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15-02-2004
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The End Of Sex?
Do you believe it?

February 15, 2004
Sex Doesn't Sell: Miss Prim Is In
By RUTH LA FERLA

Last week, American designers showing their fall collections offered a hymn to decorum. Under the Fashion Week tents of Midtown and all around Manhattan, they turned their backs on the microminis, visible thongs, low-rider jeans and skin-baring tops that have so long dominated the runways — and the malls — in favor of high-necked dresses, prim swing coats, twin sets and narrow, knee-length skirts.

This raises an inevitable question: What were they thinking? Have some brightest minds of American fashion, including Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Peter Som and Patrick Robinson of Perry Ellis, failed to recognize that they dress a country addled by sex? It is a land where nudity enters the living room via cable television, where Super Bowl viewers are treated to glimpses of celebrities flashing bosoms and grabbing crotches and where even "60 Minutes" treats the mainstreaming of pornography as just another business story.

In such a blasé climate, the latest American fashions — pert skirts and prim coats, Peter Pan collars and proper tweeds, some harking back to Mamie Eisenhower's day — are refreshing and even subversive. They represent fashion's way of thumbing its nose at the status quo and simply moving on. Blouses with bows have never looked so avant-garde.

"In fashion these days, to be uptight is to be edgy," said David Wolfe, the creative director of the Doneger Group, which forecasts fashion trends and whose clients include Wal-Mart and Nordstrom. Mr. Wolfe predicted that the trend would have staying power, that it would sell in stores and that it is in tune with a shift in the cultural climate.

In entertainment and advertising, there is a growing consensus that the consumer's appetite for blatant sexuality is abating, that to average Americans the antics of certain celebrities — Janet Jackson baring a jeweled nipple during the halftime show at the Super Bowl, Paris Hilton starring in her own sex tape last fall — now seem as stale as day-old Champagne.

"Everyone's gotten a little tired of in-your-face sexuality," said Cindy Gallop, the president of the New York office of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which has created advertising campaigns for brands like Levi's. "Now there is an appreciation of things that are more prim and proper, with just a hint of depths lurking underneath."

In the March issue of Teen Vogue, a style bible for adolescent girls who aspire to fashion's cutting edge, the editor in chief, Amy Astley, asks her readers, "Are you sick of watching nearly naked girls grinding next to fully dressed guys on MTV, of movie stars dressed as if they moonlight as strippers?

"Clearly it's time for a cover-up."

There are indications that Ms. Astley may be preaching to the choir. In affluent urban communities, adolescents have already begun to clean up their acts, abandoning their navel-baring tops and hip-rider jeans for a tidier, more modest look. In New York and on the West Coast, too, young would-be hipsters are adopting polo shirts, twin sets and little argyle vests.

"They're wearing vintage clothes and dressing like I did when I went to high school," said Wanda McDaniels, the head of public relations for Giorgio Armani in Los Angeles and herself the mother of two teenage girls. "It used to be you stopped them at the door, screaming, `You're not going to wear that to school, are you?' Now my daughters talk down about the girls who show too much."

In deference perhaps to a growing disenchantment with the culture of blatant sexuality, marketers of the leading global luxury brands seem to have turned back the clock, unveiling advertising campaigns that recall the primness of the Kennedy era. Consider Prada, whose new ads in the February issues of fashion magazines showcase pale-skinned young men and postdebutantes dressed in rep ties and shirtwaist dresses. Or Dolce & Gabbana, which in recent months sought to titillate readers with pictures of sultry models lounging provocatively in a Sicilian setting. Compare these with the fashion house's latest ads, in which young women show off flowery frocks and dewy faces radiating a fairy tale naïveté.

The high-fashion designer who has most successfully proved that sex sells is Tom Ford, whose clothes and marketing for Gucci have long reflected a calculated disco-era decadence. In one memorable ad campaign of the past, semiclad models appeared to be caught in flagrante by an unseen security camera, fuzzy images evocative of pornography.

But even Gucci has turned down the steam a bit lately. One of its current ad campaign shows a couple by a pool, he in a bow tie, she slightly disheveled in a bright orange dress. It is "more about romance than it is about overt sexuality," said Doug Lloyd, president of Lloyd & Company, who with Mr. Ford conceives the advertising campaigns for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

Mr. Lloyd said the new ads were not created in response to a mandate from Gucci to turn away from raunch. "There was no direct brief," he said. "What we did was sort of instinctual. We just felt there was something in the air."

The air is fairly dense these days with signals that marketers, publishers and even members of the Hollywood elite are distancing themselves from their trashy exploits of the recent past. In a bid to woo bored readers perhaps, even supermarket tabloids are wagging a finger at the brazen antics of the stars.

On the front page of its Feb. 17 issue, which was distributed in the tents at Bryant Park, The Star showed pictures of Ms. Jackson and a demiclad Britney Spears beneath a headline asking, "Hollywood Sex Stunts: Do Stars Go Way Too Far?"

Madonna, whose skimpy corsets and projectile bras once made her a standard-bearer of kinky chic, has taken to wearing buttoned-up tweeds and writing children's books. At the Golden Globe Awards last month, Gwen Stefani was uncharacteristically modest in a high-necked, snow-white vintage satin dress.

During the Grammy Awards broadcast last week, Christina Aguilera, who is notorious for her sultry, skin-baring ensembles, made a concession to modesty, performing in a natty suit and man's cravat. Even Ms. Hilton has started a campaign to rehabilitate her tarty image by posing in the March issue of Elle in an angelic-looking white trouser suit, her hair swept neatly off her face.

The stars, like the designers, appear to take their fashion cues from movies that have played up romance rather than sex. "Lost in Translation," nominated for an Oscar in four categories, is a melancholy romance, whose success seems partly due to its avoidance of explicit love scenes involving its young female lead, Scarlett Johansson.

Fashion's latest muses — a pantheon including Ms. Johansson, the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal and the artist Rachel Feinstein — have all adopted a self-consciously modest style. Sensing the influence of such figures, stars who will soon be choosing gowns for Oscar night on Feb. 29 are said to be searching for a look that is more classy than risqué.

"What they want this year is something not so blatant," said Michelle Stein, a senior vice president of Aeffe U.S.A., the New York sales showroom and public relations representative for designers including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Alberta Ferretti and Franco Moschino. Ms. Stein reported she has been fielding requests from celebrity stylists for open-back or one-shoulder dresses with subtle ornamentation and detailing. "They're asking for what's classic, as opposed to the standard decolleté kind of sexiness," Ms. Stein said.

Just as on the catwalks, a show of skin on the red carpet is no longer enough to raise eyebrows, much less the temperature in a room. "Sadly, getting nude isn't really a threshold anymore," said Wayne Koestenbaum, the author of "Cleavage: Essays on Sex, Stars and Aesthetics" (Ballantine, 2000). "It's more of a threshold to do a class transformation" — to show off one's status, not one's sex.

"We are looking for things that go beyond nudity," Mr. Koestenbaum added, "stories that tell of an initiation into some kind of patrician club or guild. A simple-minded striptease won't do it anymore."


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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15-02-2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by tealady@Feb 16th, 2004 - 2:25 am
Do you believe it?
Oh, absolutely. It's a reaction which has been developing for quite some time.

People are tired of seeing sex and flesh everywhere they turn. Well, not exactly tired. Sex will always sell; the blatant display of sex has just been done to death for years and years. It's time to move on.

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16-02-2004
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I agree, I for one am getting a little desensitized... This was bound to happen sooner or later....

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16-02-2004
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Just to add:

In the last year, there has been some "mood studies" among kids/teenagers in (at least) Sweden and the UK. The kids were sick of seeing bikini babes and halfnude pop stars everywhere, they didn't want to see soft porn every time they turned on the telly.

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16-02-2004
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Exactly! I think it's getting old...

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16-02-2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by tott+Feb 16th, 2004 - 8:54 am--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(tott @ Feb 16th, 2004 - 8:54 am)</div><div class='quotemain'> <!--QuoteBegin-tealady@Feb 16th, 2004 - 2:25 am
Do you believe it?
Oh, absolutely. It's a reaction which has been developing for quite some time.

People are tired of seeing sex and flesh everywhere they turn. Well, not exactly tired. Sex will always sell; the blatant display of sex has just been done to death for years and years. It's time to move on. [/b][/quote]
i absolutely agree with everything tott said.

to add that kids/teens reaction to sexy clothing & advertising
was also studied in France were kids get real upset with
'sex teen' fashions , going too far while discriminating
against 'sexy dressed girls' which they call "sl*ts"
while avoiding social contact with them.

heavy promotion of sex as advertising/commercial trick
is certainly down the drain since maybe two seasons now,
i'm only glad big newspapers etc have finally decided to
spill the news to general public.
it was getting pretty annoying anyway

thanks for the great NYT article tea

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16-02-2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lena+Feb 16th, 2004 - 12:44 am--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Lena @ Feb 16th, 2004 - 12:44 am)</div><div class='quotemain'>
Quote:
Originally posted by tott@Feb 16th, 2004 - 8:54 am
<!--QuoteBegin-tealady
Quote:
@Feb 16th, 2004 - 2:25 am
Do you believe it?

Oh, absolutely. It's a reaction which has been developing for quite some time.

People are tired of seeing sex and flesh everywhere they turn. Well, not exactly tired. Sex will always sell; the blatant display of sex has just been done to death for years and years. It's time to move on.
i absolutely agree with everything tott said.

to add that kids/teens reaction to sexy clothing & advertising
was also studied in France were kids get real upset with
'sex teen' fashions , going too far while discriminating
against 'sexy dressed girls' which they call "sl*ts"
while avoiding social contact with them.

heavy promotion of sex as advertising/commercial trick
is certainly down the drain since maybe two seasons now,
i'm only glad big newspapers etc have finally decided to
spill the news to general public.
it was getting pretty annoying anyway

thanks for the great NYT article tea [/b][/quote]
thank god

i agree with everything said too.......im so sick and tired of
teen trend video trash :dizzy: rder:

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16-02-2004
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it's a cycle-ten yrs from now-sex will be fresh again and we'll be back to it...I'm glad that people are covering up-but this whole class/status thing is troubling in its own way...

why does the whole world have to be like high school? don't we learn anything along the way about how to be mature, thoughtful adults? about respecting ourselves and others? why do we choose to cover up only when Marc Jacobs shows bow-neck blouses? isn't it just the proper thing to do if you want to be respected and taken seriously. don't young women have anything more to offer than their physical attributes?!?

I look forward to the day when people start thinking for themselves and don't allow themselves to be dictated to...

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16-02-2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by softgrey@Feb 16th, 2004 - 6:58 pm
it's a cycle-ten yrs from now-sex will be fresh again and we'll be back to it...I'm glad that people are covering up-but this whole class/status thing is troubling in its own way...

why does the whole world have to be like high school? don't we learn anything along the way about how to be mature, thoughtful adults? about respecting ourselves and others? why do we choose to cover up only when Marc Jacobs shows bow-neck blouses? isn't it just the proper thing to do if you want to be respected and taken seriously. don't young women have anything more to offer than their physical attributes?!?

I look forward to the day when people start thinking for themselves and don't allow themselves to be dictated to...
Yes, just about everything is cyclic. Sex will be back, more brazen than ever, some time in the future.

This class/status thing is troubling in its own way, you're right. And people should respect themselves as well as others. They should realize they have more to offer than their physical attributes. Some of them actually do, you know.

There's this girl I know, A, who is definitely dressing "too sexy". She's clever, and knows she's pushing it sometimes, but she's proud of herself and likes to show off. That's fine by me, especially since she's not a drop-dead gorgeous bomb-shell; she's enjoying herself despite the fact that she's not "perfect", and she knows it. I really respect that in a way!

Anyway, why do we choose to cover up only when designers tell us to? Because they're setting the trends, or rather interpretating societal trends, that's why. The job designers/trend analysts have is basically to forecast what we, as a general public, would like to wear in the future.

Finally: I look forward to the day when people stop making absolute judgements based on first impressions. First impressions are important, but people need to understand that they are only guesstimates, not thruths. Realizing this could open up a whole new set of experiences for a lot of people, maybe even lead to beautiful friendships!


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16-02-2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by softgrey@Feb 16th, 2004 - 8:58 pm
it's a cycle-ten yrs from now-sex will be fresh again and we'll be back to it...I'm glad that people are covering up-but this whole class/status thing is troubling in its own way...

why does the whole world have to be like high school? don't we learn anything along the way about how to be mature, thoughtful adults? about respecting ourselves and others? why do we choose to cover up only when Marc Jacobs shows bow-neck blouses?
of course sex will be back, later on, its only the natural circle.

as about highschool mood trends, they work the OTHER way round.
designers & companies listen to consultants & work very closely with trends in youth (including signs from kids at the early junior high, mainly because these are their future clients) its not like people covering because of mark Jacobs or anyone else, on the contrary, fashion business is covering up because of people's trends & needs. sex is boring kids as a fact, they get bombarded by naked posters, sex perfume adv, sex sex everywhere, so they react.

very natural, very predictable, until the tide turns once again

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Quote:
Originally posted by tott@Feb 16th, 2004 - 4:32 pm
[...
Anyway, why do we choose to cover up only when designers tell us to? Because they're setting the trends, or rather interpretating societal trends, that's why. The job designers/trend analysts have is basically to forecast what we, as a general public, would like to wear in the future.
interesting perspective-tott- i don't think i was quite looking at it that way...

I was thinking that the designer was different than a trend analyst in that they were a CREATIVE person who had a point of view and a unique vision to express. that can still be done in a commercial/wearable way...

however-i'm afraid you are right - Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford are basically trend forecasters...

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16-02-2004
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Quote:
Originally posted by tott@Feb 17th, 2004 - 12:32 am
Anyway, why do we choose to cover up only when designers tell us to? Because they're setting the trends, or rather interpretating societal trends, that's why. The job designers/trend analysts have is basically to forecast what we, as a general public, would like to wear in the future.

designers & mass manufacturers listen to trends and consultants (hence i have a job) its been like this for at least the last 20 years, thats the way it works in the global economy and it gets more and more sophisticated

when e.g. Mark Jacobs/ Zara show signs of covering up, this is due to a trend analyst firm that has scientifically researched the YOUNGER segments of society in 'critical' western countries (see client base /future potential clients -hence the highschool behaviourism database etc) and came around with 'sex is boring' result.

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Quote:
Originally posted by Lena+Feb 16th, 2004 - 5:12 pm--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Lena @ Feb 16th, 2004 - 5:12 pm)</div><div class='quotemain'> <!--QuoteBegin-tott@Feb 17th, 2004 - 12:32 am
Anyway, why do we choose to cover up only when designers tell us to? Because they're setting the trends, or rather interpretating societal trends, that's why. The job designers/trend analysts have is basically to forecast what we, as a general public, would like to wear in the future.

designers & mass manufacturers listen to trends and consultants (hence i have a job) its been like this for at least the last 20 years, thats the way it works in the global economy and it gets more and more sophisticated

when e.g. Mark Jacobs/ Zara show signs of covering up, this is due to a trend analyst firm that has scientifically researched the YOUNGER segments of society in 'critical' western countries (see client base /future potential clients -hence the highschool behaviourism database etc) and came around with 'sex is boring' result. [/b][/quote]
you guys have such good answers... can you tell me more about these forecasting companies...are there many? who uses them? or is it individual consultants... I'm so curious ...

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16-02-2004
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there are a lot of great trend agencies, the biggest ones are based in paris eg. nelly rodi, promostyl, peclers etc. and they consult anything and everything from manufaturing companies to car design, make up , decoration, you name it.

then there are consultants (i freelance as a consultant at the moment) that custom make trends & strategic advice according to company.

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Quote:
Originally posted by softgrey@Feb 16th, 2004 - 10:54 pm
I was thinking that the designer was different than a trend analyst in that they were a CREATIVE person who had a point of view and a unique vision to express. that can still be done in a commercial/wearable way...

however-i'm afraid you are right - Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford are basically trend forecasters...
Well...

A trend analyst certainly has to be clever, creative doesn't hurt either. A designer needs to interpret the information into his/her own vision. Commercially successfull or not...

I know some designers don't use analysts because they can't afford them and/or don't feel the need for them.

You can't calculate everything, after all.

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