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What’s with fashion’s obsession with bodily fluids?



From Challengers’ sweat-drenched tees and JordanLuca’s piss-stained jeans, to Prada’s pink and green slime, pop culture is obsessed with gooey substances right now. Why are we getting so wet?

Dump your strawberries and cream in the nearest bin. Challengers, the ace tennis flick from Luca Guadagino, has got us onto saliva, churros, and a lot of sweat. Almost every scene in the movie is drenched in the salty stuff, a film of glistening perspiration that covers glowing skin, leading to Vogue proclaiming sweat the accessory of the season.

“More sweat!” was the main note from the director for the final scene according to the cast, which pits two love rivals against each other. Fashion, it seems, is making the same demand. For its AW24 show, Diesel burned devoré in the shape of underarm circles to represent “the sweat stains you get from partying and raving” and French designer Louis Gabriel-Nouchi also recently took the whole sweatshirt thing literally with a sweat patch jumper. For years, bio-designer Alice Potts has been crystallising the salty stuff and studding baseball caps with the underarm gems.

But if perspiration isn’t your thing and you’re not prepared to ditch your Mitchum just yet, don’t sweat it – pretty much every fluid is in fashion right now, and not stopping at the runway, they’ve been spilling into all orifices of pop culture across the last few years, from Gwyneth’s vagina candle to the wet-and-wild lyrics of “WAP”, Kourtney Kardashian downing breastmilk to Saltburn’s seminal bathtub scene. Charli XCX has been riding this wave recently, too, posting pics of herself in wet panties and promoting her and Troye Sivan’s upcoming Sweat Tour. And now, after years of trying to keep them pristine, our clothes have become intentionally sodden, soaked, and stained.

For water sports fans wondering, this trend also includes piss. Last month, JordanLuca made a splash across social media with its £600 jeans covered in fake urine, letting you recreate one of the scenes from Climax’s reissue of Pissing Women and following on from Di Petsa’s own version. The label, started by Greek designer Dimitri Petsa in 2019, has always been obsessed with all things liquid, focusing on female sexuality and fluids. Back in 2020, Petsa even wrote a book of poetry titled Wetness, featuring odes to blood, sweat, tears, saliva, breastmilk, vaginal fluids, semen and urine.

Why, though, are we so infatuated with bodily fluids right now? Well, it seems to tie into the new wave of watery fashion, something Di Petsa is also known for through the Wetlook Dress, an ethereal gown draped to make it look like aqua is rippling down the wearer’s body.  From Mowalola’s Wet capsule to Doja Cat’s soggy Met Gala look, the wet look has trickled back into our collective aesthetic, letting us show off our obsession with staying hydrated.

But, for us fluid freaks, the weirder, dirtier, stranger liquids are even more exciting. Mud, for example, took over Elena Velez’s SS24 runway and was splattered across Diesel’s denim (seemingly mixed with caked blood). Elsewhere, ectoplasmic slime dripped from the ceilings atvPrada’s Fluid Form show, turning bodily excretions into something extra-terrestrial. These seem to stem from the revival of body horror, with incredibly leaky films like Infinity Pool and Titane showing the perverse excitement of the grotesque.

More potent, though, is fashion’s current obsession with fetish culture; introducing piss, cum, spit and the rest of it is another way to get kinky. “For some people, absolutely, it’s sexy. It’s provocative and ultimately a representation of power, kink and voyeurism,” Jordan Bowen and Luca Marchetto say about their denims. “The jeans are a comment on the fact that we don’t really need more clothes but have an obsessive love affair with stuff. Consumerism has grown into an obscene fetish,” they add.

Perspiration, for Alice Potts, is much the same. “For me, sweat is a symbol of human connection,” Potts says. “It possesses a unique allure that transcends conventional perception. It symbolises vitality, passion and raw energy,” she continues, explaining that it heightens senses, intensifies experiences, and creates sexy moments. Louis Gabriel-Nouchi also recognises the taboo element. “I liked the fact that working with human fluids provoked more reactions than showing skin. It’s about breaking taboos. Why are fluids allowed in a gym but not in the street?” he asks. “Our relationship to body fluids have changed a lot. The sweater suggests you’re smelly and shows a sense of intimacy normally hidden by a garment.”

This act of openly showing our excretions off it is in itself subversive. “Embracing sweat as a natural and integral part of the human experience can foster a deeper appreciation for our bodies and their capabilities. Whether in moments of passion or exertion, sweat embodies a raw, primal essence that, when embraced with confidence and acceptance, can indeed be seen as undeniably alluring,” Potts says. Or, as Di Petsa’s Wet Look Script Top puts it: “If you cry in public you must hide it. If you sweat in public you must hide it. If you breastfeed in public you must hide it. Shame is a self-inflicting punishment.”

This acceptance of our own seeping, weeping selves creates a sense of power. Looking like you’ve pissed yourself or forgotten to put deodorant on does, after all, require some literal liquid courage. “It’s about being fierce enough to wear it,” Gabriel-Nouchi says. If it’s not too much of a stretch, perhaps this is all a metaphor for our desire for fluid, free-flowing fashion. “Our perceptions of ourselves and our autonomy is changing as we explore our identities and personal freedoms,” Bowen and Marchetto say. “My body fluid, my choice!”

Plus, for the designers, it’s a chance to experiment with new forms, like Galliano did way back when with his wet muslin. With trompe-l’œil still very much a certified thing, the fluid aesthetic encourages creatives to use strange fabrications, techniques, dyes and products to achieve the illusion of wetness. And if you want to get the liquid look without getting your Monzo liquidated? Piss, sweat, spit or cum into whatever you’re wearing for free, and you’ll instantly ooze sex appeal.

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