MORE SEX, MORE JOY

IN A DECADE DE­FINED by MOD­EST DRESS­ING, FASH­ION IS REDISCOVERING THE POWER of SEX AP­PEAL. BUT AS KENYA HUNT RE­VEALS, THE TREND IS not QUITE WHAT YOU THINK

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“THE EF­FECT WAS MORE CHIC THAN TARTY. EL­E­GANT, not DES­PER­ATE. and VERY, VERY HOT”

WHEN EX­ACTLY DID SEX GO OUT OF

FASH­ION? For decades, it was the rage: Hel­mut New­ton’s black-and-white erot­ica, Azze­dine Alaïa’s sec­ond-skin dresses, Calvin Klein’s bum-hug­ging denim, Gianni Ver­sace’s graphic ‘I’m-rich-bitch’ body­suits, Manolo Blah­nik’s ra­zor-sharp Car­rie (Brad­shaw) stilet­tos, Ric­cardo Tisci’s in­fa­mous naked dresses for Givenchy – the list goes on. The goal: to look ex­pen­sive and like you were jug­gling as many lovers as pos­si­ble. Then, some­where in the past ten years, the car­nal got a bit lost.

The Phoebe Philo chap­ter be­gan at Cé­line, de­fined by a now-iconic mix of ef­fort­less­ness and re­straint, and our def­i­ni­tion of sexy evolved. It was no longer short, sheer and tight, but midilength, high-necked and over­sized. In a word, con­ceal­ing. Sex was re­duced to a cliché, the stuff of red car­pets and poor imag­i­na­tion. Years later, The New York Times would de­clare ‘mod­est’ dress­ing the decade’s most defin­ing trend. And a wave of fem­i­nist out­rage over sex­ual as­sault and work­place in­equal­ity put the nail in the cof­fin of the freakum dress and fuck-me pump.

Or did it? Dur­ing the AW18 shows, skin was on show (and sex surely be­ing had) in New York, Lon­don, Mi­lan and Paris. Si­mon Porte Jac­que­mus showed slinky dresses with cut-outs and waist-cinch­ing jack­ets meant to cel­e­brate the woman’s body, rather than con­ceal it. At Saint Lau­rent, An­thony Vac­carello, who is no stranger to the sub­ject, used all the tropes: sky­scraper heels, high hem­lines and a lot of leather. There were evening dresses with neck­lines that traced elab­o­rate shapes across the ch­est, and Eight­ies-style mini dresses in a gar­den’s worth of colour­ways. The ef­fect was more chic than tarty. El­e­gant, not des­per­ate. And very, very hot. ‘The Geor­gian de­sign­ers stand out for me; Si­t­u­a­tion­al­ist and Ma­teriel cre­ate sexy pieces that feel more vin­tage cou­ture than tacky disco. I also love how Halpern em­braces glam­our with his built-in corset dresses,’ says Ida Peters­son, women’s buy­ing di­rec­tor of Browns Fash­ion.

At Chloé, Nat­acha Ram­say-Levi’s take on sex had a soignée qual­ity, though with less leg on show. Her breezy dresses came with naveldeep neck­lines and cut-outs re­veal­ing the hips. Not that this was a pa­rade of flesh – quite the op­po­site. Her looks were fluid and lay­ered, which threw the nude mo­ments into sharp relief. ‘I think the fash­ion cus­tomer was weary of hood­ies and tees, so em­brac­ing the hour­glass shape was a wel­come change,’ says Peters­son. Could it be that sex is back?

Some of 2O18’s most mem­o­rable pop­cul­ture mo­ments are tied to it. Re­visit Ti­mothée Cha­la­met man­han­dling a peach in Call Me By

Your Name. Google Be­y­oncé and Jay-Z ly­ing in ap­par­ent post-coital heat for their OTR II tour promo. And let’s not for­get Ri­hanna in a bustier and garter belts for the launch of her lin­gerie line Sav­age x Fenty. Or Ari­ana Grande lick­ing a lol­lipop while eye­ing boyfriend Pete David­son like he’s a 6’2” snack, caus­ing the in­ter­net to coin the term ‘Big Dick En­ergy’ (David­son ap­par­ently has it).

This year has given us a mul­ti­tude of heavy top­ics to sober the mood – data breaches, pay gaps, sex crimes, en­vi­ron­men­tal tragedies – but you can’t deny that sex (a healthy an­ti­dote to the angst in­sti­gated by the above?) is on our col­lec­tive brain. Maybe be­cause many stopped hav­ing it: there’s been a 14% de­cline in sex­ual ac­tiv­ity in adults over the past ten years. The prob­lem? Mostly it’s our smart­phones. It’s hard to feel the urge to get it on when you’ve been binge-scrolling cute cats, yet fash­ion is mak­ing the case for you to do just that.

Even In­sta­gram is re­veal­ing a chang­ing tide. See Cour­règes art di­rec­tor Lolita Jacobs’ much-re­posted wed­ding to creative di­rec­tor Jean-Bap­tiste Tal­bour­det-Napoleone. Rather than wear a gown, she chose the tini­est shirt dress known to woman. It was Jane-Birkin-circa1968 short. It was a mo­ment. ‘Only the French can get away with this dress,’ one com­menter said. But the Brits are get­ting in on it, too – see Alexa Chung’s barely-there shorts at the Lon­don Pride pa­rade this sum­mer, or in­flu­encers Susie Bub­ble, Tamu McPher­son and Camille Char­rière’s in­creas­ing pen­chant for cloth­ing that re­veals, rather than swathes. ‘I think the well­ness move­ment has a lot to do with it,’ says McPher­son. ‘Peo­ple are tak­ing care of their bod­ies and feel­ing great about them.’

How to wear sexy fash­ion? Dress against type. If you go short, wear flats or train­ers. If you’re do­ing sheer, try an opaque un­der-layer that of­fers just the right amount of cov­er­age. The cool is in the con­trast. ‘McQueen, Bal­main and Saint Lau­rent are great at de­sign­ing fit­ted blaz­ers – a great choice for some­one who doesn’t want too much flesh on dis­play,’ says Peters­son.

So is the age of mod­est dress­ing over? Hardly. The au­tumn run­ways were still rife with the long and roomy. But for those days when you want to switch things up a lit­tle and em­brace your in­ner bomb­shell, you’ll cer­tainly have plenty to choose from.

“HOW to WEAR SEXY FASH­ION? DRESS AGAINST TYPE. THE COOL is IN THE CON­TRAST”

MOD­EST, ME? The Leggy Black Dressmakes a come­back, on the cat­walkand off DARE TO BARE Al­berta Fer­retti and Ash­ley Williams’ sheer shirts make clever lay­er­ing pieces. Wear un­der a tuxedo jacket for eveningPOWER OF TWOThe clas­sic pair­ing of redand black re­mains – it’s the styling that’schanged

COLD SHOUL­DER For a more sub­tle way to show skin,look to the half sleeves at Is­abel Marant and hal­ter dresses atDavid Koma LIGHT AS RAIN The clas­sic trench coat gets a slick, provoca­tive re­work in the hands of David Koma and Tibi

THE MAS­TER Saint Lau­rent hasal­ways been syn­ony­mous withsex, and that legacy lives on un­der An­thonyVac­carello GO GRAPHIC Christo­pherKane’s or­gas­mic lovers epit­o­mise themood

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