“Don’t move. I wanna look at the outline of your body,” John instructs Elizabeth as he tilts a lamp towards her, casting dusty bedroom light over her and her white button-down shirt. Through it, we can see her waist —— where it caves and rounds —— and her crescent breasts, but really, all we’re seeing is what we’re half-seeing. Her shape is perceived through another shape.
Throughout 9 ½ Weeks, Basinger drowns in shapes: heavy cable-knit sweaters, cocooning cardigans, asymmetric collars, boots and wool socks that ruche at her ankles, shirts that droop in shades like pale rose, ecru, mauve. Her everyday coat is a faded grey linen trench that parachutes on her body and prompts a certain floppiness as if she might, at any moment, pull Harpo faces or waddle down the street like Charlie Chaplin. At one point she asks John, “You know, sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be one of the guys.” He buys her a suit and a mustache, and at the Algonquin, she pantomimes her impression of masculinity for kicks.
But there’s also something sensual about the fit of her clothing. The weight of a sweater three or four sizes too big has an uncanny way of conceiving the nude beneath the bulk. Like women who cover their faces with their long hair or only wear black, Basinger portrays a woman who swaths agitation in fabric, clutching the loose creases of her sleeves, or burrowing in the broad shoulders of her coat ——”
AND HERE, quotes from the panel:
FIONA: “There are different modes of inconspicuous chic. There are garments so soft, so supple, that your body feels awakened like by the fluttering fingers of a kind lover after you’ve popped a klonopin; that’s a pleasure-oriented luxury.”
DURGA: “I sometimes feel like I have sought invisibility as a way of fitting in: wearing all black, unflattering shapes, nothing tight, uniform-ease, little to no color, trousers with pockets for feeling like I have a purpose.”
KATHERINE: “I like feeling completely simple——which is different than looking unremarkable——in something that has some depth. I can walk, sit cross legged on the floor, slouch, jump into a hug, but there’s absolutely recognizable effort. Layers, texture, tension, whatever.”
FIONA: “I shop not-anxiously but actively. I’m discriminating. Then, ideally, I can fling whatever on without thinking too much about it.”
ARABELLE: “But anxiety is part of my identity, and I like clothes that bring it out. If I have to suffer this mortal coil, you’re gonna hear about it. Everything I do is out of the anxious death drive, let’s be real.”
HARI: “I first experienced luxury as something so unattainable it wasn’t even material. Fashion was more about inspiration, options, and propositions. Tips and tricks! (…) So there’s a part of me that wants to say that I first experienced minimalism as an early brand of the most personal feminism. I did not know that I wanted to be a woman when I first heard the word “minimalism,” but I was certainly well on my way to forming an Ideal Woman in my head, one who eventually became so big beautiful and hungry that I would have to start turning into her. Fashion came first, Minimalism came second, and the rest is history.”