Tag Archives: fashion

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.

Anorexia is the new Black

Ralph Lauren ad

Ralph Lauren ad

I’m not normally one to get upset over the fact that most fashion models are skinny. I myself have quite a thin genetic disposition. But this ad from Ralph Lauren crosses the line. While selling skinny is nothing new. This girl is positively anorexic. She looks unwell. The image is disturbing.

Emaciation is not sexy.

What are they thinking at Ralph Lauren? Young girls may view this ad as a clue as to what is desirable. If they try to emulate the model, they will undoubtedly be putting themselves at risk of eating disorders and other health hazards. But social concerns aside – it just doesn’t look good. So my question, once again, is: Why?

Does this look like feminism to you?

A line from a NY Times review of the new Vercace collection caught my eye:

Is this feminist?

Is this a feminist?

Alice in Wonderland — and the energy of pattern and color,” said Donatella Versace as she stood backstage among a posse of look-alike model clones, raised on mighty platform soles. They had lined up in a finale in which the vivid prints and iridescent inserts made a backdrop for the designer.

This was Donatella in Wonderland — the first show she has done that captured absolutely the witty and lively spirit of her late brother, Gianni, but with the sexy clothes given a bold, feminist perspective.

The fashion review says that Vercace’s “sexy clothes” convey a “feminist perspective.” But the logic behind this is odd. Clothes, after all, are meant to be looked at. And seeing comes before wanting. The woman who wears the clothes becomes the object of another’s gaze, attention and desire. Sexy clothes enhance the idea that the woman is the object of male desire. So in what way are sexy clothes “feminist?”

One hears a lot these days about the supposed link between feminism and super-charged sexuality. Women take on an aggressive sexual persona and, so the story goes, become more male-like, ultimately beating men at their own game. That’s the Madonna shtick. And you see it from Hollywood with shows like “Cougar Town.” Women seek to hold onto their youth and their social power by going after lots of men, especially younger men. Isn’t Madonna hauling around some model half her age these days?  It makes for a salacious image. But I’m not so sure it works that way in real life. (And I’m not the only one who has doubts, as Judith Warner made clear yesterday.)

Courtney Cox stars in Cougar Town

Courtney Cox stars in "Cougar Town"

Feminists have long fought against the objectification of women – their being relegated to the role of the passive pursued, or their being valued according to how much men want them.

There is nothing wrong with looking sexy,  in my opinion, as long as it’s not slutty. And desirability does give a woman a certain kind of power. But the idea that looking sexy is supposed to be seen as “a feminist thing” seems to me to be a fantasy of those who want to cast off the old marmish image of 60’s-era feminism, but also want to feel like they have held true to the ideals of that same movement. But you can’t wear the bra and burn it at the same time.

Wearing sexy clothes is a rejection of feminism, not an expression of it.

P.S. I promise, no more fashion postings this week! I don’t know what got into me, honest.