Prologue to “Piel de Ángel (Historias de la ropa interior femenina)”

It looks like women don’t easily accept any competence from an object in the field of seduction and, when a gentleman gets the order of praises wrong and anticipates the continent to the content, he can say goodbye to the favours of the lady and hello to scorn from society, which will surely consider him to be a deviationist.

With this reaction, I then wonder why women have confiscated every dressing invention which may, at any level, be found attractive, over the centuries. It is a fact that, except for bras, all the other devices, like laces, stockings, heels, wigs, corsets and other frills and frou-frous, were attributes, not exactly moral ones, sported and invented by daring courtiers in splendorous and decadent times, which, as it is well-known, are the times when everybody dresses and eats better, provided you are rich.

However, there is no record of whether the said citizens increased their number of conquests with these ornaments, and whether they expressed the same disdain as today’s ladies towards the unbridled passion another poor being might feel for an object from their wardrobe. In any case, the male reign in the exuberance and fantasy of clothing didn’t last very long, and the industrial revolution, supported by Victorian Puritanism, ended up making the male miserable by favouring dark grey as the colour and sadness essential to obtain a job.

The passion of the fetishist for the garter or the shoe could be seen then as a wish to return to a lost territory, as a Proustian longing, in which the cupcake is substituted by a black stocking with a seam, and the smell by the touch or the brush of silky cloth. The enormous increase in the census of heterosexual transvestites, according to Kinsey and today’s sexologists, which would mean that men assume the crusade of safekeeping femininity, in periods in which the representation of all that’s feminine seems to weaken, holding it until femmes go back to it just as they did in other times, would contribute to this thesis.

Anyway, it seems evident that females do not consider getting dressed as an emotion or ceremony, they don’t see certain self-satisfaction in their attire, they don’t really know exactly why they adorn themselves with non-functional uncomfortable ornaments and, in short, they aren’t even sure of the recipient to whom to offer this paraphernalia of the finery. We know that the bright and colourful dance of the female animal before the male has genetic purposes, but heat as an inducer of beauty enhancement seems to have disappeared in the human animal. On being asked, most women state that they dress to follow the fashion, to compete with female friends, or to stand out among people, which would give a clear social component to the act of adorning oneself. Sometimes, but not often, there are women who accept suggestions from their partner as to choosing pieces of clothing, but this submissiveness to somebody else’s taste is normally part of the victim-executioner game, relationship that some women, though not many, may be able to accept and which forces them to wear erotic objects, which means giving up their pride.

However, despite that defence mechanism, based on biological pragmatisms, I am still wondering where the female anaesthesia towards touch, smell, brightness, texture and many other artificial worlds comes from. Artificial worlds that are there, giving out beauty and fascination around them without women taking any notice of their charm. Personally, I have long conversations with them about this phenomenon and I try to help them discover sensualities and ritualizations in the use of the material piled up in their dressing room. I whisper to them that I love almost everything women wear in touch with their skin. I tell them I’m writing a story which would be called “La vestición” (“The Act of Dressing”), in which, contrary to what’s normal in gallant episodes, I would tell the erotic intensification of a man as he dresses his partner, following a certain ritual. Despite what I may tell them, everything ends up being useless as regards the loving profitability of the event. Except for an encounter on the terrace of a bar at the airport in Seville, with a technological background which wasn’t appropriate to the topic at all, where there could be an interesting agreement over the possibilities of the enchantment a shoe, which was very briefly held by the toe of a foot and wisely balanced, can produce on an admirer of those things, that is me, I have never found a clarifying answer to this demand, to this search, and I won’t deny it is an interested one, over the possible feminine participation in the fetishist act.

I suspect Lola Gavarrón’s book, whose prologue I write without reading the book, because she thought it was appropriate to keep the text away from me with the same modesty with which her aunts hid their underwear, will open a debate over the deficiencies I have mentioned and will, at least, fill a gap in our literature. Her “Piel de ángel” (“Angel Skin”) would get to our hands like a tactile caress we wished wouldn’t end up sliding down to the floor like so many other pieces of cloth, like so many other loves…

Luis García Berlanga

* Prologue to “Piel de Ángel (Historias de la ropa interior femenina)”. Lola Gavarrón. Tusquets Editores, Barcelona, 1982.