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Fetish fashion is any style or appearance in the form of a type of clothing or accessory, created to be extreme or provocative in a fetishistic manner. These styles are not usually worn by the majority of people on any regular basis. They are usually made of materials such as leather, latex or synthetic rubber or plastic, nylon, PVC, spandex, fishnet, and stainless steel. Some fetish fashion items include: stiletto heel shoes and boots (most notably the ballet boot), hobble skirts, corsets, collars, full-body latex catsuits, stockings, miniskirt, crotchless underwear, garters, locks, rings, zippers, eyewear, handcuffs, and stylized costumes based on more traditional outfits, such as wedding dresses that are almost completely see-through lace. Fetish fashions are sometimes confused with costuming, because both are usually understood to be clothing that is not worn as the usual wardrobe of people, and are instead worn to create a particular reaction.
Fetish fashions are usually considered to be separate from those clothing items used in cosplay, whereby these exotic fashions are specifically used as costuming to effect a certain situation rather than to be merely worn; such as the creation of a character for picture play. However, sometimes the two areas do overlap. For example, in Japan, many themed restaurants have waitresses who wear costumes such as a suit made of latex or a stylized French maid outfit.
Fetish fashion clothing is often modelled by specialist fetish models. The two photographs to the right are from the 2012 Los Angeles Fetish Film Festival.
Some type of garments that women wear to routinely improve their appearance are thought of as erotic and qualify as fetish wear: corsets and high heels. Most fetish wear is not practical enough for routine daily wear. A very common fetish costume for women is the dominatrix costume. Usually it consists of mostly dark or even black clothing. The woman usually wears a corset or bustier and stockings with high heeled footwear. High boots are quite common as they enhance the woman's domination. Most women in dominatrix costumes carry an accessory such as a whip or a riding crop.
Fetish fashion has no specific origin point because certain fashions that were appreciated specifically for themselves or worn as part of a specific subculture have been noted since the earliest days of clothing. Some scholars, like Michael Hayworth, argue that the use of corsetry and hobble skirts back in the late 18th century was the first mainstream note of fetish fashions, because the majority of society did not have access to these articles. These items were specifically appreciated for themselves (i.e. the person liked the woman wearing the corset rather than just the woman by herself).
However, others argue that what is termed as fetish fashions started with the leather subculture of the homosexual London, England underground after World War II. During this period, the homosexual men who began to use the rarely used leather clothing items were doing so publicly and in large-order as identification and separation from the norm. Perhaps more importantly, the leather clothing items were being appreciated for themselves, and not just for their functional use. However, others argue that this identification is too restrictive, and that fetish fashion includes more than just leather.
The leather subculture later became more mainstream in the British 1960s due to the influence of rock musicians such as The Rolling Stones and The Who, and television performers such as Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman in The Avengers, who wore full body leather catsuits and full limb-covering leather and latex gloves and boots.
Many fashion designers incorporate elements of the fetish subculture into their creations or directly create products based on elements that are not accepted by the mainstream. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood created several restrictive BDSM-inspired clothing items of punk fashion for the 1970s punk subculture; in particular bondage trousers, which connect the wearer's legs with straps. The more recent fetish clothing makers House of Harlot and Torture Garden Clothing, Breathless of London, Vex Latex Clothing and Madame S of California focus on using latex and leather as the base material for their creations, rather than as an accessory.
Fetish fashions became popularized in the United States during the 1950s through books and magazines such as Bizarre and many other underground publications. Skin Two is a contemporary fetish magazine covering many aspects of the worldwide fetish subculture. The name is a reference to fetish clothing as a second skin.
Fetish fashion has had an influence on mainstream fashion, both on and off the runway. Many well-known designers have used fetish wear as an inspiration, borrowing details and incorporating materials such as latex, PVC, lace, vinyl and patent leather. Such designers include Jonathan Saunders, Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Chanel and Nicholas Kirkwood. The Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear collection was influenced by fetish fashion, and the inspiration of materials and pieces such as harnesses and corsets can be seen on most of the looks.
Other brands have been created specifically for the fetish clothing luxury market. Zana Bayne, a post-fetish leather brand based in New York City was founded by Zana Bayne in 2010. Their leather works combine a quality of craftsmanship with a novel use of S&M/punk-inspired harnesses, and their work has been worn by celebrities such as Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Zana Bayne have also collaborated with other brands such as Marc Jacobs and Comme des Garçons. Todd Pendu began working with Zana Bayne when he was at Comme des Garçons, before becoming a full-time creative partner at Zana Bayne in 2012. Atsuko Kudo is another brand explicitly influenced by fetish fashion, who design and manufacture ladies wear made entirely in latex rubber.
Street fashion has also been influenced by fetish fashion. By late 2016 and through 2017 a number of fetish fashion elements had appeared in ready-to-wear and street wear around the world. This includes items such as chokers, fishnets, corsets, high-thigh boots; details such as straps, buckles, pierced ring hardware and chains; and materials like patent leather and vinyl.
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