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The return of BSDM fashion

The research increase for leather accessories and kiny styles is a natural reaction

The return of BSDM fashion The research increase for leather accessories and kiny styles is a natural reaction

Fashion is becoming more and more daring, crossing the boundaries of subtle seduction, of sexy, to reveal our kinky side. From Saint Laurent to Moschino, from Kourtney Kardashian to Barbie Ferreira, fashion brands and celebrities can no longer do without leather, latex, corsets, studs, collars, straps, harnesses, sharp-heeled cuissards and fetish masks. In the last few weeks alone, many names have opted for a series of super hot outfits that would make Dita von Teese blush: Rosalía, Charlie XCXJulia Fox, Dua Lipa and Megan The Stallion. This trend is also confirmed by the latest figures released by Stylight, according to which interest in garments and accessories linked to BDSM imagery is generating a great deal of hype, with +288% of clicks on the site for bondage-style corsets, +191% for fishnet stockings, +187% of clicks for collars, while on Google +13% of searches for latex clothing and +83% of searches for leather leotards.  

The relationship between fashion and fetish has distant roots. Some believe that it was Elsa Schiaparelli's Skeleton Dress, a surrealist reinterpretation of the fetishized female anatomy made in collaboration with Salvador Dalì, that started the fashion fetish genre in 1938, while for others we have to go even further back in time, to 18th-century women's clothing, dominated by corsets and full skirts that constricted and modeled the body. Some experts link the rise of the phenomenon to the gay community and the post-World War II biker culture. As Valerie Steele, director of the Fashion Institute of Technology's Museum, explains in her bestseller Fetish: Fashion, Sex, and Power, fetish fashion began to infiltrate the mainstream in the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to latex-clad TV superheroes like Wonder Woman or Mrs Peel from the Avengers and rock stars like Alice Cooper and the Sex Pistols. The punk subculture and Vivienne Westwood with her legendary shop at 430 Kings Road in London played a key role in fusing fashion with music, art and sex, revolutionizing fashion for generations to come. Since then latex, leather, corsets, whips and other BDSM items have returned in cycles to inspire designers and fill the wardrobes of celebrities and it-girls. 

Unforgettable highlights include Gianni Versace's seminal Miss S&M collection of 1992 with models harnessed in stiff corsets, long coats and latex boots; Thierry Mugler  with his crew of models, amazons in total latex looks with whips as accessories; Jean-Paul Gaultier with his fetish and haute couture combo that peaked in popularity with the iconic cone-bra worn by Madonna on her Blond Ambition tour.  Each of them and many others such as Rudi Gernreich and Helmut Lang contributed to imposing the image of a chic dominatrix, a new, self-confident, powerful and free woman. Like the one who walked the catwalk at Christopher Kane autumn/winter 2018 Joy of Sex show and Moschino FW18 menswear show; like the models in masks, riding-crops and jewelry-sex toys in Gucci FW19 and SS20 collections or the haute bourgeois girls who swapped their suits for latex catsuits at Saint Laurent for FW20. And what about Bella and Gigi Hadid in latex tights and matching patent leather heels seen at Versace for FW22 or Violet Chachki walking a "slave" for Richard Quinn's FW22 show?

"The re-emergence of fetish fashion is in part a reaction to lockdown. For the last 18 months, we’ve all been in a strange BDSM relationship with the government, which has controlled our bodies, forcing us to wear masks and told us who we can kiss or touch. Adopting fetish clothing as fashion can be interpreted as a desire to switch the relationship, take back control and show them who is really in charge."

Professor Andrew Groves, curator of London's Undercover exhibition on masquerade in the time of Covid, explained to The Guardian. Pandemics and restrictions have reawakened the desire for freedom, to exhibit the body in a subtle game of balance between control and free self-expression of which the stars, starting with the Kardashian-Jenner clan, are the absolute masters. The best example is the collaboration between Kim Kardashian and Balenciaga. From the Met Gala 2022 to the many shots on her IG profile, the founder of SKIMS prefers catsuits, latex dresses and masks created for her by Demna Gvasalia or by emerging brands such as Avellano. Like her, more and more stars and it-girls have chosen the fetish-core style over the years: from Bettie Page to Michelle Pfeiffer and Zoë Kravitz in Catwoman version, from Britney Spears in a red latex suit in the video for Oops!... I Did It Again to Maneskin, from Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith to Meghan Fox, from Madonna in the photos taken by Steven Meisel for the book SEX to Lady Gaga who met Queen Elizabeth in 2009 in a decidedly kinky creation by Atsuko Kudo.