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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Goth: The Dark Side of Shoes

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.
~~Carl Gustav Jung~~

Fetish: Fashion , Sex and Power

After my first post about Goth being the dark side of shoes, I just knew there had to be shoes books that explained the meaning of some of those goth shoes. I found this book to start with as a good intro.

Kinky boots, corsets, underwear as outerwear, second-skin garments of rubber and leather, uniforms, body piercing. Today everything from a fetishist's dream appears on the fashion runways. Although some people regard fetish fashion as exploitative and misogynistic, others interpret it as a positive Amazonian statement - "couture Catwoman". But the connection between fashion and fetishism goes far beyond a few couture collections. For over 30 years, the iconography of sexual fetishism has been increasingly assimilated into popular culture. Before Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, there was Mrs. Peel, heroine of the 1960s television show "The Avengers," who wore a black leather catsuit modelled on a real fetish costume. Street styles like punk and the gay "leatherman" look also testify to the influence of fetishism. This book explains how a paradigm shift in attitudes toward sex and gender has given rise to the phenomenon of fetish fashion.

From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on psychoanalytic, poststructuralist, feminist and Marxist theory, cultural historian Steele (Fashion and Eroticism) explores the role fetishist sexual practices play in shaping fashion history. She asserts that fashion trends both reflect common sexual fantasies and help construct gender identities; in this sense, clothing can function as an important marker of a culture's sexual politics. The fascination with fetishist garb?corsets, underwear as outerwear, the use of "kinky" fabrics like rubber and leather?among prominent contemporary designers may, she proposes, signal our own culture's willingness to blur the boundaries between the "normal" and the "perverse." Steele puts forward a fluid definition of fetishism, noting that its devotees exhibit a wide range of behaviors and that one particular style or object can have a variety of different meanings for different people. Consequently, psychoanalytic arguments that the fetish is always a stand-in for the phallus or feminist claims that certain fashions like corsets and high heels are intended to oppress women are potentially valid but reductive. Steele's greatest strengths here are her flexible perspective and her deft negotiation of various theoretical perspectives. Her analysis is sometimes sketchy, but this is a thought-provoking overview of the relationship between sex and clothing. Photos not seen by PW.

From Library Journal
These are two very dissimilar books on similar topics. Fetishism, which accompanies an exhibition touring England, is a sloppy attempt to link the West African tradition of "power object" fetishism with 20th-century surrealism and Western sexual fetishes. The book's four dense essays perfectly reflect the overwrought quality of the artwork in the show. The best part of the book is a brief history of African power figure sculpture accompanied by a section of fine colorplates displaying these eerie aboriginal works. Other essays, covering surrealist fetishism and evidence of the broader acceptance of alternative sexuality in contemporary art, fall flat with excessive intellectualizing and overreliance on Freudian theory. These selections of artwork lack focus, and the reader is left unconvinced that any continuum exists between the anonymous carvers of West Africa and today's sexually frank culture. Steele, who teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology, ably describes the connections between fetishism and fashion by assembling evidence from the last 200 years of Western social and psychological history. In a detached, tactful, and nonproselytizing tone, she catalogs such variations in sexual expression as tight-lacing, shoe fetishes, transvestism, and "leathersex." Steele quotes from pornography as well as ostensibly more legitimate academic writings and lists in her bibliography such titles as the American Journal of Psychiatry, Bizarre Shoes and Boots, and the Natural Rubber Company Catalogue. In all, her short book is a worthwhile purchase for larger libraries not already owning David Kunzle's more thorough 1982 study, Fashion and Fetishism.

IngramValerie Steel marshals a dazzling array of evidence from pornography, psychology, and history, as well as interviews with fetishists, sadomasochists, and cross-dressers, to illuminate the complex relationship between appearance and identity. "Valerie Steele is to kinky dressing what Ann Rice is to vampires."--Christa Worthington, Elle. 74 halftones. 30 color illustrations.

1 Broken Heels:

Rubber Fetish said...

Good to see this blogs..the writing style is very good..