I wrote in a previous post that the phrase “self-fashioning,” as it applies to the practice of creating, or styling, one’s inner (and, to a degree, outer) self, came into my mind rather innocently as I was reading a biography of Chanel (which proved to be a most beneficial read). My intuition informed me instantly that this was the perfect term to describe and organize my still-forming thoughts on what it means for women to cultivate rich, inner erotic lives. I also knew that the big task—as it is with all perfect phrases that simply “pop” into a writer’s mind—was then to work backwards to figure out precisely what it meant.
It wasn’t until one night last week, as I was perusing the same text, that I came across the phrase, luxe caché, or “hidden luxury,” and realized that, perhaps, the best way for me to think about sexual, or erotic, self-creation is truly to envision eroticism as something wearable. As a source of vibrancy that emanates from deep within, as an accent, as having discernible aesthetic properties. It is the air of “sexy.” Vibrant. Luxurious. Confident. Self-refined. And, by its nature, always partially and seductively veiled. Now, that’s interesting. A concept that is ripe with possibility and one that I can fully sink my teeth into.
Here are some thoughts on “sexy” as fashion, or wearable feeling:
Sexy is hidden luxury.
Luxury must remain nearly invisible, it must be felt. Luxury is the coat a woman throws inside out over an armchair…and the underside is more valuable than the exterior. -Coco Chanel
Self-fashioning is alchemical. It is the process of moving from a feeling, or an essence, of sexiness that is derived from mostly outside sources (like clothing, cosmetics, surgery) to that which emanates from your core. It is the difference between having a sexy little secret and transforming one’s inner self into a sexy little secret. Because when you have a rich erotic life, that is how you feel. As if you are toting around a sexy little secret. (And isn’t that precisely the conception of female sexuality Victoria’s Secret has exploited so successfully?) Except, the secret isn’t having a forbidden lover or a dark, alluring fetish. It is found in the depths of our erotic capacities—in understanding how to harness the power of those feelings. Of being able to tap into our sexiest, most vibrant selves.
Sexy is a fusion.
I had to ask myself, “What is the difference between creating, or ‘styling’ oneself, as, say, Nietzsche uses the term, and this phrase, ‘self-fashioning,’ that, in my mind, signifies something different?” What do I feel that women like Chanel have taught me about female self-creation that is distinctly separate—that is in addition to—that which I already know?
To me, “sexy” is the difference. Indeed, when I reflect on all that I have been reading and writing here—the myriad components of female eroticism, especially, like feeling pretty and wanting to be wanted—it occurs to me that all of these emotional experiences, or states, are interdependent. And if it might be said (for me, anyway), that they culminate in one energy, force, or all-consuming state, “sexy” would be it. “Sexy” is fire. It is a fusion of feelings, desires, and motivations. And, I find it is an incredibly powerful part of my personality.
I feel that styling my sexuality—that doing what feels innately sexy—is critical to shaping my personality and an outward expression of that personality. Indeed, I can’t help but notice that the process of fashioning, or styling, itself seems largely dictated by my sexuality, or my erotic nature more generally. It’s less about making myself and more about deliberately crafting myself in a more authentic sexual being. Or, into a being who is growing to understand the breadth of creative power within her most energetic self.
Sexy is shared.
I also asked myself when and how I feel sexiest. The answer, for better or worse, involves a combination of self-directed activities and beautifying rituals, as well as a hefty dose of male attention. For as much as I would like to think that I can make myself “feel sexy,” it is a feat not accomplished best alone. I can, in fact, only do some of the job myself. Being able to experience the full intensity of “sexy” is part of the reward of finding a suitable partner.