May 11, 2008

Super-heroines and the Senses

During a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I chanced upon an exhibit of exquisitely beautiful super-heroine costumes. (There are some super heroes too, but that is another story -- these MMA essays are fascinating). The designs inspired me with an envious wish for a super-heroine alter ego of seductive power and strength. Many of the most passionate devotees of these female icons agree that most of the style sense they celebrate was first inspired by the Emma Peel character played by Diana Rigg in The Avengers TV series. (I imagine Mrs. Peel wore Bandit or Jolie Madame by Balmain). A few of the most extreme designs (and the baseline is extreme to start with) were based on the classic comic book characters but most are new and extravagantly imaginative creations produced by great designers (Thierry Mugler, John Galliano, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Alexander McQueen) projecting the image of magically seductive strong women with mysterious special powers. These are very evocative images for us, because of the collective media imagery we all grew up with.

What specific superpowers do Catwoman and Batgirl have? I don't know that we even think about that part so much, we are so absorbed in the image of sexiness and energy and mystery. These extravagant depictions of the female form and its power shows how men have fantasized about the women who most enthrall them. Often super heroines have an animal nature, such as cats and bats. Their grace and hyper-sensitivity to the environment give them heightened perceptions on which they can react reflexively and instinctively, with stealth and cunning. That dream of a kind of animal union with our senses remains intensely appealing. I think we instinctively know that if we paid much more focused attention to our innate talents of sensory awareness, our consciousness and sense of presence would be heightened far beyond what we experience now.

What would Catwoman's perfume be? There was an incident where she used a drugged perfume as a weapon. For me this implies a heavy perfume that induces a kind of pleasantly sensual sleepiness, which I can imagine a cat would wear if cats were interested in such things as perfume (perhaps Shalimar or Mitsouko). Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, the alter egos of these super-heroines of comic book fame are often self-effacing, shy and vulnerable (perhaps wearing Midnight Violet by Ava Luxe).

Superheros - Fashion and Fantasy is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and runs between May 7-September 1, 2008. They are open until 8pm Friday and Saturday evenings. You will be treated to an amazing array of every conceivable permutation on the icons of feminine/masculine, yin/yang, and lots of spectacular machined defensive armor protecting a feral inner nature. These are the roots of our modern standards for beauty, style and allure.

Photos from Wikipedia -- top: Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel; down: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman; right: Yvonne Craig as Batgirl


Zz said...

Fun post Lucy,
The Avengers was and still is my all time fav. tv show. I am always on the lookout for reruns.
I think I would spritz Emma Peel with 19.

Lucy said...

Thanks Zz --

So I just reread Bois de J's post on 19, you both have inspired me to go seek it out (I don't own any Chanel at the moment, I must reinvest sometime soon).

From what BdJ says it appears to have that androgynous
quality of strength and beauty combined (Mrs. Peel!) so different than the "popular" types of perfume right now.

Mrs. Peel has been a personal style icon for me since I first saw her, and how could she not be. I think she made a great big impression on a lot of little girls at that time...and the boys too.
I was so disappointed in the movie version, especially in that Ralph Fiennes as Steed didn't really work.

Natural Perfumers Guild said...

For Catwoman I'd have to suggest something heavy on the civet ;-)

Perhaps vintage Jicky - which is also a great name for a cat!

Lucy said...

Hey, you all at NPG...

Jicky is a good name for a cat...must remember that in case it comes in handy sometime.

Civet now, I don't know...a little too incestuous perhaps?

I used to get perfume on my dog
(Dante) when I would pick him up after putting some on, and it would stick. People would say, what, have you been perfuming the dog? I am more respectful of his hypersensitive nose these days.

chayaruchama said...

I'm SURE Dante wore it well !

I was SUCH a leather girl...
In fragrance, I still fancy it.
Bring it on, Lu.

[Let's get dressed up, some time !]

Lucy said...

Dear C -- it would be great fun -- I often think it would be great to have a kind of costume party, too...and part of it could be our perfumes.