Fabric in Future Tense: Notes on the Exotic Fashion Creations
of Ms. Antoinette
Jeanette Luther’s hair is coiled in a yellow swirl, reminding one of an oven-top explosion of delicious and decadent vanilla pudding. Today, she is talking about an explosion in the fashion industry for which she finds herself almost exclusively responsible. And, while those close to her know her as Jeanette, she is revered by an elite cadre as the designer and fashion consultant Ms. Antoinette.
When I asked
Unfortunately, she has been portrayed too often as an erotic heroine; yet, she is really way beyond simply being a cipher to the accountings of graphic fashion show exhibition. Luther is not just a progenitor of erotic curiosities come to life in fashion, but the mystic mainspring for what is clearly a new fashion consciousness, as well as a provider of a safe, secure, and uncompromising environment for the discriminating and serious connoisseur of fetish fashion.
After over 19 years of sewing, mending, and molding several of her specially designed corsets, girdles, waist-cinchers, suspender-belts, basques, and hat and glove accessories in PVC, vinyl, leather, and satin, Luther established her own mail-order design emporium for anyone attracted to the idea that a curvaceous body is appealingly amplified by exotic clothing and foundation requirements. For those purposes, she invented the name Versatile Fashions.
fashion has taken a leap into mainstream couture via the entertainment
industry, and Luther’s influence is undeniable. The phenomenal success
of Luther’s flagship store was exemplified by the impact that Michelle
Pfeifer’s adroit portrayal of Catwoman had on the fashion world. As
the feline nemeses of comic book superhero Batman, Pfeifer’s agile
frame was corseted by a vinyl cat suit. The rather favorable public
reaction and publicity resulted in the marketing and selling of over
3,000 of Luther’s similarly themed costumes. Also, one might remember
the 1993 Super Bowl Sunday Pepsi-Cola commercial that featured the
French maid motif, which sent subsequent equivalent costume sales
soaring. A further example of Ms. Antoinette’s influence is witnessed
in the film Nowhere. Debi Mazar, one of the actresses in the film,
insisted upon original creations from Versatile Fashions (Mazar’s
outspoken worship of the pin-up girl icon Bettie Page has been well-documented).
Also, Ann Gillian donned a corselet designed by Luther for Gillian’sSugar Babies role. This notoriety gained the attention of the retail
market, and the haute underthings specialty shop
For Luther, the reality that vinyl, leather, satin, velvet, and chiffon layers have graduated from “specialty” materials to the runways of international haute couture is of great import. The lady herself will be the first to emphasize when she discovered the noticeable influence these fabrics have had on the pieces coming from top tier fashion houses. During the last two decades, Versatile Fashions has virtually dominated the universe of provocative fantasy for a discreet clientele. And, due to that, it has become the third largest retailer in the alternative clothing industry.
Luther is quick to recall that fetish fashion is much more than occasion wear; her well-constructed pieces are valued fashion must-haves—she notes many loyal clients who continue to send their tattered corsets to have them re-braced. Also, there is a notable theme in her conversations about her work—a quality of compassion peppers her philosophy, and it is obvious that Ms. Antoinette is no mistress of the dark. More than anything, she is a woman who has created the comfort zone of a well-lit emporium for fashionistas who enjoy the dress-to-thrill concept of clothing. The fulcrum of her philosophy is the idea that expressive couture can make one feel beautiful on the outside, which, in turn, inspires a confident inner beauty.
Indeed, one will not find it at all difficult to envision Luther marching to the beat of a different drummer. Although no longer the owner of Versatile Fashions, Luther remains the remarkable and visionary majorette one finds leading any forward-thinking fashion parade.