push-up bra under the bathing suit. And we retouch out the bra.”

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“When you’re wearing a strapless bikini, in no way, shape, or form [can] you have cleavage. It’s physically impossible with the way gravity works.”

Once in the studio, everything from hairy armpits, blue hands and feet, stubbly pubes, awkward gestures and accurate bikini shades are corrected or erased. Sarah explains “A lot of the time, retouching isn’t about trying to make a body look ideal, but also to avoid criticism of the image.”

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Sometimes body parts are even swapped out and replaced by other’s models.

“There’s a lot of the switching bodies up,” says Sarah, saying she was once asked “Can you change these arms with a different girl’s arms, because her arms are making it look like she’s, like, picking her butt?”

Contrary to popular belief, a lot of the time models are actually photoshopped to be bigger. “Models are thinner than you actually think they are, and we retouch them to look rounder,” she reveals adding they would digitally plump up butts, hid ribcages and soften sharp hip bones.

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When questioned on why they didn’t just use curvier models in the first place, Sarah explained it boils down to what pictures entice the consumer to spend.

“One time, during a swim season, they had these two girls come in that had abs and thick thighs and busts. They were really toned and their skin was amazing. They were still obviously models. But they were a different look. But, they didn’t sell anything and so they stopped using those girls.”

So while the use of Photoshop by Victoria’s Secret won’t come as a surprise to many of us, perhaps one trade secret revealed is that the consumer has more control than they think. Maybe now we should make sure we use our money as our vote to support brands who support body diversity and authenticity.

July 22, 201610:42am

Beauty | body+soul

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