If men remain somehow marginal in relation to fashion, whether in theory or practice, then it is equally axiomatic that women remain central. The relentless contemporary emphasis upon appearances, unequivocally facilitated if not driven through the expansion of media and visual cultures more widely, has also “upped the ante” particularly for women who now no longer have to only consider what to wear, but also diets, exercise and plastic surgery, as increasingly men do too; yet the sense in which the male of the species is sucked into this world of looking, an almost nausea-inducing seesawing process of narcissism and scopophilia, does not detract from the pressures upon women, it merely adds to them. The problem here is not that genders are somehow becoming more balanced on their own swing; rather that the seesaw of vanity and voyeurism has got bigger and more powerful for everybody. In this slightly bizarre zero sum game of the genders, men have not taken from women; rather they have been added to them. Aside from any religious – whether puritanical or Islamic – critique of

women’s decorousness, the only attack on this tyranny of mirrors has come from second wave feminism. However, the bra burning, women’s libbing and beauty boycotting sisterhood of the 1970s has all but been defeated. Girls outperform boys in school and women routinely have careers, with or without children and husbands, but of course they can do all that and look great too. Today’s woman is “everywoman” as Chaka Khan once sang “it’s all in me”, so being beautiful hardly holds you back; it just propels you even further forward. This is perhaps the key to the crisis in second wave feminism – femininity is no longer the problem but has become some kind of armoury or battle dress and that loathed object of subordination, the stiletto, has now become the “killer heel”. It is this rather extraordinary sense of oscillating tension between seeing women as victims and women as warriors that informs this chapter and axiomatic within that is fashion and the conjunction of several factors: the construction of femininity, the role of fetishism and the critique offered by feminism – and this most unholy of trinities will form the focus of our investigation.