Clothing can help you create an identity and feel more assured of your sexuality. Indeed, if you look the part, it begins to sink in at a psychological level. In particular, many feel empowered by changing their appearance with makeup and clothes. When we put on our bondage gear, it’s symbolic; we occupy the role we intend to play for that session, or better still, look like a sexual demon.
BDSM can be a very formal and ritualised thing. Many things are given specific meanings by the people involved in it, though some emerge from the context more or less naturally. One such element is the clothing typical to it. Bondage clothing or BDSM clothing is reasonably recognisable, at least some of it, and has a bit of a pop culture identity. But is it used correctly?
Well, while there is a considerable degree of freedom in what you wear, there are a few things to keep in mind. The symbolism some clothing holds and how it influences the perception of a person wearing it.
Clothing related kinks and fetishes
There is a very distinct purpose to some clothing worn for BDSM, and that’s either directly restraining the submissive, or at least making them easy to restrain at some other time. These items are the only hard rule I’m going to present: a Dominant should never wear restraints. The symbolism should be clear for everyone as is the intent and use of such items. And it makes very little sense when worn by a Dominant.
But for the most part, the Dominants clothing should express their freedom. They are secure, unconstrained, in control, etc. Any restrictive clothing needs to be worn in dignity as if it wasn’t there. The Dominant should thus not be placed into apparel that serves to restrain them. Easy access pieces, on the other hand, are fair game for both sides, after all, both the Dominant and the submissive might be engaging in sex at some point. And while the context is different (forced to be accessible vs being casually accessible, a subtle but important distinction), various items might be interchangeable between the two roles.
The symbolism of BDSM accessories and clothes
In the Dominant/submissive style, the point is to express your role through clothing. If you are a Dominant then you want to look in control and powerful. Black is quite common but other fierce colours are a good choice. As a submissive, you want to express your willingness to yield. White and pastels soften your image.
The attributes of the sub symbolise the willingness to obey and abandon one’s self to the Dominants will. They emphasise the ideas of submissive belonging to the Dominant, their ability to obey their Dominant and all those whom the Dominant shall put them into service with/for.
The attributes of the Dominant indicate their ability and desire to chasten, teach, punish, be liable for, empathise and take care of their submissive(s). They symbolise the Dominant’s capacity to fulfil one’s personal kinks and fantasies with the help of the submissive as well as do the same with kinky fantasies of their submissive. They demonstrate the ability to dominate in both physical and psychological aspects.
Examples of the symbolism of clothing are:
A universal symbol for Dominance is a particular type of necklace, a so-called collar. A collar symbolises that the submissive belongs to the Dominant.
The meaning of a collar is deeply individual.
There are several different thoughts and opinions. Still, the only important thing is what you and your partner agree on. A collar can be like a wedding ring. It can show who is currently mastered by a Dominant. Since you can attach ropes and leashes to the necklace, a collar can also be a toy.
Talk to your partner about what the collar means and represents. It can make for a huge misunderstanding if you look at it as a wedding ring, and your partner feels it is a fun toy.
A collar is usually a leather strap with a D-ring used as a tight necklace. The form varies, and you can choose a more neutral symbol. As an alternative to traditional collars, stainless neck rings or bracelets are used.
Latex and Leather
In the fetish & BDSM community, becoming aroused at the look, and more importantly, the feel of a fabric is part of the lifestyle. Whether they’re part of a uniform, a method of restriction, or stretched around a particular area of skin, the materials used in BDSM fashion convey meaning.
When dressed in leather or latex, we don’t emphasise any specific role but imply kinky sex and BDSM in general. Just like any other costume, leather or latex helps one put on a “different” skin and hide one’s actual personality.
What’s so specific about leather or latex is that it functions the same way as heels do: makes you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It accentuates all body lines thus highlighting the body and showing its individual to be the one who prefers an explicit demonstration of the body or may also indicate a desire to hide the individual; either totally or partially. It implies a person in leather or latex to be asking for communication in a sexual context.
Wristbands, wristlets, leg cuffs and leather bracelets
Used as a clear allusion to handcuffs, they are designed for fast and mobile fixation of the submissive’s body. And though they look like standard adornment, these accessories also symbolise obedience and humbleness.
Extra high heels
Big height is associated with dominance and can come as an instrument of torture. But it can be also used to emphasise the role of a submissive, to cause them discomfort by giving pleasure. Usually, they are high platform heels, stilettos or something like heeled ballet shoes that are used.
The ballet shoe is a style of fetish footwear that merges the look of the point shoe with a high heel. The idea is to restrict the wearer’s feet to almost a point, like those of a ballerina, with the aid of long, slender heels. When upright, the feet are held nearly vertical by the shoe, thus putting nearly all of the body’s weight on the tips of the toes. However, a properly tight-fitting (firmly laced) will hold the shoe to the wearer’s instep and heel, thereby reducing the weight on the wearer’s toes.
Alternatively, another form is the high laced boots which represent both a symbol of love and a symbol of aggression to the sadomasochist. In bondage, high heels act to restrain movement forming a part of the fantasy of enslaving which some people find erotic. Often the very appearance of restriction is exciting.
Uniform fetishism is a particular type of clothing fetishism in which an individual is sexually aroused by uniforms. It is a form of sexual fetishism. Uniform fetishism has been associated with a variety of different uniforms, including schoolgirl and cheerleader uniforms, French maid uniforms, and uniforms associated with police or military organisations.
Depending on the uniform, having a partner in uniform for sex can symbolise anything from power play to complete removal from one’s own reality. This fetish also goes hand-in-hand with role-playing.
When applied in a Dominant/submissive dynamic uniforms can be used in a range of ways. Uniforms can be associated with strength and power or service and submission. Uniforms can also be incorporated into a series of protocols.
A dress protocol is established by a Dominant as the way a submissive is to present themselves for any specific situation. These can be basic grooming habits to very precise details to what to wear to work, dinner or bed. A lot of times these are the first rules established in a dynamic. These can start out as directions for when and what to keep shaved, how to care for your hair, or if you can wear panties or not.
Now each Dominant has preferences for clothing and grooming. These can be very outward symbols of control and/or ownership when followed and adhered to by their submissive. Dominants can use these as protocols, to build a positive body image or cause humiliation and/or embarrassment.
In the case of a kink party, for instance, there may be a dress code that requires you to attend in fetish wear, meaning you have to dress a certain way to attend the event. This is intentional; to keep nosey vanilla people out and to strengthen the kinky, sexual and sensual vibe at the party venue. You may very well have clothing and grooming requirements for your private play too. If your Dominant requires you to have an enema and to paint your nails red, this is part of your play protocol. This can take on quite different meanings for each dynamic.
Below is a shortlist of examples of dress rules and protocols:
- Shaving/waxing the genital area.
- Maintaining a certain hairstyle.
- Trimming or shaving facial hair.
- Wearing or not wearing makeup.
- Wearing specific undergarments.
- Requirements for high heeled shoes.
- Allowances to wear pants or dresses.
- Having regular manicures and pedicures.
- Only certain colours of clothing.
- Accessibility in clothing.
- Wearing insertables.
- Presenting in private completely nude.
- When to wear the collar.
- Wearing a day collar or a specific symbol of ownership.
- Allowances for jewellery.
- Wearing a chastity device.
- Wearing a key to a subs chastity device.
A lot of times just one accent piece can make your outfit special. Creativity is one of the best ways to morph regular clothing into something special. Use items from around the house to give your outfit some zip. Try making a rope dress, or adding clothespins, safety pins or nipple clamps to your shirt or jacket. Use a chained set of nipple clamps to hold your jacket together rather than buttoning it. Hook your nicest flogger or crop to your belt. Just use your imagination!
Starting your own fetish clothing on a budget is easier than you might think. Open up your imagination and take a look at your closet the next time you are in there. I bet you could find that key piece to get you started on a great new look; perfect for your next scene.
Contributors: This article was researched and written by Umlindi, edited by Mistress Michelle and published by Umlindi.
These educational topics wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication from our Dom(me)sLife contributors – Thank you MM