The Mancunion

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I’m too sexy for my shirt: or maybe not

Aimée Grant Cumberbatch on the relationship between two of the world’s most powerful industries.

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Sex and fashion are inextricably linked. Forgetting their more practical purposes for a moment, clothes are of and for the body and the body is the ultimate symbol of sex. A heady mix of different kinds of attraction, the two are locked in a Cathy and Heathcliff-esque love-affair that is destructive, constructive and absolutely compelling. Every sexual revolution has a clothing counterpart: the flapper dresses of the ’20s, the mini-skirts and unprecedented popularity of the bikini in the ‘60s, to the power shoulders and we-are-here-and-so-is-our-hair attitude of the ‘80s.

Yet, over the last decade or so you’d be forgiven for thinking fashion and sex had had something of a lovers’ tiff. The admittedly slim but indisputably sexy Cindy Crawfords and Naomi Campbells of the ‘90s had given way to waifs, the size-zero debate raged and Lara Stone was, well, nobody. And yet, though it might have been banished from the catwalks with its bushy tail between its perfect pins, sex and its power to make us want never truly died. If I say David Beckham, I’m willing to bet what’s left of my January loan (not much) that at least one of the images that has popped into your head is of him in some state of undress, moodily lit, muscles most probably glistening, with or without a coil of rope.

It’s the same story elsewhere: Tom Ford’s campaigns are notorious for their nudity and Dakota Fanning’s campaign photos for Marc Jacobs’ Lola (inspired by the classic novel Lolita), came under fire for being more Vladimir Nothingon than Nabokov. And why? Because sex sells for one thing, but we knew that already. But also because at one point every single one of us has thought about what we wear in relation to sex. If you say you haven’t, well, you’re lying.

And although, accept the intimate relationship that sex and fashion shares, we must; reduce fashion to mere chocolate-wrapper status, we must never. Fashion has never lost its spark when it’s dared to distance itself from sexy. Take androgyny for example, a theme that has reappeared in various guises season after season and is only about sex in the gender sense of the word. Fashion will always be more about inspiration than perspiration (yuck). In short, fashion is about more than just sex, but much like the rest of the world, it likes a bit sometimes.