Sexuality is a vexed issue in fashion, to say the least. Rare is the young woman who dresses to seem drab and sexless; on the other hand, tight, revealing clothes come with a host of dicey connotations attached. What most women want, really, is to find a way to dress that asserts a sexuality that they themselves own and control. When people say a woman looks "slutty," what they're really intimating is that she's ceded authority over the way she looks, and is dressing for men. Such issues are worth unpacking a little because tonight's Betsey Johnson show brought them to the fore. There was nothing vexed about Johnson's take on sex this season—she got her inspiration from burlesque; the invitation to her show featured an illustration of tits and ass; and the collection itself was presented with her usual crazy exuberance. But it was the lack of vexed-ness that made the show interesting, because what Johnson posited was a kind of power-slut look. All of the provocation, none of the self-victimization. Erotic Capital author Catherine Hakim would be proud.
The clothes themselves weren't particularly complicated: There were a lot of lingerie-inspired looks, many of them quite sheer, at least for the runway; a lot of corset lacing and hot pants; and a lot of skintight things, like a landscape-print unitard. Johnson tweaked her traditional tulle-girded tutu dress by making versions with sculptured bubble skirts, and she sent out a series of dazzling, dangerous-looking, stud-encrusted pieces that will be the hot desire of pretty much every 16-year-old girl raised on a steady diet of Katy Perry and Beyoncé. The whole thing was so va-va-voom, it was silly, which was definitely the intention.
Backstage after the show, Johnson elaborated on her inspiration this season, saying she was especially proud to see her daughter, Lulu, back on the runway. "After ten years and two kids," Johnson noted, "she's voluptuous and fabulous. And I just wanted, you know, to express this attitude of pride and confidence in your body." A cartwheel-worthy sentiment, for sure.