Feature writing: how has fetish fashion influenced society?

If you are reading this article it means that you are keen on being fashionable. Why do we do that? Do we adopt this attitude because we want to be better integrated in the group? Or just the opposite, because we want to make a point about our differences? After all, fashion has always been associated with change, innovation and moving on to something different. I believe we’re doing it for two reasons,. The first one is the pressure society puts upon us with the help of and through the media. The second reason is that the way we dress is a communication medium par excellence. And not only does it allow to communicate and create an image about ourselves according to our own taste, but it also allows for creativity and freedom of creation. Some may call it slavery to trends imposed by others, but I for one, sure love it!

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Fashion is a complex phenomenon which not only mirrors the trends which characterize society at a certain point, but it also influences it. While it is true that people make fashion, it is just as true that fashion makes them. It would be interesting to acknowledge to what point does fashion become a fetish nowadays, under the circumstances in which fashion icons such as Sex and the city star Jessica Parker publicly declares that Manolo Blahnik shoes are likely to last longer than marriages and women say they’d rather not have sex for a month instead of losing one of their favorite garments.

If fashion has become a fetish, it is also true that fetish fashion has played an important role within the development of society into what it is today. The notion of fetishism was coined referring to a religion. In time, its range of connotations was expanded and nowadays we meet the term in a various array of fields.

Fetish fashion started out as an underground movement. It was subversive, shocking and available for a limited group of people who had the courage to embrace it. Its scandalous dimension was actually one of the characteristics which brought it popularity and a whole lot of publicity. What was so scandalous about it? Fetish fashionistas would go out to fetish clubs wearing tight leather suits, all sorts of items made of rubber, nylon, spandex or fishnet boots or high heeled shoes, corsets, miniskirts, underwear as outerwear. were they just costuming themselves or was it something more about the whole deal?

The truth is that fetish fashion was more than rubber and leather. Fetish fashion was a statement. A rebellion against the norm. It was scandalous because it brought the dark side of sexuality into the light, an attempt to blur the border between perversity and normality.

Fetishism can be analyzed from .

The notion has had a strong impact in the area of sexuality as it referred to the psychological attraction towards objects which are sexless. Fetishist men consider items such as the female lingerie and the high heels of deep interest. These particular garments are strong pieces which can be found in the wardrobe of any girl with a taste for fetish fashion.

Therefore, there is no doubt about the connection which is always made between fetish fashion and sexual fetishism. Fetish fashion may have been scandalous for two reasons. For turning clothes into a second skin and for wearing this skin in the most provocative possible manner.

There has always been a strong relationship between sex, gender identity and fashion. Such is the case with fetish fashion. The way we dress is a declaration of who we are or better yet, of who we want to be. The attributes of fetish fashion are to be analyzed within a larger social context.

One of the most important elements at the core of fetish fashion is represented by leather. Since when has a textile enough power to scandalize the world and change the manner in which people see it? The truth is it was not about the textile in itself, but about what it stood for and how it was worn. leather was a symbol of music, and not just any kind of music, but a rough music meant to make a revolution in people’s way of being and conceiving the world: rock.

Wearing leather meant creating an identity for yourself, identity which could be considered synonymous with the rock music and the values it stood for. And after rock, it was punk. And after punk, it was grunge. All of these movements had , reflecting the changes society was going through and at the same time, supporting them.

First and foremost, fetish fashion was a rebellion against the generally accepted norms. It was an attitude meant to shock and to change. To question the manner in which people came to adhere to the values that they had adhered to. This is why it was part of the punk fashion. because just like the punk subculture, it was a conscious violation of the acknowledged values in a society which proved to function far from perfectly. Once it was accepted, it helped push standards further.

It is here that the most important aspect regarding fetish fashion is to be found. In the fact that it pushed standards to unexpected directions. As it has been stated before, clothing reflects our identity, but at the same time it helps us build it. Fashion reflects the social trends while providing the major coordinates for the social construction of the self.

As it has a strong sexual connotation, it can be easily stated that fetish fashion brings this strong sexual side into the everyday life. It is enough to analyze the key elements for this trend in order to support this statement. As all of you know, the key words would be: leather, black, tight. And leather stand for aggressiveness having a strong dark side. It is mysterious, but also threatening. It suggests power and it is primarily associated with the masculine dimension. And because it was associated right from the beginning with the rock music, it has also acquired all the attributes that the rock music stood for. All these attributes are to be found around the concept of power, in its masculine, dark dimension. Fetish fashion passed these characteristics upon the woman.

Tough” is a key word for fetish fashion. Let us analyze the feminine gender identity it creates. Cat woman could be a representative example. She wears a tight leather/latex costume covering all of her body and high heels. The dimension which strikes in an absolute manner is the sexual one. Tight leather / latex covers only to show everything. The costume is black, to make the character all the more mysterious and provocative. She has high heels, stiletto, a sign of force.

The woman is conceived as the incarnation of her animal sexual instinct. The most important conclusion that can be drawn refers not to the initial impact of this fashion, but to the fact that it was finally accepted. In other words, people, that is, both men and women came to like this representation of the woman and the role implied by it.

Studies have shown that clothing is essential for the process of courtship. If a woman wished to attract a man for a short-term relationship, she will most likely dress in a certain manner (with tight clothes, revealing as much skin as possible, etc.). The fetish fashion woman is just like that. An incarnation of power, yet still assuming the status of the feeble sex in an absolute manner.

It has been argued that fetish fashion is trying to introduce and impose the figure of a strong woman. Huge metallic bags, extremely high stiletto heels, , corsets and belts almost as big as corsets, made from leather or metal are not only fancy items old by Dolce and Gabbana, but also symbols of power. The woman has been turned into a dominatrix. This is what fetish fashion has done to society. It has conceived and imposed a gender identity pattern for women. And by doing this, it has also established a status for the man.

Let us take the example of the D & G. commercial ads. They picture these beautiful dominatrix women with fair skin in metallic environments. They hold the whips and the men who surround them are naked. The representation is obvious, the woman rules and the man is her slave. Quite attractive! But are things really that way?

While the men are naked, the women need a whole lot of metal in order to gain their position of power upon them. Reading between the lines, we can see the same old story in which women are weak and men are strong. What is worse is that the submission of the man takes place only in a certain manner. The power of the woman is sex.

And yet, how powerful is she dressed in a cold short metallic skirt, with a corset tight enough to break her ribs or at least make her faint because she has difficulty breathing while she is carefully coordinating her moves because the high heels are a threat as well? Well, my dear readers, judging the situation from this point-of-view, it could be very well be stated that the real slave in this picture is the woman. A sexual slave. And this is not just the maximum that she can do, but also the maximum that she desires.

We may be living in a patriarchal society and the picture which I have just described might be true, but women do have a brain and they do use it. Not to mention that the intelligence factor is one of the most important when it comes to the selection of a long-term partner (this is valid for both men and women). While it is true that fashion tends to impose this trend, it is also true that had this tendency not existed, fashion would have had a harder time in its attempt.

Fetishist sexual practices have existed for long, it was only normal for them to manifest out in the open as part of people’s identity. The popular culture has turned these elements into icons of its own. Sexual chic is a fundamental part of fashion nowadays and in a certain way, things have always been this way with clothes reflecting one’s status and being used in order to create a more desirable image of ourselves.

Fetish fashion played an important role within the social construction of gender, but also of sexuality. Leaving aside the speech regarding the sexual identity of the woman, we can bring into the spotlight the issue of sexuality alone.

People wanted to manifest their sexuality, even in its darker sides, to let out their fantasies. Fetish was one of them. And the more the controversy, the bigger the fuss. The bigger the fuss, the bigger the visibility. And the bigger the visibility, the higher the popularity.

Fashion is an art, a manifestation of the “century’s spirit.” The truth is that it rarely invents something new. What it rather does is take elements which have been already used and reinvent them or present them in a different manner. The corset for example is a key element for the fetish fashion, yet it was invented a long time ago and it had its powerful charm right from the beginning.

The fetish fashion succeeded into bringing a dark side of the human sexuality out in the open. Fashion, but not only, it was more about an attitude than about unusual fabrics. While it managed to influence the social process of constructing sexuality, it has also played an important part in imposing a feminine gender construction pattern- the dominatrix woman who is in fact a slave of her male slave.

Fetish is not only about sex, but also about power. Sex is power, so power becomes a fetish. Or is it sex the fetish? No matter the case, the important thing is for us to acknowledge the immense power which fashion has. And through fashion I mean not the clothes, but the ideas behind them. The practical utility of clothes has been left behind its decorative purpose. And beyond its decorative dimension, what we need to understand is its power in helping us create an identity for ourselves and transmit to the others.

I don’t need to say that image is everything. Its already enough if I say that image is almost everything and that a single second is enough for you to be perceived and judged by the others. Under these circumstances it can be easily understood why fashion (clothes, accessories) is so important. Because it creates and sells identities.

Works Cited

Butler, Tina, 2005, “The counterfeit body: Fashion photography and the deceptions of femininity, Sexuality, Authenticity and Self in the 1950s, 60s and 70s,” Mongabay.com, [online] Available at http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0507-tina_butler.html

Hadley, Freeman, 2007, “Fetish fashion, Leather gloves, latex armour and spiky heels… how this season’s clothes got kinky,” the Guardian, [online] Available at http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/fashion/story/0,2149612,00.html#article_continue

Steele, Valerie, 1997, Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power, Oxford University Press, USA

Fetish fashion

Leather gloves, latex armour and spiky heels… how this season’s clothes got kinky.

Hadley Freeman

Thursday August 16, 2007.