19 March 2011

The Modern Bettie Page

Australian Showtime's Satisfaction is probably one of those shows that most people only admit to watching in whispered tones. Set in a high-class brothel, the show chronicles the lives of female and male sex workers. To say that it's steamy is an understatement and probably even more groundbreaking in that arena than say, Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

I could probably talk at length about sex work and systems and cultures in which women and their bodies become commodities, but this really isn't a forum for that. I will say that while Satisfaction is presented with a lot of glam and heat, it does manage to quietly skim over these issues. At times, I would prefer it was a bit more hard hitting, the clientele chosen more from reality than an idealized version of what sex workers face.  For example fetish is explored, but the bodies on the screen are predictably fit and attractive.  The bad not  ever as bad as it could be.

Anyway, since this blog is about fashion, I'm talking about Satisfaction because I adore the fashion sensibilities of Nat. Natalie, owner of the brothel, is neat and organized. Her wardrobe reminiscent of Bettie Page.  The connection is most obvious in her hairstyle during season 3: deep black hair with short blunt cut bangs.  Like Bettie Page, Nat usually lets it curl in vague waves at the ends.

 Nat pulls her wardrobe from a very vintage inspired concept, high waisted pencil skirts are complimented by lace or silk blouses.  Always skirts.  Always heels. Well, almost always anyway.  The look is streamlined and close fitting, her waist emphasized either with the line of the skirt or crafty belting.  She's also the master of suspenders. I usually think of them as being appropriate for older men, but Nat makes them understated sexy.

The wardrobe choices made for Nat are critical in terms of building character.  Nat's buttoned up look is a visual reminder of how strictly she controls her life, controls herself. It's quietly sexual, but reserved.  The heavy dark colors are a representation of reserve and unwillingness to engage with the world. At the same time, she doesn't (either in terms of wardrobe or personality) seem to fit into either the world of glam and hyper-color that surrounds the brothel, nor does she fit in in the outside world, one filled with light.  This is Nat's ongoing struggle, feeling like an outcast and abnormal while keeping her piece of the world in control.


Amanda / Rust Belt Threads said...

I love these posts about wardrobe/costumes. I'm really interested in checking this show out, but also agree/wish shows like these would be more realistic and not glorify the sex biz all the time.

Aimée - Vint Condition said...

Thank you Amanda! I'm trying to make my blog a little less personal and a lot more informative, so I'm going to try to integrate features like this regularly.

The show is interesting as a whole. There's of course the Showtime take on having gratuitous nudity, but the characters are engaging in a bit of a soap opera sort of way. I would say none of them is leading a healthy or stable life, but it doesn't feel as emotionally draining as it should. And of course the brothel and outfits are a really glossy version of what brothels look like.