Thewater Broke

A hazy snapshot freezes a spectral silhouette within a bluish dusk. Her body is bare except for the soaked ivory material that cloaks her distended, pregnant stomach. She gently strokes her abdomen with jewel-laden, slender fingers; their sharp, attenuated nails appearing like gilded fangs. Behind the machine lens we momentarily embody a voyeur: the image shimmers with both fecundity and sexual sensuality: raising issues of objectification, consent. Dimitra Petsa’s second collection The Water Broke perpetuates her research into eco- feminist literature and fashion design, while parodying and destabilizing patriarchal imaginings of the maternal body.

A jarring dichotomy permeates throughout Western civilisation: representations of childbirth, breastfeeding and pregnancy suffuse purity, stoicism and suffering or function as lurid, fetishized (think Pornhub MILF categories) titillation for a presumed male audience. Across the following pages Dipetsa gently unfurls and collapses this longstanding split: teasing out the erring eroticism of motherhood. On one spread a bewitching vixen poses in the shape of an Italian renaissance nude – as if she emerged from hourglass swathes in oil and tempera – wearing a bone-coloured bridal corset cut to reveal one breast; glinting with a pearlescent ring in the shape of a tear-drop. The matching high-rise G-string softly supplants her maidenly nipple blush. On another page a scintillating medieval saint wears just pale knee-high boots with an ethereal headdress – drenched over the curvature of her skull – while brandishing a bushel of white, silk roses. Adjacent to her a scantily clad nymph with frosted nail–claws stands on a bed of moss: spreading itself like dark water over a sloping glade. Her trousers have no pockets except for one at the front – a ‘pussy pocket’ – facilitating masturbatory access to a florid clitoris.

The collection is ravelled by a grace falling somewhere between art- historical Venetian sublimity and Rei Kawakubo’s “Body meets Dress, Dress meets Body” 1997 presentation. It posits the natural beauty in fluctuating corporeality: offering garments that permit and encourage a changing shape, along with the leaking of bodily fluids (through breast milk and orgasm-induced vaginal discharge). Like all of her work, the look book is a product of entirely female labour from the styling to the set design. Sylvie MacMillan created the ghoulish paws, responding and inputting to the project with uneven, growing nails juxtaposed against a blooming, fertile stomach. While the London-based goldsmith Hag Stone, produced a specially commissioned exquisite jewellery collection, whose pieces rhyme with the notions of female purity explored in the clothing. In Greco-Roman mythology pearls, in particular, are imbued with symbolic virtue. Like Cleopatra melting the most luxurious pearl of antiquity in a chalice of vinegar and then drinking it, the women behind The Water Broke dissolve misogynistic illustrations of oozing, dripping maternal corporealities beneath their world’s eerie, enchanted half-light.