‘Happy Hour’ Author Marlowe Granados on the New Sensuality
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When Oscar Isaac kissed Jessica Chastain’s arm at the Venice Film Festival, he woke up a sea of hungry viewers. Those few seconds on the red carpet quenched the audience’s thirst, and they suddenly realized what they were missing. The moment tapped into a larger conversation about the lack of true sensuality in popular media: you’d be hard pressed to come up with anything from the past few decades that resonates with a true sensual nature. There aren’t too many moments that could compare to Edith Wharton’s slow-burning fire The age of innocence, when Madame Olenska touches Newland Archer’s knee with her fan: “It was the lightest touch, but it made it vibrate like a caress,” Wharton writes. Or the high-octane pairing in Sing in the rainwith Cyd Charisse’s fringed green dress seductively echoing her movements as she blows smoke in Gene Kelly’s face.
The same goes for fashion, where even the obviously body-conscious clothes of recent seasons lack that elusive ability to seduce. TikTok star Serena Shahidi aka glamdemon2004, known for her seductive manner and suave voice, tells me that this lack of sensuality can be attributed to a lack of subtlety. “We have forgotten what we really want to see from others. Not vulgarity or inhuman body proportions or trending or viral potential, but more nuanced stuff,” she says. “There is power in subtlety.”
As a culture, we are far too invested in the naked body as a symbol of sex, yet the journey of how we dress and our cloth-wrapped movements can really be what ignites the senses. When I look in my closet for answers, the piece that stands out is a vintage DVF wrap dress. Simple in form and in fluid silk jersey, its heritage is due to the effortless way it gently hugs the curves of the body. Every time I wear it, I feel in tune with my form. Without zippers or buttons, there is a freedom that gives me the option to be bold or gregarious in the face of whatever the night throws at us. Then there’s the simple knot at the waist that ties the dress together, which all at once could unravel. That’s sensuality. It should invite the imagination, suggest what might happen.
For Spring 2022, designers were keen to bring back that vibrant pulse. There were hints of the body everywhere at Prada, from the boned waists of dresses to the puffy tails of miniskirts behind the models, mimicking the movement of their hips. The most alluring pieces in the collection were sweaters with the built-in chest contour, reminding us of what it feels like to wear knitwear on bare skin on a chilly day. Runway notes by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons referenced the tension between the garments and their wearer, emphasizing that “their architecture is intrinsically linked to the body, and therefore to seduction”.
Jonathan Anderson experimented with drapery at Loewe, citing Renaissance painter Pontormo as inspiration. There were dresses held up by the smallest strap that looked like no machine had cut through the fabric for something so gross as a seam – rather they looked like they had landed on the body by divine chance. The dance of the push and pull was present in the translucent breastplates of his later pieces, offering a cheeky nudity offset by a high collar and cape sleeves that transformed the pieces into sophisticated objects, analogous to sculpture (the most intimate of mediums, for it has so much to do with touch). And at Versace, the scarf safety pin held together dresses and jackets that risked or could come undone.
As we are all overwhelmed with an excess of information, it is only natural that our heads turn to only the most outrageous and salacious things. With time and overexposure, it dulls our senses. “Ostentation is not the way to maximize sex appeal, humor or even entertainment. We forgot how clothes feel on our bodies, the practicality, the personal touches,” says Shahidi. The finer distinctions are often what makes life worth living and certainly what makes wearing clothes so enjoyable. When we are used to everything being served on a platter, we lose our curiosity. Our culture is only focused on what’s revealed, when all the intrigue is in what’s hidden. Spring collections have been an exercise in invigorating the nuances of our senses. And fashion lovers are ready. Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at Matchesfashion.com, notes that we’ve seen designers “understand that people want to be in touch with themselves and feel the joy again. After all, you have to dress to undress Why not take n our time?
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of SHE.
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