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Richards, A.K. (1996). Ladies Of Fashion: Pleasure, Perversion Or Paraphilia. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:337-351.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:337-351

Ladies Of Fashion: Pleasure, Perversion Or Paraphilia

Arlene Kramer Richards

The author considers the reasons why interest in fashion is important in female development. Freud's comment that ‘all women are clothes fetishists’ and his explanation that a woman uses clothes to show that ‘one can find in her everything that one can expect from women’ are amplified and challenged by other authors and psychoanalytic evidence. Caper's (1994) focus on the erotic meaning of his patient's clothing is contrasted with the use ego-psychologists have made of ‘appropriate’ clothing and grooming as markers of mental health and intact functioning. A case of a woman who had a shopping symptom is considered. The roots of the symptom in her fantasy life, its replacement of genital satisfaction, its precursors in interactions with her parents and its use in enacting sado-masochistic fantasies is elaborated in the case material. A second case briefly illustrates the role ascetic refusal of clothing may play in some women's psychic lives. Use of clothing as a way of displaying the body, as an indicator of economic power, as an incitement to envy, and as a sexual enticement is discussed. Examples of understanding of the psychological aspects of interest in clothing are drawn from art, anthropology, sociology, political science and philosophy. The paper concludes with the idea that clothing and shopping for clothing can range from normal pleasure to paraphilia and leaves open the question whether it can be a perversion. Focusing on clinical material about shopping for fashionable clothing, the author shows how shopping can become central in some women's lives as it is important in many. It considers the boundaries between source of pleasure, paraphilia and sexual fetish as they are exemplified in women's attitudes towards clothing and their use of it.

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