'Prostitution Chic' is a thing now


Earlier his week, The Gloss featured old photos of prostituted women in order to highlight the fact that being poor and having to service nasty-ass dudes in the early 1900s also involved wearing cool tights. A comment left on the post reads: “Well, I’m obviously going to be an old school sex worker for Halloween this year.” — I can’t tell if that’s sarcastic or not, but I think it shows that The Gloss really made their point.

Of course, I think it’s super awesome that The Gloss, who claims to be “a big fan of both sex workers and women of the past,” is promoting prostitution as an outfit you put on. What I think is even more awesome is Louis Vuitton’s ad campaign promoting “prostitution chic.” Working the streets, hanging out in alleys wearing lingerie, and getting into cars with strange men is super chic and sexy, y’all. Apparently some think “the film is tongue in cheek, and playfully risque,” but I tend to think violence against women isn’t a super cute, playful, sexy joke.

Katie Grand, the editor-in-chief and a collaborator of Louis Vuitton’s creative director Marc Jacobs, has now issued a completely sincere apology that shows how very clearly she understands the implications of glamorizing exploitation and abuse, saying: “It certainly wasn’t my intention to cause offence.” No, no. It wasn’t your “intention to cause offence.” It was your “intention” to sell clothes.

All this does is reinforce my impression of the fashion industry as one filled with vapid, self-centered, bougie hipsters who think they’re artists and, therefore, post-oppression.

Luckily not everyone buys this BS, and a number of lefties, feminists, and intellectuals complained about the campaign, accusing it of “assimilating luxury with the world’s second most profitable criminal activity after drug trafficking.” A letter published in Libération, a leftwing, French newspaper asks if Louis Vuitton realizes “they are promoting violence, pornography and sexual slavery.”

Oddly, a writer at The Gloss complains about the campaign — Though mostly concerned that it “stereotypes” prostitutes, the author, Jamie Peck, also represents those who spoke out against the campaign as being naive about the fact that the fashion industry (are you all sitting down?) also objectifies women. DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

Peck goes on to say: “So long as you support a capitalist system whereby people are forced to sacrifice their time and bodily autonomy in exchange for food and shelter, you have no business telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do to survive.”

Well true that. I hope no one ever tells the author that most abolitionists are not actually fans of capitalism, that the Nordic model is a socialist model, and that most feminists who advocate for an end to the exploitation of women also advocate for affordable housing and social safety nets (which are decidedly not capitalist concepts), because that might blow her mind.

Anyway, where’s the apology from The Gloss? Do they really believe that being “fan[s] of sex workers” is the same as representing prostitution as fashion choice or a costume?





Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • copleycat

    Great article again Meghan – you’re like a powerhouse. I would liken the absurdity of this to telling people it’s glamorous and fun to be drug addicts but wait a lot of fashion houses already do that too. I think one of the most revolutionary things you can do is make your own clothes. Not only do you by-pass all these misogynist, narcissists you engage in quite a bit of mental rotation of objects and what do you know women actually are capable of that.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Heroin chic! Good way to stay thin, right?

      (Also, thanks!)

  • This video looks like a horror movie. How on Earth is this supposed to make people want to buy clothes?

  • mauritia

    I get the appeal of the photos. They’re pretty and the women look glamourous. Unfortunately prostitution involves a little more than lounging around drinking in nice lingerie, and it only takes a cursory familiarity with history to know that most prostitutes last century weren’t living the high life.

    Interestingly enough, the photographer Bellocq also took pictures of opium dens, something else that looks awfully glamourous in black & white, less so in reality.

  • Maria Luisa

    Prostitution= rape for money. And why anybody would think that this is glamorous is beyond me.

  • jo

    ‘Prostitution Chic’ is not really a new thing – for example, burlesque strippers borrow fashion ideas from old tyme “sex workers”. It’s old so it’s classy!!1

    I can’t understand it at all. Why do you want to glamorize something that meant absolute misery for those women? Being a prostitute back then meant even more horrible problems than now. No safe contraceptives, failing to abort and then leaving your newborn to die, all the disease and no modern medicine, HUGE social stigma, christian beliefs very strong back then so you were thought of as sinful, great likelyhood of violence from punters, pimps and other men. Jack the ripper, anyone?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ah, so true! The neo-burlesque movement is ALL about ‘kitschy’ throw-backs to fun and sexy times for prostitutes of yesteryear.

      Oh gosh. Exploitation has never been so ironic!

      • vouchsafer

        Also, lame.

        Can’t these so called creative people come up with something original?
        Or is there really some kind of cloak and dagger group somewhere sitting around plotting how to further Subjugate women?

        Is it the one percent?

        All kidding aside, let’s not forget that there’s a lot of money to be made off the commodification of women’s bodies.

        • MLM

          “Can’t these so called creative people come up with something original?’

          They’re really not trying hard enough to fully exploit human suffering for marketing purposes, are they? I certainly see some lost opportunities:

          Sacrifice chic! Sexy Aztecs clamour over the still beating heart of their eviscerated, but tastefully posed victim, blood dripping from their “vintage” range of ROFw (Ridiculously Overpriced Fashionwank) knives. Blood is the new red, ya know!

          Pillage the Village chic! While the village burns down all around (fire = exciting!) wartime rape, torture and murder of civilians gets to look a whole lot cooler if you throw in some really hip accessories, doesn’t it!

          Genocide chic! Admittedly Marc Jacobs is taking a bit of heat over his new range of concentration camp themed pyjamas … but really shouldn’t people just get over it? Hell, it happened, like, ages ago. Concern about humanity is just so boring, isn’t it?

          Actually, now that I think of it, I’m not entirely sure that all of these ideas haven’t also shown up before in one form or another. I wouldn’t be all that surprised.

          • vouchsafer

            Good point, MLM.

            Also, don’t judge, don’t hate, and don’t bother questioning the mainstream.

          • Meghan Murphy

            We’re so BEYOND all that. Everyone needs to get over it for the sake of fashion.

          • derrington

            Dont forget slavery chic and homochic – sure there’s huge depths more that the fashion industry haven’t plundered in their vain attempt to look edgy as opposed to uncreative and without empathy for real suffering in the world. How about sweatshop chic where you could have models dressed as workers in Bangladesh with bits of fallen building sticking out of their heads – oh so coooool to be crueeel daaaarling …

  • Ivan Sorensen

    “Well true that. I hope no one ever tells the author that most abolitionists are not actually fans of capitalism, that the Nordic model is a socialist model, and that most feminists who advocate for an end to the exploitation of women also advocate for affordable housing and social safety nets (which are decidedly not capitalist concepts), because that might blow her mind.”

    Hit it right on the nail there. In fact, I think you hit it so hard the nail went through the tree.

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