Sometimes it is not what designers add to their garments that give them meaning, but it is what they take out of them. This season cuts, slices and slits create a simple yet dramatic silhouette. This lack of fabric points to a phenomenon in fashion known as the theory of Shifting Erogenous Zones. Here is a quick excerpt from my Honors Thesis, Undressing the Power of Fashion: The Semiotic Evolution of Gender Identity by Coco Chanel and Alexander McQueen, that explains this recurring fashion phenomenon:
"...this study will call upon historian James Laver’s 1969 theory of Shifting Erogenous Zones (Reilly, 40). The naked body as a whole is anti-erotic because it leaves nothing to the imagination. Therefore, when adorning clothing, over time different parts of the body are exposed consequentially becoming eroticized (Reilly, 40). When a particular body becomes overexposed, it is no longer sexually enticing, so a new area of the body needs to be exposed. This explains why styles of women’s fashion change in order to reveal different body parts (Reilly, 45)" (85).
"Psychologist John Flugel writes about how the fashion industry tends to fixate on one particular body part until its exhausted all of its erotic potential (Nasrulla, 73). Chanel’s eroticized signified wore off as men began to deconstruct and reconstruct the signifier’s meaning to fit society’s ideals. Men had gotten so used to seeing this scandalous erogenous zone that they became disinterested in its and it lost its effect. It normalized into society’s cultural norms and no longer emphasized the power of a woman’s sensuality. In response, Chanel deconstructed her fashion garments and reconstructed them, shifting the eroticized zone over time, allowing it to remain a signified of women liberating their sexuality against what society’s norms were at the time" (85).
With all of the gender issues and politics that have arised in the last few months, fashion is once again trying to make a statement when it comes to the liberation of womens sexuality as a form of power rather than submissiveness. From circles that reveal flashes of flesh to curved waists with glimpses of the hip to midriffs, fashion is trying to once again utilize a woman’s femininity as a valuable and powerful construct that should be exalted.
When one thinks of the cutout trend they think of sexuality and the exposing of the body to a man. Many women believe that exposing one’s body is seen as “trashy.” But the only reason women have been led to believe this is because whenever a feminine feature has been highlited in the past, a process has gone on in men’s heads that has led society to believe in this gender binary.
"When a man sees a woman revealing her feminine features and body, he immediately believes she has had prior sexual experience, which is almost never true. Viewing a woman as having sexual experience leads a man to believe she is less logical than a man because she gives herself away more often. This leads to the creation of a superiority and inferiority complex among different sexes and causes this gender binary and objectification" (59).
Fashion is proving otherwise. By pairing the cutout trend with feathers allowing women to resemble vicious birds as well as interesting geometric shapes, a woman’s femininity and sensuality go from weak to powerful, using it as a tool that a femme fatale would use to manipulate, injure and wound society. Almost as an armor.
To translate the look into your own style make sure to balance the cutout garment by pairing it with something that covers you up elsewhere. If you’re doing the crop top, pair it with a nice long pant, if you are wearing a pant, pair it with a nice, over sized shirt or sweater. The point of the cutout trend is to emphasize a woman’s specific erotic area and using it as a means of power, as a statement. The point of a cutout trend is not to expose as much as possible, but rather to accentuate and emphasize the right parts of the body.