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why caitlyn jenner’s cover corset matters

Channeling original Playboy bunny Marilyn Monroe on what would have been her 89th birthday, Caitlyn Jenner’s corset is a powerfully subversive statement.

by Emily Manning
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Jun 1 2015, 10:50pm

Those who kaught the recent Keeping Up With The Kardashians: About Bruce special saw Khloé surprise (then) Bruce with a few staples for her stepfather's new wardrobe. As Bruce gleefully unwrapped a pair of size 13 Christian Louboutin white pumps, Khloé bashfully cautioned "I don't know her taste yet, so I'm trying to figure that out." "Well, to be honest with you, I don't know her taste either," Bruce admitted, admiring the gold-tipped stiletto heels. Caitlyn Jenner might still be figuring out her day-to-day style, but we got our first glimpse at the trans trailblazer's look with the unveiling of her Vanity Fair cover earlier today.

Shot by Annie Leibovitz and styled by the magazine's Fashion and Style Director, Jessica Diehl, at Jenner's Malibu home, the intimate spread sees Caitlyn openly inhabiting her own space as a woman. Dressed in off-the-shoulder Donna Karan and plunging Zac Posen gowns in Vanity Fair's behind the scenes sneak peek, Caitlyn's confidence is pretty undeniable. Yet it's the 65-year-old's vintage corset cover look that's the most revolutionary. With her hair styled in natural waves by legend Oribe, Caitlyn is positioned as classically beautiful American bombshell with a helping of body positivity. She also chose, notably, not to wear tights.

Caitlyn's corset recalls similar pastel colored satin uniforms sported by Hugh Hefner's squad of bunnies from his Playboy Club's original Chicago location, which opened its doors to keyholders in 1960. The silhouette's popularity is due in part to Hef's first ever cover star, a little known actress named Marilyn Monroe, back in 53. Yet that nipped waist, underwire lift, and sleek structure can be traced back even further to Christian Dior's pioneering New Look silhouette from 47.

With this history in mind, Caitlyn's cover is perhaps a more subversive statement than the Jean Paul Gaultier conical corset Madonna rocked in her 90 Blonde Ambition world tour. By situating herself within the covergirl paradigm that shaped society's notions of femininity throughout the 20th century, Jenner is powerfully claiming space and finally finding freedom in her new gender identity. While this certainly isn't the first time the sex symbol's iconic image has been reinterpreted on a contemporary cover (see Lindsay Lohan, Kate Upton, and most recently Caitlyn's own stepdaughter Kim Kardashian) and some might find this perpetuation a bit problematic, at the end of the day, we can't help but see a trans woman standing confidently in Marilyn's image as beautiful.

"The 'fashion' becomes less important than the actual style of the image," Diehl told Into the Gloss of her approach to styling celebrity covers. "You almost want to stay away from trends because you don't want to look at any of these pictures and think, 'Oh, that was fall/winter 2011.' You want to look and go, 'Oh, that's a beautiful picture of Kate Winslet...'" And while it took the sleuths at TMZ a mere matter of hours to track down where Diehl scored Jenner's 36D satin cream corset (West Hollywood's famous Trashy Lingerie) it's not really about where it was purchased or even what label it boasts, but — true to Diehl's point — the larger statement the image makes. 

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Text Emily Manning
Image via @VanityFair