“Obscenity begins when there is no more spectacle, no more stage, no more theatre, no more illusions, when everything becomes immediately transparent, visible, exposed…” –Jean Baudrillard
Fluorescent and unflattering, the bar lights on. We live in a time when murders are no longer a mystery and sex has been dissected close-up, at every angle.
I was in search of a bygone time of tease and titillation.
Enter Clea Cutthroat, a burlesque goddess well versed in the art of slow eroticism and Michelle Danna, manager of divine Brooklyn boutique, SLEEP.
I coaxed the two of them into sharing how we can celebrate Valentine’s Day with class.
Elizabeth Cutler: In an age of performance sexuality and inescapable porn, how can we rekindle soft, sensual allure?
Clea Cutthroat: Getting to ourselves and our bodies. We see so much in the media, and instead of finding our own sexual voice or alter ego, I often see women falling back on the popular default. That is one of the things that burlesque helps me find: my own sexual voice and confidence in expressing it my own way.
Michelle Danna: I think it is important to understand who we are and what we as individuals find alluring. I feel understanding desire first and foremost is far more sensual.
EC: What is appealing about Burlesque?
MD: Burlesque is appealing because it focuses on the creativity that lies in the tease, the process of titillation. Burlesque performers are in control of their performance, usually they are the one’s with the vision of their act. This is inherently empowering because they are the one’s defining what is alluring or sensual for themselves.
CC:: I think that Burlesque is so appealing because it is women celebrating women. Empowered, self-confident women, of all different shapes and sizes that give new meaning to the word “striptease”. It’s not as simple as just taking off a glove, or removing your bra. There is a specific mood and a strong story that is set by the music choices and style of each performer.
EC: What is hot about pin-up girls? How are they different from Playboy bunnies?
MD: The pin-up girl signifies different things throughout her history; early on she was considered very risqué and her audience was probably mostly men. Currently pin-up girls connote an alternative to the extremely physically exposed Playboy bunny. The pin-up is more suggestive today, where the Playboy bunny is overtly displaying sexuality more or less through a man’s perspective.
CC:: I like to think of pin-up girls having the same attitude as burlesque dancers. We’re there just as much for the ladies as men. I believe that pin-ups have a really classic, beautiful, self-empowered attitude. I love Playboy bunnies, I am a fan, but I think that often women see them as a product catering to men. Pin-up girls play and tease their sexuality with common routine…housework, shopping, sun bathing, exercise, as well as with CC:upations. I think it’s something that most women can instantly connect to.
EC: What is appealing about vintage, especially vintage lingerie?
MD: Vintage lingerie is appealing because it is a tactile representation of history. The literal construction of sensuality and the performance of femininity lie in its seams, the texture of the fabric, and the way it manipulates the body. The garter belt alone conjures up images of seemed nylon stockings and pageboy up-dos, placing the wearer and onlooker in a fantasy of the past.
CC:: I love vintage lingerie because it’s fun… in the sense that I feel like I get to play dress up, put on a costume. It has a glamorous feeling that sometimes can’t get with present-day trends. Plus, it makes me feel just so damn sexy. There’s nothing like walking around knowing what secrets lie beneath your clothing.
EC: What are different lingerie options? What do they say about people?
MD: There are many lingerie options: bralets, or bras without underwire, for those who prefer a light comfortable support; balconette bras for those who enjoy a little décolletage; thongs, for those who prefer tiny knickers and a bit of exposure; and boy shorts for those that enjoy feeling sexy but relaxed. It’s difficult to say what exactly these preferences say about an individual, but I do find that many of the customers of Sleep have specific preferences, which to me signifies that they really know themselves and are conscious of their desires and what’s alluring to them personally.
CC:: Oh there are countless… classic vintage with black or nude lace, bows, garter belts, or something more modern or trendy with seamless lines, sharp edges. For myself, I enjoy mixing different influences. For example, I have a great pair of hot pink, black lace lined booty shorts that I love to wear with a black fetish style push up bra and thigh highs with a Cuban heel and seams going up the back. And always remember your shoes! Stilettos make everything better.
EC: What can lingerie tell us about relationships? Is there underwear that matches specific time periods of relationships? Underwear that’s better for stranger? New crushes? Long love?
MD: I think lingerie speaks more about the relationship to oneself than about our relationships to significant others. Women who shop at sleep are shopping for themselves and they are investing in treating themselves to comfort, luxury, and feeling sensual in their own skin.
CC:: For me, well, I tend to stay the same throughout. Always a bit edgy…and I guess the longer the relationship, the less I wear. Lucky for my boyfriend…
EC: Can lingerie keep secrets, or must it tell all?
CC:: Secrets! Yes! Mystery can be the biggest afrodisiac of all. Make them pant for you and scream for more.
EC: When is more better than less?
CC:: Good question. I believe that is up to each woman to decide. When you’re truthful with your boundaries, aware of how you are comfortable with your body, then that is when you can aCC:ess your inner sex kitten. Think of celebrities like Madonna. Even with all of her close on she has a sexuality that oozes forth from her.
MD: I think that depends on the individual, but many times I think the mere suggestion can be far more enticing than what is actually desired. We carry a simple cotton bra and bikini knicker by Eberjey in a café au lait color that looks camouflaged when worn. Even though the pieces are highly functional and comfortable, it is highly appealing because when worn the lingerie hints at being nude. Then again, we have a set of Huit lingerie called Garconne that is completely sheer, and is also very sexy in how it exposes the body.
EC: What is magic about lingerie? Why is appealing? What drew you to sell skivvies?
MD: Lingerie is very transformative. It allows one to play a part, feel desire, and experience the body in a comfortable sensual way. Lingerie is appealing because in its creation there is a lot of attention to construction and how it will form to the body. A wonderful bra feels as though it was tailored to one’s body, and makes one feel confident.
EC: How are you celebrating Valentine’s day at the shop? Personally?
MD: With panties!
110 North 6th Street
btwn. Wythe Avenue and Berry Street
Special Thanks to Robert Elmes and the Galpagos Art Space