One of the interesting things--to me, anyhow--is how John Willie's drawings from his fetish publication BIZARRE (the ball-gagged face that launched a thousand glossy 'zine ships) were created during the late 1940s and through the 1950s and yet evoke the strict glamour of the 1920s and 1930s. At that point, fashion wasn't the self-referential echo-chamber of retro-inspired street styles that it is now, and I wonder if this favoring of earlier styles would be seen as hopelessly out-of-date and mayb
e even a bit naive.
There's also a smirky sense of humor that goes along with Willie's deeply eccentric aesthetic. Where there's a sense of grime and meanness to the bondage mags of the 70s and onwards, Willie's tongue is planted firmly in his cheek in his photos and illustrations. Sure, the content is way--WAY--over-the-top, from the depictions of different types of gags to the various ways in which a model's hands can be wound behind her back, but one of the things that keeps BIZARRE from being despicable is that its look and feel are that of a madcap fantasy. BIZARRE is about as realistic as "Barbarella" or H. Rider Haggard's "She." Oh--and there's the not-small-at-all matter of John Willie being a superb draftsman, even if his figures bear more resemblance to an engineer's sketch of a particularly complicated machine than to any human being currently walking the earth.
BIZARRE certainly implies a variety of arcane sexual acts, but the drawings within its pages focus on the eroticized trappings of this sex. A favorite motif of Willie's is the elaborately fetishized "Fancy Dress" or "Motley" outfit. In these drawings to
the right and below, his devious creativity is on full display. While Diana the Huntress and the French Maid might be obvious choices for a kink enthusiast, it takes a special brand of brain to blend a straitjacket with a festive Christmas cracker:
Miss Bizarre, shown below, combines pretty much ALL of the various and sundry Special Needs from the pages of BIZARRE into a single outfit of incredible absurdity. While there's certainly the intent to titillate, the accompanying text, directed at a lady who might discover a copy of the magazine (in her partner's sock drawer or under the bed or hidden in the bathroom or wherever people kept porn in 1953), is satirical in tone:
If a fair maiden finds the light of her life reading "Bizarre," she will realise that something is in the wind. The question is what? What must she do? What must she wear to please him? One false step and a beautiful romance may be loused up--but don't worry! We're right with you in your hour of crisis! Just leave it to Willie.It is assumed that you are already an expert in wrestling, judo and boxing. Therefore if you are required to take the dominant role you will be able to cope with the situation, but it may be the other way so you must appear very helpless and feminine.He may like boots, so you wear one boot; long sheer stockings, so you display one on the other leg--held up tightly by at least six suspenders. Similarly you have a bloomer and fancy garter on the other leg, and over it a pair of brief frilly scanties.The extremely wasp-waisted corset of black kid has convenient rings to which shafts can be attached should you be required to serve as a girl pony; and the ring in the nose in this case is an excellent substitute for a bit to which the reins are attached.Your makeup must be extreme, including a tattoo on your left shoulder, and you are drenched in perfume. You are covered in jewels but the bracelet on your right wrist is a pair of handcuffs. Your long hair, scarcely visible from the front (he may like it short) cascades down your back unbraided under your black gleaming rubber cape whose hood can be brought forward to cover the face (a la Blind Girl Fluff).Having rigged yourself up in this ensemble you strap one arm tightly back at the waist. Then your head held high by the stiffly boned collar, your earrings brushing your shoulders, you pick up a riding quirt, and with the shackles on your ankles jingling, go and interrupt his reading.Now we don't guarantee that this is going to be absolutely perfect. We may have overlooked something but at least it will show an enthusiastic desire to cooperate; and we present the idea with our best wishes for a prosperous and happy New Year.
But gentlemen, you are in NO WAY off the hook. What's good for the goose is good for the gander (as my very earthy, very Scottish great-grandmother used to say, though probably not under these circumstances). Heels and corsets appear to be recommended for events from "Informal Evenings" all the way to the Board Room.
Consider yourselves on notice!