The Luxe List

6 June 2014

Does 'Sex' Sell Fashion?

WARNING: This post contains images inappropriate for children, so if your kids have stumbled upon your laptop make sure they don’t scroll down…. (Ok, disclaimer over)

If you are a regular browser of internet news, gossip sites and social media, I’m sure that your feeds, like mine, were bombarded by pictures of a certain, erm, well I guess you could call it a dress, but lets refer to it as ‘fabric’.

If you don’t know what I’m babbling on about, I’m talking about the ‘dress’ that stunning siren Rihanna wore at the coveted CFDA awards on Monday.
Unless you’re a guy reading this, you'll probably agree that this look leaves more than little to the imagination. Fingers crossed that showing your butt crack isn’t going to be the next LBD…

But should we really be shocked by images such as this? After all, the fashion and celebrity industries are known for using overtly sexual images to increase their product revenue. But are retailers using ‘sex’ to simply sell or to put across a hidden, controversial meaning?

Some argue that Rihanna's dress is a powerful feminist statement. The star is rebelling against stereotypical expectations of female dresses at an awards ceremony. By doing this she is rebelling against the patriarchal society that puts these expectations of clothing upon women. Although I can see validity in this argument, I think she is rebelling against societies expectations in general, rather than being overtly feminist.

One fashion retailer that uses sexual images to put across a strong political message is American Apparel. Take one of their latest campaign images, for example: 

I think you’d agree that you wouldn’t want your kids to stumble upon this image. And although I’m a huge fan of American Apparel clothing, perhaps this image is a little too controversial to be in good taste.
However, this image has a story behind it. The young woman, who was originally a Bangladeshi Muslim, is an allusion to the exploitation of Bangladeshi garment workers.

Although it is a shocking campaign, it does affirm to American Apparel’s clothing, which is made in America and pays workers a fair wage.

So sex used to put across a good message? All good unless your kids stumble upon it…
But unfortunately, not all fashion advertising uses sex to put across such an explicit racial or feminist message.

A prime example of this is this 2007 Dolce and Gabbana campaign. It's unaware whether this image was aimed at men or women. In one way, it can be taken as very anti-feminist; the woman is the sex object, an object of voyeurism for the four men in the picture. The way in which her hips are raised towards the male model, combined with the fact he is forcing her to the ground with his hands makes me think that this ad is aimed at men. 'Wear Dolce and Gabbana and an attractive women will want you.'

But in other ways, this advert could be seen as feminist. She is the center of the picture and is controlling the men around her with her sexuality. Although the males hand on hers seems forceful, she is in-front of him in the picture, leading his gaze and those of the other men towards her.

I understand how this picture uses sex to sell to both male and female customers, but I can also understand how some people would find this offensive when they are unknowingly flipping through the pages of a magazine.

So lets hope Rihanna’s nipple- flaunting number doesn’t spark a huge nudey trend…. Maybe we should just leave nudity to Rihanna... Athough she’s smokin’ hot, I don’t see how a topless perfume campaign would sell perfume to female customers??

I’ll let you be the judge…



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