Kim Kardashian (probably)

Fetish wear is back in fashion

This weekend saw both Kim Kardashian and Kim Petras step out wearing gimp masks. So should we brace ourselves for a BDSM revival? And do you have to be called Kim to take part?? Buckle up while we show you the ropes.

A trend starts when Kim Kardashian says so, or something like that. On Saturday, she popped out of a car in a Balenciaga gimp mask, leather trench, trousers and attached gloves. She looked terrifying yet oddly spectacular, in that same way Leigh Bowery’s gimp masks looked horrifically sexy in the 80s, yet not sexy at all. Hmm.

But with a glam squad to rival no one, what was the deal? Bad hair day? A spot? Or could it be a statement?

Like Cardi B back in 2019 in floral Richard Quinn, Kim’s no stranger to masking up. She wore a full-body, skin-tight pink bodysuit, from head to toe, for sister Kendall Jenner’s Halloween birthday party last November, with her now estranged-husband Kanye West wearing a matching black outfit. Speaking of Ye, she slipped into a similar get-up for his Donda listening party early last month, with just a small opening for her eyes and mouth, and a long Lara Croft-style ponytail hanging out the back of a black Balenciaga one-piece.

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In other Kim news, she of the Petras variety, donned a black Richard Quinn latex gimp mask and dress for last night’s MTV VMA ceremony. The pop star, who became the first-ever trans performer on the VMA stage, explained to ET: I love Richard Quinn and I love the sex with the cross, I feel like it makes a statement. I feel like a lot of stuff has been happening to sex workers and people being taken off platforms and stuff. It’s unnecessary.”

Petras is most probably referring to the recent OnlyFans controversy, which saw sex workers threatened with a sexually explicit content ban” on a platform once thought of as a safe space for sex workers to sell content and make a decent buck. OnlyFans quickly U‑turned after significant backlash.

So Petras was making a political statement, but could the same be said for Kourtney Kardashian, who wore a black lace-up PVC dress alongside a spiked-out Travis Barker? Or Madonna, who stripped out of a Burberry trench to reveal a leather BDSM-inspired look, complete with a baker boy hat?

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Let’s strip it down for a moment. BDSM stands for bondage, discipline and sadomasochism. It’s a sexual fetish that flips between being submissive or dominant, dependent on individual preferences. It often utilises various materials, namely latex, leather and rubber, and designers have long been inspired by bondage codes, such as buckles, dog collars, zips, lace-ups.

Gianni Versace’s seminal Miss S&M collection was a hit in 1992, with models wearing long, slinky, buttoned-up coats, knee-high latex boots and harnessed corsets brought up to the top of the neck. It was also met with controversy, though, with fashion critic Suzy Menkes writing at the time, I don’t want women to be sex objects or any of that. But, after all, women have a right to choose.”

It was Thierry Mugler who perhaps best championed dressing for sex outside the bedroom. Often casting teams of tall, Amazonian models for his hour-long extravaganzas, Mugler’s high-voltage aptitude for BDSM played out in droves. With full-body latex, whips and canes as props, gloves peeled off on the runway and sky-high boots, it personified rebellion in the late 80s to the mid 90s, a pleasuredome of fantasy in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, when sex was fiercely taboo and artists, designers and provocateurs found new ways of expressing sexuality.

More recently, BDSM was a hit in the AW19 collections. Gucci, Givenchy, Christopher Kane and Y/​Project subverted their styles with gimp masks, latex leggings, Rubberist” prints on T‑shirts, angular tailoring and wipe-clean materials for ease. That same season, Rei Kawakubo showed an all-black collection made up of rubber armour, while Marine Serre dressed her models in full-body gimpsuits with the brand’s signature half-moon printed across them.

Fashion hasn’t really grown out of kink since, but it did take a break. When the pandemic first reared its ugly head early last year, 12 months after those AW19 shows, we quickly adjusted to dressing for comfort. Fast-forward to lockdown restrictions easing earlier this year, we saw a resurgence of sexy dressing: hemlines became shorter, colours brighter, and more people found confidence in simply not giving a shit.

Having been locked up for over a year, BDSM dressing feels like a slice of welcome rebellion. So sit tight, zip up and remember the safe word. BDSM is back.

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