A “fetishistic” set I created using Polyvore.
“Poetic Penumbra Dress” from Modcloth, “XIT” shoe from Jeffrey Campbell,
& random jewelry from everywhere.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about forms of dress and its relationship to fetishes and various BDSM practices. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of BDSM probably knows something about certain clothing items and their connotations w/r/t power and control within D/s: collars, boots, corsets, crazily high heels and ballet shoes with 6″ spike heels. But forget about power for a minute. Maybe you’ve been to a kink party with a dress code. Maybe you know something about latex, vinyl, rubber, leather, or shoe fetishes. I’m talking primarily about that; about clothes both as aesthetic objects and as sexualized objects, and about clothes being part of a cultural norm within kink communities.
I think that clothes within a BDSM context can be both aesthetically pleasing, and sexually charged. Sometimes they can be one thing; sometimes they can be both. I don’t think they have to be both, though. I assume that if you’re a [material] fetishists, your pleasure is derived primarily from the material itself, and whether or not it’s artistically appealing or not is just a bonus. Is that true? Maybe it’s only true for some people, since everyone has different reasons for liking what they like. I don’t know very much about [material] fetishes, so if you know more than I do, I’d be more than happy to hear from you in the comments.
Anyway, my personal experience with clothes and BDSM goes like this: certain clothes have a power component to them, for me. Sometimes I want to wear certain things while I’m topping someone or when I’m at a party because they make me feel more confident and put me in a better headspace. I do sexualize shoes sometimes, but for the most part, my interest in clothes is aesthetic. I wear things and am drawn to things that I find beautiful. I might think something like “this piece of clothing makes this person look hot/sexy/attractive/whatever”, but I wouldn’t necessarily look at the same piece of clothing by itself and think “this turns me on.”
That said, I’ve attended a couple of kinky parties where dress codes were either enforced/encouraged/incentivized (Suspension, in New York City, which I only went to once) or where people favored a particular sort of dress regardless of whether or not there was a dress code (private play party). I was happy about this because I was about to wear cute corset tops and leather skirts and high heels and elbow-length gloves without receiving weird looks. My personal style can tend towards the “gothic,” and I would argue that there’s quite a bit of an overlap between gothic fashion and typical dress within BDSM communities. There aren’t many contexts where I can wear gothic-like clothing without receiving negative attention, so I liked that I could wear those clothes at the kinky parties and not have it be considered anything out of the ordinary, and even be complimented on what I was wearing.
What I also find interesting is that certain types of clothing seem to be commonly perceived as “kinky clothing”; wearing said clothing marks you as a member of the BDSM community, e.g. I went to a munch recently, which was purely a social gathering, and even though there was no dress code, practically everyone there was wearing black. (I showed up in what I had been wearing all day: a pink floral sun dress and white tights.)
Clothing might even be an integral part of whatever activity you might be engaging in, e.g. whipping someone, tying someone up, whatever. In this sense the clothes take on a performative value; they are aiding you in doing BDSM.
While parties like this are valuable because they provide a space where BDSMers can dress the way they want without fearing any sort of negative repercussions, I wonder if it’s necessary to have a dress code in the first place:
cost: $15 in proper attire, $30 sharp all black
dress code: Fetish wear, creatively dressed, burner beautiful, uniforms
- Taken from the description of one of New York City’s regular “Suspension” events. Event listing found on Fetlife.
At this party, people who adhere to the dress code get in at a cheaper price, people who wear black get in at the regular price, and I assume people who are dressed casually don’t get in at all. I don’t really know what they mean by “creatively dressed”, but I guess that’s up to the organizers/people at the door to decide.
Again, I think it’s great that BDSMers have spaces where they can wear what they want to wear, but having a dress code could potentially alienate BDSMers who wish to dress casually, or who don’t have a clothing component to their kinks and can “do” BDSM while wearing their regular clothes:
I think one of the most disappointing things I saw when I went to my first leather (not BDSM, but “leather”) events was that everyone was in the same uniform. I guess that should be expected from a community that places a high emphasis on protocol, but it also negates or devalues a lot of other interesting expressions of dominance and submission (let alone switchiness).
I’ve seen a lot more fluidity of sexual expression in my friends from the west coast for some reason. Not sure why that is, but it’s been liberating to talk to them about switching roles, dressing up (or not) and mostly just doing whatever they want that feels right.
- Excerpt from a message exchange with a friend on Fetlife.
I have at least one other acquaintance who I know tends to avoid parties like this because of the dress code (among other reasons, I think).
There’s nothing wrong with dressing up, but I wonder, do I not think kinky thoughts and do kinky things regardless of what I’m wearing; am I not still “kinky” when I take off the corset?
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