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Fetish wear – Fetish fashion, clothing, history

November 21, 2014

In this blog post we’re going to be exploring the world of fetish wear and the dark and exciting world of fashion S&M .Today we’re looking at shoes and a brief history of where the love of the shoe came, and who we have to thank for fetish wear, shoe love and S&M.

Fetish wear-a fabulous history

The evolution of the fetish shoe

Right until the 19th century the foot had been hidden, gradually coming out of its hiding place, peeping out of the end of dress in a carefully buttoned boot. The foot came to be something to be admired, a thing so carefully corseted in tight laces and rhinestones, that it gave way to powerful fantasies. As travel and trade become more common place during the 19th century, Eastern influences helped create an exotic frisson to dressing up.


It is hard to imagine today that the mere glimpse of a booted ankle could cause so much excitement, but in a period when any part of a woman’s anatomy was more or less covered (completely opposite to the Georgian period before it), the mere site of a woman’s foot was exciting – booted up or not.From the mid-19th century underground pornography flourished with women wearing 6 inch heels, tantalising the eyes of the shoe fantasist.



Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch

We have this gentleman to thank for the term “masochism.” For it was Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch who wrote about his love of domination and shoe fetishes, drinking from a women’s shoe and kissing the foot of the wearer.



S-M und Wanda

S-M und Wanda


His most well-known book is “Venus in Furs,”a piece of fiction focusing on female domination. It was meant to be part of a series that would explore the theme of female domination, to be named “Legacy of Cain.”

Nicolas EdmeRetif de la Bretonne

Another contributor to modern ideas about sexuality and pornography was Nicolas Edme Retif de la Bretonne who we can thank for the word “fetish.” This is a gentleman who loved sex, women and domination as much as Sacher-Masoch. He wrote extensively on his ideas on sex and prostitution, coming up with “Le Pornographe,” a book that explored the legalisation of prostitution. All in all, he wrote a breath-taking 200 volumes on a variety of different subjects, mainly on sex, foot and shoe fetishism.

portrait de Restif_21

portrait de Restif_21

So what’s a good fetish shoe?

Fetish shoes are always high to extend the length of the leg – the heel of a shoe can change the distribution of body mass tilting the foot forward like a well wrapped corset. They can come with chains and locks, reinforcing the master and slave scenario. Chains restrict movement of the body and if they’re locked they can illustrate the precious nature of the foot to the admirer.

Let’s get high

They’re usually red or black and come in patent leather, they fit the foot like a corset and some will lace up to the rim of the boot. Shoes will always have a really high heel and sometimes come with a platform.








Vintage fetish footwear

So there’s the beginning of the world of fetish clothing and a colourful start to our look of this interesting form of dress. Look out in vintage stores online, or on the high street for some really cool vintage fetish shoes. They should come with a long thin high heel, made of patent leather and come with minimal wear. If you’re lucky, you could source shoes from as early as the 40s and 50s in good condition.




Fetish shoes go much further back than that, from the Victorian era to the 1920s, although you’re more likely to find them in a museum now. But they are a source of beauty and fascination. They don’t have to be associated with S&M, if you have no ambition to be a dominatrix, they can simply be worn as part of a daring outfit or for fancy dress.


Earlier we took a first glimpse at the world of fetish wear and its early beginnings. We saw how colourful characters such as Sacher-Masoch and Nicolas EdmeRetif de la Bretonne created the language and narrative for a new, secret world of sexual domination in the bedroom. As we have seen Sacher-Masoch was way ahead of his time as was Bretonne.

Sigmund Freud

Towards the end of the 19th century Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst suggested fetishism was nothing more than a repression of the subconscious, he would even go as far as to suggest that sexual fetishism was an unconscious fear in men of their mother’s private parts, or the fear of castration. He never got far enough to discuss women’s reasons for indulging in sexual fetishism, but one can assume that it may have gone along similar lines of enquiry.



1920s fetish wear

It certainly didn’t manage to dampen the ardor of those who loved the world of fetish wear and S&M. In the 1920s sexual fetishism was largely hidden and underground, with pornographic images being staged in places where they would not be caught, in brothels or in private dwellings.

Yva Richard

One of the earliest enthusiasts and sellers of fetish wear was Yva Richard in the 1920s through to the early 1940s. The name stood for a company that was managed by L and Nativa Richard. Nativa was a seamstress and together they sold a variety of different fetish clothing including hats, lingerie and shoes. It became more and more adventurous with erotic lingerie and erotically charged fetish wear being sold to the public. She was photographed in her costumes by her husband and struck some daring poses.


They went a little further in their love of fetish by selling photographs showing scenes of whipping, spanking and bondage. They also had a mail order catalogue and advertised in local magazines in both Paris and London.

Adventurous fetish clothing

They were to continue into the 1930s with more exotic accessories including corsets made of leather, boots with high heels, shackles, masks, leashes, dog collars, handcuffs and rubber whips.


The Second World War more or less put a stop to the wonderful world of Yva Richard and they were forced to close down when the Nazis came to France at the beginning of the 1940s.

Fetish wear – Still relevant today

When we look at the photos today, we see costumes and accessories that wouldn’t look out of place in modern day fetish wear, and some of the poses Nativa created in her photos were quite daring for their time. They certainly weren’t forgotten and left a lasting legacy that would be carried on with other fetish enthusiasts throughout the 30s and 40s. There weren’t many rivals at the time, only Charles Guyette in the United States and Diana Slip in France. Their catalogue would influence others that came after them and interestingly, one of the most famous fifties models Bettie Page, wore a bra and chastity belt almost identical to that worn by Nativa herself.


fetish clothing-Charles Guyette photo of a dominatrix c. 1930s

Charles Guyette photo of a dominatrix c. 1930s


outfit fetish-Charles Guyette -1930's ponygirl

Charles Guyette -1930’s ponygirl


And it is to the fifties that we shall visit next to see the next installment of the fascinating journey of fetish wear.


Following on from the austerity of the Second World War, the fifties was a time of recovery, slowly picking itself up and dusting itself down. It took a while to recover, but with Alfred Kinsey’s Institute of Sex Research in 1947 and his subsequent publications on the sexuality of both men and women, there was a slow opening of the door to more liberated views on sexuality

Fetish goes public-1950s to present day

Kinsey, post-war recovery and sex research…

cartoon text

cartoon text


In America, his views provoked great controversy throughout the 1950s and his ideas influenced the values of American society for years to come.

Homosexuallity vs Facism

Homosexuallity vs Facism


Fetishwear, bondage and S&M had been a secret world that had been kept under wraps – as the war ended, fetish fashion was still underground and associated with the homosexual community in London’s clubs. However, that was soon to change.



Sexual revolution and the Avengers….

As the sixties arrived, with it came the sexual revolution and fetish wear became more mainstream, featured on both TV and in the media. No longer was it hidden under a counter, or worn in secret. Of course, it wasn’t quite as bawdy as the fetish wear we associate with today, with belts, whips, masks and studs, but there was an appreciation of the leather clad silhouette which hadn’t been there before.

Cathy Gale, Mrs Peel, Pussy Galore and Cat Woman

We had Mrs Peel in the Avengers all in leather, and in one scene wearing a corset and studded dog collar with a snake held snuggly in hand to complete the look. Cathy Gale, the first Avenger was played by Honor Blackman and all also dressed in head to foot leather. She went on to play the provocatively named Pussy Galore in James Bond. In the mid-sixties we had Cat Woman in her neck to toe leather complete with puss eared face mask.

Fetish wear and high fashion

From the 1970s onwards fetish wear came to be seen more and more in the public eye. In 1975 Helmut Newton’s fashion photographs for French Vogue featured women dressed as men and topless women with whips and leather gloves, named “Le Smoking,” and of course the 1977 spread on superwomen. Take a look at one of the French vogue covers for 2014 and you’ll see a scantily clad woman wearing a plastic transparent raincoat, bra and a transparent blue mini skirt.


Gaultier, Galliano, Dior and Mugler

In the 80s Jean Paul Gaultier put corsets on the runway putting his inspiration down to the fact that watching his grandmother lace her corset had left a lasting imprint on his memory. He may have revealed his final catwalk show this year, but Gaultier will always be remembered for his Blonde Ambition tour with Madonna, dressing her in corsets and cone shaped bras.


Thierry Mugler is renowned for his corsetry, rubber and leather. Who can forget the exoskeleton corset, an insect’s armour dressed up as fetish? Or perhaps his Robocop neck corset, giving an automaton/cyborg feel to fetish? Of course he wasn’t the only one, John Galliano during his time at Dior was fond of corsetry – his wedding corset gowns are legendary.

Fetish wear – Do you dare?

So fetish wear has come full circle and now for those who dare to – can wear it as outer wear, corsets worn over clothes rather than beneath, knee high boots, especially black and leather has never gone away. There’s plenty out there for autumn with leather vests held together with slim spaghetti straps, jackets and leather trims on cuffs and necks of dresses. You can customise collars/dog collars and wear them with leather dresses, wear tight Lycra leggings with a corset and high heels, or perhaps transparent PVC if you’re brave enough. You don’t have to be an S&M connoisseur to appreciate the fashions of fetish, you just have to be daring.


Strictly speaking, fetish wear can be anything that someone has a fetish for – white school girl socks, for example, cigarettes, or broken down old shoes.But when we think of fashion and fetish wear, we think of leather and lace, in black or red. Latex, PVC, studs, stockings, dog collars, handcuffs, body harnesses, stiletto heels, gloves, uniforms, and thigh high boots all pop into our imaginations.

Fetish wear Intersection in Mainstream Media and Fashion

When you’re wearing fetish wear, you could be tightly covered from top to toe or daringly revealing. Fetish wear is designed to make the wearer feel extremely vulnerable, or alternatively, completely invulnerable. A menacing uniform cap and studs make you the strictest Mistress you ever set eyes on, while a sheer outfit with a tiny leather belt doesn’t offer much protection.


The most popular and enduring staple of fetish wear has to be the corset. Maybe it’s because it does the job of making you feel both those things – vulnerable, and invulnerable, at the same time. The strong steel boning armors your body, and your upright posture makes you feel in control.


But the presentation of your soft breasts to the world, along with the constriction of your breath, mean you might be a little less tough than you thought.


As a traditional undergarment in the 19h century, despite both the changing of fashions and the calls for its abolition on grounds of health and emancipation, the corset took a long time to disappear as a regular part of women’s lives.



Not only that, but it’s wearing spawned a great debate, the “corset controversy”, which raged in different magazines for over 70 years, from about 1830-1890. Magazine editors denounced the practice, and other women and men wrote animatedly in the letters pages to say variously that they liked it, no harm done, and even describing “the pleasures of tight lacing”. Some of the more lascivious contributions were signed by “Mothers” or “Headmistresses” – there was more than a hint that these staid matrons existed only in the fevered imaginations of certain male enthusiasts.


But now that corseting isn’t a prerequisite for fashion, its enduring popularity as occasion wear must be down to something else. Women still love the way it makes them look and feel.

Celebrities and fetish wear

Burlesque stars have helped to make corset wearing look like a desirable hobby. These include the petite Dita Von Teese, (who can corset herself into a 16 inch waist) alongside performers like Chrys Columbine and Polly Rae.


Designers who have exploited its ultimate sexiness, season after season, include Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, John Galliano and of course, Jean Paul Gaultier.

Gaultier and fetish wear

Gaultier really launched the idea of underwear as outerwear in the 90s, getting Madonna to model outrageously pointy coned bras and corsets in her performances. Westwood models her designs on historical sources, using 18th and 19th Century shapes with modern, high-tech fabrics. Alexander McQueen used corsetry in his catwalk creations, but also popularized handcuff handbags, and used huge studs in his other accessories.


As well as Madonna, other pop stars with a yen for fetish wear include Dirrty Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and, more recently, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna with their controversial outfits and videos.

Tight lacing, it seems, is here to stay.




Vincent Gale and Lindsey Angell in Venus in Fur


Marianne’s great-great uncle was none other than Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the author of famed erotic novel, Venus In Furs.




yva richards

Yva Richard, corseted

Nativa Richard w leather boots & corset

Nativa Richard,metallic

Nativa Richard,chains & shackles

brian ridley and ryan heeter-1979


robert-mapplethorpe photo of latex fetishist

Diana Rigg La Mrs Emma Peel

Diana Rigg English actress, as Emma Peel in The Avengers

Cathy Gale

Julie Newmar-Catwoman-Batman-1966

Helmut Newton-le smoking


Drawings for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour

madonnas_blond ambition_corset-image-by-brandon-carson

The Thierry Mugler Autumn-Winter 1995-1996 Robot Couture

Thierry Mugler Haute Couture Spring Summer 1997

john galliano corset 1997

helmut newton fashion photography

westwood corset