Michael Kors Fall 2004 Collection - photo by Randy Brooke
Michael Kors Fall 2004 Collection

Women's sexuality has experienced an identity crisis for the past two fashion seasons. In Fall 2004 we saw RTW take a semi-androgynous direction with a severe and arrogant attitude - reintroducing fashion's obsession with women dressing in men's clothing or girls pretending to be boys, while prepossessing a tough and powerful masculine attitude. At Gucci, the modern woman was Trinity from the Matrix - slicked back hair, neutral lips and dark eyes, dressed in black and white, all leather boots and gloves or in contrast the sexed up vamp sporting a sheer black lace dress with garters perfectly prepared for a Helmut Newton shoot. At Dior, John Galliano's exploration of fetish came dressed in second-skin laced-up PVC, where women were sex robots with Kabuki faces, akin to drag queens in disguise.

Karl Lagerfeld, always with an ear to the ground watching the subversive sexuality and themes in pop culture, had clear cut juxtapositions of half man-half woman models stalking the catwalks for his Lagerfeld Gallery collection. Models in teeny minis, sharp stiletto ankle boots were topped off with constricting super starched shirts and Edwardian style collars. Skinny leather ties and cropped broad shouldered jackets finished the look. Michael Kors left behind his traditional high class concepts and delved into rock n' roll biker chicks clad in black leather, playing with outsized proportions up top and slim silhouettes below the waist. Dolce & Gabbana saw Naomi Campbell as a Dandy in pantsuit and Day-Glo accessories. Even the more traditional Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta chose the girls as boys theme with an Oliver Twist old world sensibility. Miuccia Prada always one to mix up male and female elements chose tweeds, men's shirting, pinstripe pants and man-sized sweaters mixed in with 50s circle skirts and her futuristic explorations of computer generated prints for her signature collection.
 YSL Fall 2004 Collection. Photo by Randy Brooke
YSL Spring 2004 Collection
In sharp contrast Spring 2004 with its frou frou femininity and the reintroduction of 50s conservative Republican sensibilities, featured some decidedly quirky embellishments to make it all seem new. Whether it meant purifying women as virginal embodiments of virtue or frilly girlishness with fashions that leave behind the overtly masculine tendencies seen in the fall collections, designers chose to display women in all their soft sensuality without the unabashed sexiness found in scandalous flesh-flaunting silhouettes, which Miuccia Prada coined “the desperation of sexy,” of past seasons. Even Donatella Versace, always one to push the envelope in sex appeal, went from her fall musings of monochromatic slick skinny pant suits and rocker fringe to an explosion of vibrant flowers and more conservative (as conservative as a Versace girl can get that is) chiffon dresses and skirt suits.
 Gucci Fall 2004 Collection - photo by Randy Brooke
Gucci Fall 2004 Collection
At Chanel - where there once were motorcycle riding mademoiselles in a black and white palette of dresses and denim accented by leathery legs and motocross boots - for spring Lagerfeld's Chanel visions included crochet, pastel pink tweed, bushels of roses and colorful polka dot prints. Looks so sweet they inspired toothaches! Tom Ford undid his sexy femmes fatales and chose more sporty bambine in slouchy tees and side striped track pants, highlighting sexy cropped and expertly tailored supple jackets. John Galliano's epitome of feminine was Marlene Dietrich as only he can interpret, in satin suits, tattoo body stockings, garters and corsets, substantially toned down from past sex antics. D&G replaced their PVC wearing models from fall with a parade of reinterpreted stereotypes, ranging from the cheerleader to gingham clad southern baby dolls fresh from Middle America's farms. They did the same for the signature Dolce & Gabbana collection in a pretty mix of Pucci and Pulitzer prints - gone was the over sexed attitude of the past season.
  With all the contrasting explorations of extreme sexual identities within feminine fashion, what was missed was a social undercurrent and tug of war being played out behind the fashion seams and in the media. The validity of gay marriages came into question. Showtime's launch of The "L" Word, and Sex and the City's final season along with a scandalous half-time show during America's most watched TV moment, heralded a changing perception of what will be considered sexually provocative in content, excluding nudity, for future generations. The most recent Chanel couture show whispered of this changing look which if taken and explored would re-inspire fashion’s themes for women.