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Is Innocence Sexy?

Christopher Kane's summer 2010 collection debuts in London

I happened to be reading a fashion review in the New York Times. (No I don’t watch America’s Top Model or Project Runway. I promise.) The star of the show was designer Christopher Kane, whose collection, he says, was inspired by Jonestown. Pretty dark, huh? The Times writes that Kane managed to infuse his dresses “with the sense of innocence on the cusp of broken dreams.”

That got me to thinking. Is innocence sexy?

It is, isn’t it? But there is a thin line between innocence and naïveté – and a thin line between selling an image of innocence versus selling the image of innocence soon to be spoiled.

Looking at these photos, it strikes me that the image of beauty that is untouched, virginal, almost unreachable CAN be incredibly captivating – if it is a sophisticated, confident and wise kind of innocence, a willful innocence. That’s what chastity at its best is really about.

Spears on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1999

Spears on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1999

But I think there is another, more naïve, image of innocence that our culture frequently presents us. It’s the kind of innocence Britney Spears embodied when she first hit the big time – Telletubby in arm, pouty lips, dripping with a hyper-sexual undertone that makes the “innocence” nothing more than pretense. It’s a turn-on, to be sure, but a cheaper, more temporary one.

The first kind of allure is shrewd and hard-to-get, the other cheap and naïve. I can see shades of both in Kane’s collection.

The shrewd kind of innocence is truly captivating. It is willful, powerful, and worth giving everything one has in order to win it over.