Fetishism is perceived often as something that sparks arousal in someone, such as rubber or latex. According to psychoanalyst Robert Stoller, “a fetish is a story masquerading as an object.” It is usually seen as taboo in society and has been psychoanalyzed historically by thinkers such as Sigmund Freud. While today it is more acceptable to talk about than it once was, it is still not entirely understood by society, and the resurgence of it in fashion shows and red carpets in 2019 bleeds into the historical-political context of fetish wear, and why it is important.
Fetish fashion has been reappearing among celebrities and fashion shows. Timothée Chalamet’s 2019 Golden Globe outfit consisted of a leather harness designed by Louis Vuitton, Givenchy used latex in their 2019 Haute Couture show, and Tessa Thompson’s Met Gala 2019 outfit was dominatrix inspired. While it may seem that these fetishistic designs are used to evoke feelings of lust and sex, there is a more meaningful idea behind the reprise of the Bondage Discipline, known as BDSM subculture.
Timothée Chalamet’s harness debut sparked an internet frenzy; a straight identifying man wearing something used in the gay BDSM subculture was not something often seen on award shows, such as The Golden Globes. It was not seen as taboo, though, in comparison to Mapplethorpe bondage photographs in the late 60s, which prohibited the mixing of high art and bondage. Yet, Louis Vuitton and Givenchy still used latex and bondage wear in their Haute Couture shows. Note also that bondage wear was incorporated into the punk culture of the 70s. Which was encompassed, at the time, by those seen as anarchists and rebels, unafraid to explore the darker lifestyles, such as BDSM and anti-establishment views. Vivienne Westwood borrowed the punk BDSM culture in the 70s, as a way of “subverting accepted social values,” according to Love to Know. Differing from then and now implicates how our society changes their views, and that sex has become less controversial in topics such as fashion. The ability for someone such as Timothée Chalamet, a critically acclaimed actor, to be able to sport a fetish inspired outfit, means that society can start doing the same and feeling empowered by embracing their sexuality.
It is not just men who have been seen debuting fetish wear in 2019; singer Dua Lipa also wore a harness at the MTV EMA awards in October 2019. While women have never had it easy when it comes to navigating the intersection of sex and fashion, her choice of the harness, designed by Dion Lee, implicates that this resurgence of bondage wear is not just for straight males; it is for everyone. The history of fetishism itself involves the LGBTQ+ community and women. Corsets, for example, have roots in fetish-wear when bras came into the picture, and corsets were no longer needed, therefore becoming fetishized. These went from being mandatory undergarments to garments one was able to choose to wear . These unnecessary clothing items is why the resurgence of fetish wear is essential The ability to make a choice out of want, rather than need, to wear it and feel empowered is what prompts designers to use it in their shows. And what makes celebrities such as Dua Lipa and Tessa Thompson wear them on the red carpet.
As 2019 comes to an end, there is no doubt fetish wear will reappear in the coming decade, as its roots have been in fashion for centuries. The power that comes with being able to wear bondage-inspired clothing is what is new, and it paves the way to include other societal taboos in high art pertaining to sex, which we will undoubtedly see in the coming years.