In early 2007, Kim Kardashian rose to fame after what seemed like a career-wrecking scandal. Mired by press surrounding a certain tape, most celebrities at the height of toxic and misogynistic tabloid culture would have been written off by the general public. Not so for the heiress of the Kardashian fortune. Since then, Kardashian has been the embodiment of the aughts: someone who is famous for being famous, whose life is broadcast on social media. Whether you like her or not, there is no doubt that she has become a pop-cultural phenomenon in her own right.
Crowned “the queen of social media”, Kardashian is followed by 218M people on Instagram with each of her posts attracting millions of likes and comments. Kardashian’s body is not just visible, in the mainstream, having been emulated by surgeons and influencers for over half a decade now, but her body is also the implicit focus of many of her posts. As Sastre writes, Kardashian “capitalizes on a body that in her case is positively marked as ‘exotic’ without any of the burdens that typically also accompany that designation”. Indeed, Kardashian is, in a way, her body – exaggerated, defying social norms by amplifying feminine beauty standards: with her extreme curves, Kardashian ushered in an era that challenged the waif-thin model body of the previous period.
The public’s “interest” in the Kardashian body was enacted by the controversies surrounding her homemade sex tape in 2007. Arguably, it was this incident that turned Kardashian’s body into a commodity. Though the media attempted to denigrate the mogul in the wake of her sex tape scandal, throughout the years, she has reclaimed her bodily agency and utilized it to build her empire.
Her figure; at once sensuous and curvaceous evokes a certain air of fertility and femininity, and her most iconic sartorial moments are those that accentuate these features. Take her MET Gala red carpet appearance in 2018 in custom Thierry Mugler. Donning a latex corseted dress matched perfectly with her skin tone, the dress hugged every curve. Kardashian looked like she had just stepped out of the Mediterranean dripping.
Custom-made for Kardashian by Mugler himself, the dress marks the first time Mugler has designed something for the Mugler house after his retirement. In order to understand more about the dress as well as the reason why Kardashian was the perfect fit for it, we must first know the artist that created the work, Thierry Mugler.
With the evolution of fashion, in contemporary culture Mugler is not a name that is regularly mentioned in mainstream media anymore – even though his creations are still worn by celebrities on the runway, they appear to avant-garde and even costume-y for the regular person. Indeed, Mugler never designed for an everyday woman, “Mugler’s idealized figures are extravagant, sexy, and sometimes irreverent; his women are self-confident, free, and have fun.. The designer was never shy about making women sexual subjects, not objects for someone else’s pleasure, but by an erotic maximization of their image, mixing humour and sensuality.” The same could also be used as the description for Kardashian’s dress with the way it constrains and molds her curves. Mugler’s women are unapologetically bold, and they walk down the street knowing full well that all eyes are on them. Kardashian embodies every trait that Mugler loves in women, and it is no surprise that he chose the social media empress as his muse for the latex dress.
When someone reads about Kardashian or sees Mugler’s designs, the same kind of question, inevitably, is asked. For Kardashian, often it remains, How is it possible for her to become famous by capitalizing on her body? Whereas for Mugler, it is How is it possible that such designs can come to reality, and who would actually wear them? Both Kardashian and Mugler defy the possibilities of how a woman’s body can or should be perceived.
It is debatable whether Kardashian’s persona is progressive or not due to her promotion of body modification and her excessive usage of image-altering applications. However – one thing remains sure, Kardashian-ism is predicated on the body, the same fixation which helped Mugler rise to cacophonous fame.
Delora is an Editorial Intern at liminul.
Hanoian born and raised, she grew up in a village with a rich history of handicraft. Her favourite place? Museums. Favourite phrase? The Eye Has to Travel.