Dec 082016
 

Dressing For Pleasure is a 1977 25-minute documentary directed by John Samson, who made a career out of films about outsider topics (e.g. tattoos, competitive darts, the sexual lives of disabled people).

This isn’t the sleek, multi-colored, tailored latex you would see in the 1990s in Skin Two and in the collections of fashion provocateurs like Thierry Mugler and Karl Lagerfeld. The technology and the fashion hadn’t quite reached that point then. Latex, leather and vinyl was still the province of outsiders and subcultures, punks and fetishists. Samson’s documentary probably contributed to that mainstreaming process.

On the one hand, you’ve got avant-garde, fashion-forward types like the staff at Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood‘s SEX shop (featuring “Jordan”, who talks about being harassed for her fashion on British rail). On the other, there’s the “MackIntosh society”, who fancy themselves as harmless eccentrics who happen to share an interest in rainwear. One interviewee describes rubber fetishists as “very lonely”, including one customer who supposedly created a complete family of latex outfits.

Much of the documentary is interviews with people who make and wear fetish outfits, but there are also fashion shoots built around a giant book, fantasies coming to life. One of the interviewees, a woman who makes rubber and latex clothing, says she draws the line at making outfits based on what appears in porn magazines, but that’s because the market is catered to; she’s working for people who love rubber. There’s a recurrent theme of fantasy driving fashion, of translating something that once only existed in an illustrator’s mind into reality.

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