Carrie Bradshaw sitting with Big in her pink Louboutin heels in the mesmerizing city lights of New York: Carrie and Big’s love story set the stage for Sex and the City.
Sex and the City brought the opulent world of fashion to each house through a seemingly normal friend group. It is because of these fabulous 4 girls, Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, that most of the country associates fashion with sex. Honestly, the complicated relationship between fashion and sex might be more complicated than Carrie and Big, and don’t worry it’s a steamy one.
Clothing has always been a means for being sexy. For centuries, women have used lingerie to be perceived as and feel sexy. It started off as corsets evolved to open-crotch panties and moved to garter belt sets; lingeries has a history that is essential to fashion. In the 1700s, whale bone corsets were the sexiest garments. Yes now they definitely wouldn’t be, but back then, they represented the ideal body type: pushed up breasts and a tiny waist. Obviously, still to this day, lingerie is made to emphasize the ideal body type. This can be super empowering for women, but at the same time, these pieces of clothing are made to appease a body type defined by men (but thats the topic for another day). As the 1900s began, Satin Slips and Crotchless Panties began to show up on the lingerie scene. Sexiness was not necessarily the tight corsets anymore but was more through loose garments constructed to be as invisible as possible. Then came the corseted slip dresses and the infamous conical brasserie by Gaultier. Swimwear has a sexiness to it as well. High school age girls obsess over finding the right bikini or one piece, and the same sentiment is shared by many other women regardless of their age. Ironically, the want to be sexy is held mostly by younger girls now whereas historically it was by middle aged women.
Honestly, there is an inherent sexiness to certain materials: leather, latex, and mesh are sexy regardless of how they were worm. A lot of these materials have been associated with BDSM in the past and speak to the essential influence of BDSM on the industry of fashion. BDSM, bondage discipline and sadomasochism, has been used to make fashion statements. Tight latex, scrappy bondage harness, spikes, and metal hardware all are trademarks of BDSM that have made their way into fashion. We see the Kardashian’s wearing latex, Rihanna wearing leather chokers with rings, and Vivienne Westwood’s Collections scream BDSM and a lot of other designer’s like Herve Leger (especially through his bandage dress) and YSL (through various collections) showcase the sexiness of BDSM. One designer that really had a hand in defining sex in fashion was Jean Paul Gaultier. His eccentric fashion designs breaking boundaries between genders still found a way to incorporate sex. Some of Madonnas and Lady Gaga’s most arousing and crazy outfits were designed by him.
Now, enough about women and sex, how has fashion sexualized men? Corsets were actually also made for men. In the same way for women, corsets were men were designed to push the ideal body type for men which consisted of a smaller waist and broad shoulders. Even now, you can find corsets for men from designer’s like Dion Lee (I own one and highly recommend).
Yes, I agree that is super important to recognize how Fashion has played an important role in empowering sexuality and sex appeal. The evolution of clothing has really helped break down some stigmas surrounding sex. HOWEVER, it is equally important to recognize how some sexy clothing can be used to hypersexualize people. That is never okay, but it is inevitable in society.
Clearly, the love story between Fashion and Sex has a lot of tension, good and bad. And I’m sure that this relationship is far from over.