Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The fabric of a tutu / any man could get used to

It's telling that Miuccia Prada could haul out as staid, respectable and (mostly) conservative a menswear collection as she did this week and still inspire the kind of jaw-dropped astonishment that rippled through the press. Yes, there were a couple of pleated hip sash items that invoked tutus. Yes, there were skintight tops and a sort of halter and that knickers-outside-trousers business. But have we really never seen anything like this before? Gaultier, for instance? Is our stranglehold on femininity in men so invincible that we're startled when it takes even the shallowest breath? It's possible that the reaction to Prada has been more about the models than the clothes--those tutus wouldn't have looked so twinkishly suggestive on standard-issue beefcake.

I disagree with the suggestion that Prada has sex on the brain; this collection is not about sex at all, but rather the denial of sex. These clothes seem designed to be looked at, lusted after, theorized, maybe even petted a little, but nothing more than that. It would get the organza all greasy.

The prospect of feminism thumbing its nose at haute couture is marvelous nonetheless:

Speaking after Sunday’s show to Suzy Menkes, the fashion critic for The International Herald Tribune, Ms. Prada quipped that the collection was revenge on men for the social and sartorial contortions they impose on women. She laughed when she said it, but she clearly wasn’t kidding around.

It is no stretch to suggest that the Prada collection read like the manifesto of a gender revanchist. The man in Ms. Prada’s current vision was domesticated and so passive as to be a neuter. One notes this not merely because the models looked abnormally robotic and were given nothing to wear outside the house.

Like a flipped version of the Unwomen in Margaret Atwood's feminist parable “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the Prada Unman was gotten up in humiliating tutu belts, severe high-collar shirts that buttoned up the back and odd cummerbunds that disappeared in a chevron down the front of trousers conspicuously lacking a fly... <Read more>

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