For the June issue of Fashiontribes, up 5/17, one of our writers submitted The Art of Stripping for the Rock Punk magazine; another submitted one on Sacred Sex - about transforming your boudoir into a worthy backdrop for your noctural activities.
Which got me to thinking (uh oh!)...stripping, along with a focus on the setting, has less to do with actually getting it on, and so much more to do with the seductive, sensuous element of the act. After being inundated for so long with the raunchy, in-your-face sexuality of hip hop videos and the like, it's a natural human response to crave the opposite - in this case: what's hidden...the anticipation of what could be.
Pop culture is in the grips of a full-blown case of nostalgia, so it's not surprising that we're looking backward for inspiration and ideas. Instead of a return to the earnest innocent sensuality of, say, the 50s - the key thing to remember is that the current generation consuming the bulk of pop culture is an ironic generation. Cynical about almost everything - from politics to daily life - they want their sensuality with an edge. And burlesque is almost made-to-order.
One part raunchy, one part innocent, one part naughty, and one part just plain fun - Burlesque is the sex "it girl" right now:
- In L.A. & Vegas, celebs like Carmen Electra & Scarlett Johannson line up to please, tease,and take it (mostly) all off as Pussycat Dolls. http://www.pussycatdolls.com/
- The Wau Wau Sisters titillate with their saucy combination of aerial & circus skills, songs, audacious costumes & "hilarious use and misuse of props, propritety, cocktails and cliche." http://www.wauwausisters.com/ (Keep an eye out for our piece in the June 05 Fashiontribes on these precocious siblings.)
- On Broadway, Bernadette Peters lit up the stage in Gypsy, the story of Burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee.
- At X-or, pick up a copy of Stripaerobics - exotic dancer Fawnia Mondey teaches you to aerobicize while you dirty dance. http://www.ilovexor.com/index.cfm
- Toys in Babeland is considering adding divans & glass jewelry cases to their retail locations. http://www.babeland.com/
- On cable, the new-ish HBO series Carnivale is set in a traveling circus and Burlesque show.
- Harlequin - purveyor of bodice-ripper romance novels - is so popular that they're introducing a new line of supa' sizzling sagas in August called Blaze (not to be confused, of course, with their old Harlequin Temptation Blaze books - now known as Temptation Heat). Expect bondage, exhibitionism, "inventive" sex, sex slaves...& more bondage. Harlequin continues to enjoy so much success that they also have a new Bridget Jones Diary-inspired line called Red Dress, and a four book Sexy City Nights series launched by Julie Elizabeth Leto which "is based on the premise of a woman (or a man) exploring his or her sexuality with the city as a 'prop.'" http://sensualromance.writerspace.com/HarlequinBlazes.html
- Hugely popular modern pin-up & Marilyn Manson fiance Dita Von Teese specializes in "tasteful nudity and adult themes". Costumed in Moulin Rouge-worthy outfits & shot in fully propped sets, von Teese made her name as much with what she doesn't display, as what she does (and, no doubt, the fact that she and Manson reputedly share corsets.) http://www.dita.net/
In fact, much of the movement to the new sensuality is probably a result of what Neal Gabler described in his phenomenal book Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality (Random House). His premise is that the media has become such a dominant part of pop culture, that people subsequently live their lives as if they are starring in their own mini-movie. Think about it: 24/7, we have ongoing footage of our own personalized movies running through our heads -- with the soundtrack to our life/movie provided by our iPod shuffle -- and movies need props.
Since sex is but another scene in one's ongoing movie - it needs to be properly propped - hence the popularity of boutiques which specialize not just in sex toys, but all the garments and accoutrements. Myla, an upscale British boutique, specializes in everything the well-appointed bedroom scene might need, from sexy lingerie to fancy & photogenic sex toys, such as the architecture and garden-inspired Pebble, designed by Mari-Ruth Oda. Their most popular vibe is designed by Tom Dixon; it retails for $375 and boasts a massive waiting list. For more about Myla, check out Luxe Lingerie: Have a Love Affair with Myla's Upscale Sexy Underthings in the current issue of Fashiontribes magazine in Fancy Flirt.
Natalie Rykiel, daughter of Sonia Rykiel, the French design house which is cultishly adored by fashionistas everywhere for her rockin' knits started Rykiel Woman, a chain of luxe sex shops in Paris, London & Moscow. Ruth La Ferla of the New York Times reports that not only did Rykiel Sr. mandate that "the decor of a sex shop must be as beautiful as the toys," but many of their Paris customers "display their black silk bags like trophies, 'just to show they have been in the shop.'" http://www.azcentral.com/ent/pop/articles/1005sextoys05.html
One of the most insightful articles I came across regarding Burlesque was written for the Chicago Tribune. In A Real Kick for Dancers: Burlesque Performers Revel in Stripping that is Often Comic, Satirical Author Claire Zulkey makes the point that not only is there a strong Burlesque revival occurring, but it has a definite grrl-power-statement element to it. According to Zulkey, "At a time when flaunted sexuality is at once vilified and the norm, the burlesque revival seems to strike a balance between modesty and flagrancy, flirtiness and intelligence, that is as much fun -- and perhaps more meaningful -- for the performers as it is for the audience." (http://www.zulkey.com/tribburlesque/tribburlesque.htm)