Fetish fashion is any style or appearance in the form of a type of clothing or accessory, created to be extreme or provocative. These styles are not usually worn by the majority of people on any regular basis. They are usually made of materials such as leather, latex or synthetic rubber or plastic, nylon, PVC, spandex, fishnet, and stainless steel. Some fetish fashion items include: stiletto heel shoes and boots (most notably the ballet boot), hobble skirts, corsets, collars, full-body latex catsuits, stockings, miniskirt, crotchless panties, garters, locks, rings, eyewear, handcuffs, and stylized costumes based on more traditional outfits, such as wedding dresses that are almost completely see-through lace.
Fetish fashions are sometimes confused with costuming, because both are usually understood to be clothing that is not worn as the usual wardrobe of people, and is instead worn to create a particular reaction.
Fetish fashions are usually considered to be separate from those clothing items used in cosplay, whereby these exotic fashions are specifically used as costuming to effect a certain situation rather than to be merely worn; such as the creation of a character for picture play. However, sometimes the two areas do overlap. For example, in Japan, many themed restaurants have waitresses who wear costumes such as a suit made of latex or a stylized French maid outfit.
Some type of garments that women wear to routinely improve their appearance are thought of as erotic and qualify as fetish wear: corsets and high heels. Most fetish wear is not practical enough for routine daily wear. A very common fetish costume for women is the dominatrix costume. Usually it consists of mostly dark or even black clothing. The woman usually wears a corset or bustier and stockings with high heeled footwear. High boots are quite common as they enhance the woman's domination. Most women in dominatrix costumes carry an accessory such as a whip or a riding crop.
Fetish fashion has no specific origin point because certain fashions that were appreciated specifically for themselves or worn as part of a specific subculture have been noted since the earliest days of clothing. Some argue that the use of corsetry and hobble skirts back in the late 1700s was the first mainstream note of fetish fashions, because the majority of society did not have access to these articles. These items were specifically appreciated for themselves (i.e. the person liked the woman wearing the corset rather than just the woman by herself).
However, others argue that what is termed as fetish fashions started with the leather-wearing culture of the homosexual London, England underground after World War II. During this period, the homosexual men who began to use the rarely-used leather clothing items were doing so publicly and in large-order as identification and separation from the norm. Perhaps more importantly, the leather clothing items were being appreciated for themselves, and not just for their functional use. However, others argue that this identification is too restrictive, and that fetish fashion includes more than just leather.
The leather subculture later became more mainstream in the British 1960s due to the influence of rock musicians such as the Rolling Stones and the Who, and television performers such as Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg in The Avengers, who wore full body leather catsuits and full limb-covering leather and latex gloves and boots.
Many fashion designers incorporate elements of the fetish subculture into their creations or directly create products based on elements that are not accepted by the mainstream. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood created several restrictive BDSM-inspired clothing items for the 1970s punk subculture; in particular bondage trousers, which connect the wearer's legs with straps. The more recent fetish clothing makers House of Harlot and Torture Garden Clothing, Vex Latex Clothing and Madame S of California focus on using latex and leather as the base material for their creations, rather than as an accessory.
Fetish fashions became popularized in the United States during the 1950s through books and magazines such as Bizarre and many other underground publications. Skin Two is a contemporary fetish magazine covering many aspects of the worldwide fetish subculture. The name is a reference to fetish clothing as a second skin.
Fetish costumes are very popular on internet sites.
Nazi chic is a highly controversial topic in the fetish clothing world. Much of the fetish community regards Nazi chic as highly offensive, and most fetish clubs ban overt Nazi symbolism. However, the symbolism of fascist or communist regimes remains popular. A common compromise is to adopt the main design features of Nazi-era clothing, such as peaked caps, jackboots or long leather trenchcoats with high epaulets and tall collars. Most individuals who directly copy such clothing styles in their creations usually do not include any explicit Nazi symbols such as the swastika. Sometimes substitute symbols are used that clearly reference Nazi symbols without directly copying them.
When the partners wear fantasy costumes as a sexual fetish they also embrace the different personalities instead of their own. The costumes range from classical attire, as in ancient Greek times, to present day firemen. Many times both partners decide what they want to be, and prepare a rough plot of their locality and shop for their attire and plan for a place and time where they would not be disturbed by others. Sometimes one partner surprises the other by suddenly appearing in a fantasy costume and the rest of the time goes based on their participation. When one partner is more active, usually he or she performs erotic dancing or speaks erotic dialogue as part of the fantasy. See role playing below.
A very common fetish costume for women is the dominatrix costume. Usually it consists of mostly dark or even black clothing. The woman usually wears a corset or bustier and stockings with high heeled footwear. High boots are quite common as they enhance the woman's domination. Most women in dominatrix costumes carry an accessory such as a whip or a riding crop.