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).
Despite Vimeo attributing it to Marc Campbell, IMDB lists it as Dressing for Pleasure (1977) directed by John Samson and Mike Wallington, about the 1970s UK leather/rubber/latex scene. Including interviews with John Sutcliffe of Atomage fame, and a clerk at McLaren-Westwood’s SEX shop.
I like the framing device of the models posing in and around a giant book printed, as if the people in the photos and illustrations of something like John Willie’s Bizarre or an Atomage catalogue magically came to life.
Cole, Shaun. ‘Don We Now Our Gay Apparel’: Gay Men’s Dress in the Twentieth Century. Berg, 2000 Amazon
If there’s a predominant theme in Cole’s book on the history of gay fashion in the twentieth century, it’s that gay fashion is always imperfectly mimetic, a tangled mix of “passing, minstrelization and capitulation”, to quote sociologist Martin P. Levine (pg. 3)
Here’s a blog post on the work of artist Allen Jones, best known in kink circles for his sculptures of women as furniture (aka “forniphilia”), but also a designer of fetish attire.
The sculptures appeared in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and Jones also designed some costumes for the film that weren’t used.
Paul Gormanis’ blog has complete (albeit low-res) scans of a feature from a 1976 Forum (a UK adult magazine) which profiled the proto-kink store SEX founded by punk leaders Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.
Vintage Sleaze has a post on Tana Louise, the premier fetish/bondage model before Bettie Page and girlfriend of bondage pioneer Lenny Burtman.
The post ends with stating that the 1940s/1950s porn/fetish/kink world is still largely unexplored:
There are thousands of untold stories from the golden days of sleaze, as this blog proves, and that there have been over 800 posts here already only indicates how many more are to be told. Yet, from this writer’s perch, Tana Louise is the MAJOR untold story of the 1950s. A story not even scratched.
Over the course of this research, I’ve looked at BDSM in prose, poetry, painting, dance, illustration, music, fashion, sculpture, film, comics, television, live drama and video games. Is there an art form I have overlooked? Yes, the most ephemeral of arts, that of scent.
The Perfume Shrine talks about the frequent references to scent in the proto-fetishists, like Emile Zola and JK Huysmans, and the first synthesis of the leather scent chemicals.
The leather note, of course, is one such artificial scent, a hybrid of “flower and flesh” created by industry. It is strangely redolent of the human skin which leather approaches, both by its texture and by its proximity to the body of the wearer whose shape it retains…
Can it possibly be a coincidence, then, that leather scents and leather fetishism are strictly contemporary, born in the same decade of the late 19th century?
Check the dates: quinolines, which lend their characteristic smoky-tarry notes to most leather perfumes, were synthesized around 1880. The first recorded Cuir de Russie was composed by Aimé Guerlain in 1875; Eugène Rimmel launched his the following year.
Now, it was precisely in 1876 that French psychiatrist Alfred Binet coined the term “fetishism”; the leather fetish itself is studied in Austrian sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (1886).
While the fetish is often considered primarily a visual phenomenon, we may be neglecting one of the most powerful and evocative senses, smell.
…Messieurs Guerlain and Rimmel sold their Cuir de Russie. The name may have referred to the Cossacks who rubbed their boots with birch, and certainly bore a virile, military or equestrian connation. But the scents themselves alluded to more private passions.
So we have an engineered scent with associations of virility, the military or the equestrian, which aligns with fetish fashion’s visual gestures towards the soldier and the equestrian.
The blog has more information on the use of leather in scent products, including Orientalized leathers, quirky leathers, butch leather, and more. Just like the material of leather, the scent of leather has changing meaning many times, sometimes worn by men, sometimes by women, and sometimes both. Just like visual fashion, scent fashion is part of the process of how we present ourselves.
While we’re talking about Lenny Burtman, here’s a few clips from a film he produced, Satan in High Heels (1962).
Researching the previous post led me to the Klaw Archives, focused on the Irving Klaw’s 1940s-1950s bondage photosets and short films.
The Vintage Sleaze blog has the story behind the Fads and Fancies fetish magazine, published in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and its signature artist known as Janine, actually a woman by the name of Reina Bull.
The astounding drawings by an anonymous artist known only as “Janine” who drew work for the sleazy Utopia magazine “Fads and Fancies” a British fetish magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The work is no longer anonymous. It was done by a woman all right, but Janine wasn’t her real name. Fads and Fancies was published by Utopia, who printed fetish material remarkably similar to Nutrix and Irving Klaw, and at roughly the same time.
Janine had an incredible, unique, eccentric and curious style likely developed to cater to the audience. Particular parts of the plump participants protrude depending on the proclivities she wished to portray. Which is an alliterated way of saying big boobs and big butts. Kinky and unreal, but then certainly enticing to the readers who must have been “big” fans (pun intended.) To the rest of us, they look hilarious…Dolly Parton on Steroids! The work takes an “all-purpose” approach to fetishists. The artist can not figure out if she is titillating a shoe fetish, a butt fetish, a fat fetish, a breast fetish, a stocking fetish…if the idea of a fetish is to focus on one particular object, there was something kinky for all in Janine’s curious drawings. At the time, the fetish underground was not yet defined, but the publishers knew if they appealed to a handful of eccentricities, they would reach a market.
Fads belongs in a tradition of English fetish magazines that includes Photo Bits and London Life, and goes back at least to the 1870s when the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine took a turn for the pervy. The business model seems to be, “give the punters what they want”.
Nowadays, Rule 34 is in full effect and every fetish has its own Tumblr.