One of the great things about living in the Los Angeles area is the access we have to some great museums. The LA County Museum of Art just opened their new buildings by architect Renzo Piano, and in one of the smaller side galleries we came across an exhibit on antique fashion.
They had clothing dating from the late 1700s to around the turn of the last century on display, and it was just a great surprise to stumble across this little gem of an exhibit.
One of the things that was cool to see as a designer is the contrast between what an article of clothing does (it's function) and what it looks like (it's form). The clothes on display had long since left behind the simple function of "keeping me from being naked". They had taken on an incredible number of other attributes: symbols of wealth, status, class and taste. These were showpieces. And a raw sexuality permeated the undergarments of the time. They appeared to supercharge the natural signs of fertility: fertile hips and narrow waist taken to an extreme degree.
Combined with a waist-cinching corset, the hoop skirts and cage-like butt-boosting undergarments must have made quite a visual impact. These garments seemed very theatrical, larger-than-life, and must have been inconvenient and uncomfortable to wear. We also agreed that for most of the clothing exhibited, these were things made for the upper class to wear for special events. This wasn't every-day wear for normal folk.
Like a lot of bondage wear, these items would have forced a change in your posture, your gait, your ability to move freely. It would have taken someone to help you get in and out of a lot of the garments.
One outfit that particularly caught my eye was the corset and fetish boots (of course!). The underwear has an open crotch, and are made of black silk with contrasting yellow silk ribbons. The fetish boots are made in Belgium, and the corset is from England, both circa 1900.
The corset was extremely fine-grained and shiny leather, and the stitches were incredibly close together. I couldn't get a clear view of the front, but I don't think there was a catch 0r quick-release mechanism from what I could tell. The only way in would be lacing it on, a time-consuming proposition. There was a built-in ritual to wearing this article of clothing.
The boots were really incredible as well. The shape is made to fit the contour of the back of the leg in the most seductive way, especially around the ankle and heel. These also laced up with very closely-spaced lacing grommets, which would take a long, long time to lace all the way. No zippers or speedlaces to make putting these on go faster, it would take you time to get both in and out of these beauties.
I loved everything about these boots: the shape of the heel, the rounded toe, they way the fit along the arch, the tan-color of the soles. They were just perfect. My great-grandfather was a shoemaker in Austria around this time. I wonder if he ever got to make a pair like these.
There was a second pair of fetish boots on display, this pair showing off its vibrant red silk lining. The laces on this pair were set a little further apart, but as you can see they are very long, and would have reached up far beyond the knee. I'm thinking these are crotch-high.
I was struck by the timelessness of certain fetish clothing. Come back a few hundred years from now, and these will still be just as sexy as they are now, and were back then.
I just love the thought that certain themes are timeless, and as much as we think we are cutting-edge or groundbreaking sexually, kinky clothing has been around in one form or another for as long as humans have been around. Can't wait to see what we come up with next…
Until next time, take care - and Happy New Year!