NEW YORK CITY — Fashion is all about accents. That's where you find your drama, individuality and point of view. Vintage is an accent, jewelry is an accent, prep is an accent, and so is BDSM — bondage, discipline and sadomasochism.
The past two seasons, fetish fashion has been all over the runway, with second-skin latex skirts, shiny PVC coats, mod patent leather and leather crop tops. Designers have married these textiles, normally associated with kink and punk, with demure cuts and designs, to create a lady-like look with an edge.
The Costume Institute show, "From Chaos to Couture," opening in May at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, reminds us that punk — which emerged as a DIY counterculture movement and was made available for purchase in Vivienne Westwood's designs for Malcolm McLaren's London boutique, SEX, in the 1970s — has given birth to some of the most vivid fashion ever since. We remember the moment Elizabeth Hurley wore Versace's safety pin bondage dress, and mourn Alexander McQueen, who combined BDSM with fine English tailoring.
Punk and rock-and-roll have never gone out of style. But now this spring's mod fashions give us another reason to wear those ultra-shiny plastics. Slumming millionaires will buy the kinky couture of Burberry and Felder Felder, but Manhattan's sex shops offer the real thing.
You can find many latex stores online at Etsy. And check out the outstanding British latex labels Lucky Dame and Atsuko Kudo, the latter of which created the latex dress Lady Gaga wore to meet Queen Elizabeth.
Anne Hathaway wore the bondage-y Tom Ford thigh-high gladiator boot peaking out of a ball gown — a challenging look for most of us. But fetish and punk shops are full of provacative shoes that you can class up.
PVC is affordable, looks like patent leather, and reflects light beautifully. At Purple Passion, 211 W. 20th St. in Chelsea, I bought a pair of PVC boots by the label Pleaser that have a mod look. They are the perfect rain boots for when you want to wear heels in bad weather. Allure makes a vinyl pleated skirt in hot pink that I wore with black tights and a black turtleneck while the weather was still cold, but this spring I'll wear it with an oversized top and sandals. I've liked the look of shiny vinyl pants with a white T-shirt ever since I saw Kate Moss wear it. Trash and Vaudeville at 4 St. Marks Pl. has a pair for $62.
Latex for Normal Girls
Rita Ora and Rihanna wear latex, but the material became officially chic when Christopher Bailey turned it into trenches and beyond-leather dresses for his Autumn/Winter 2013 collection. The wonderful thing about latex is that it reduces bulk and makes you look skinnier. But getting into it is something akin to getting into Spanx — and often requires a bottle of lube. At Purple Passion I discovered the fantastic latex label Klawtex. Designer Klawdia Rothschild creates custom and ready-to-wear pieces in her studio at House of Yes in Williamsburg. A simple black latex miniskirt is an easy piece to wear every day. (And you'll only need the lube to go from a matte to shiny look.)
Punk or Mod?
The houndstooth and super checker Tripp skinny jeans at Trash and Vaudeville on St. Marks Place fit both the mod and the punk vibes. The snake print is also in this spring, and the shop has versions for $76. I picked up some $12 "Clockwork Orange" bracelets while I was there.
Boost Your Fashion Cred
The recipe for wearing latex, PVC and punk styles is simple: Keep the rest of your outfit neutral, pair plastic and latex with organic fabrics like cashmere and cotton, and don't show too much skin. Exploring custom fetish fashion will give you a whole new understanding of couture.