Among the list of libido-shrinking fashion crimes for which a trembling public has been thoroughly admonished: acid-washed jeans, jhorts, ski pants, free T-shirts from software companies and all manner of bad footwear. (Yes, Crocs, we're looking at you.)
Despite this climate of red-carpet police finger-pointing, one can surely take some small comfort in the knowledge that an ill-fitting pair of Chinese dragon pants will still get you laid in this world. At least in Tahoe. And those paint-splattered jeans you absent-mindedly threw on before heading off to teach drama class? They're some dude's ultimate aphrodisiac.
Such are the delightful discoveries in the new blog The Clothes That Got Me Laid (lastnightsclothes.wordpress.com), which weaves the details of amorous hookups with the duds that made them possible, all with the thoughtful and inquisitive tone of an enthusiastic sexpert.
Postulates the inaugural entry: "Wearing great clothes & having hot sex are the two most important things in the world, but while it's clear these two things are intimately connected, the nature of that connection isn't clearly understood." Within two months online, it has already seen dramatic spikes in readership after being linked by culture blogs Nerve, Jezebel and Boinkology.
The author, 28-year-old Emily Bartlett Hines, is a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt crafting her dissertation on late 19th/early 20th century British lit. She also co-hosts the Vandy radio show "Curse of the Drinking Class." The Amazon-tall Hines, with her close-cropped bangs, heels and pencil skirt, looks more like a mod bohemian than a typical denizen of the Gold Rush, where she suggests we meet.
"I don't specifically remember when I got the idea, which probably means I was drunk at the time," Hines says with a laugh while sipping a dirty martini. "I was in New York this summer studying at Cornell—at something called the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory. Coming up with fashion blogs is really not what the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory is for, but some evening I was just sitting and bullshitting and drinking with some people there, and I had this idea. I said as a joke, 'I'm gonna start a blog about the clothes that got people laid.' And then people kept saying, 'No, it's a really good idea—you should actually do that.' And I thought maybe I should. So I did."
CTGML's finely drawn narratives include catalog-quality images with links to the retailers, so the site also functions as a kind of buyer's guide to getting lucky. Culled from a self-selected pool of participants and a growing number of reader-submitted tales, the posts attempt to answer the age-old question stumping singles for centuries: "What should you wear if you're going to a bar where there's hot people?"
Turns out pretty much anything will do the trick. Fishnets and fuck-me pumps still sizzle like gangbusters, but the quintessentially casual tank top and jeans—topped off by a modest pair of flats—have also turned many a tipsy bar outing into a bona fide bang sesh. A surprising number of trysts involve jeans, T-shirts and hoodies—something Hines said she expected.
"I thought they'd be like, 'Yeah, I was drunk wearing my scruffy old jeans,' " she says. "And it turned out to be that's what happened. I wasn't all that surprised. That's what people always say anyway–'I don't need to dress sexy. I get more attention in my old favorite T-shirt.' "
And lest you're inclined to think this stuff is only for the sexy people, meet "Claudette."
"I am fat, frumpy and plain," she confesses. The fateful evening she pulled together a pair of jeans, a hot-pink tank top, matching pink lingerie and a pair of Lucchese cowboy boots to meet friends for a basketball game and barhopping, she was going for comfort—not sex appeal. So when she showed up at the arena that night and found herself sitting next to an ideal beau with Louisiana charm, she hardly expected to score.
"[He was] so unbelievably hot that I thought, 'There is no possible way I will be able to convince this boy to make out with me, so I guess I'll just be myself,' " she intimates.
Later that night, she did precisely that—cracking dirty jokes, eating crap bar food, asking brashly for his loose change to play pinball and even secretly swiping a bottle of Cabernet from the bar. Maybe it was the boots, or the giraffe-print cardigan that bolstered her courage, but the gamble worked.
"At some point I realized he'd spent the whole night by my side," she says.
The blog, after all, is called The Clothes That Got Me Laid, so we can guess how things turned out.
As such, Hines rarely indulges in graphic or erotic details of her subjects' consummation. "I don't want it to shy away from talking about sex in a real way, but I don't want it to be graphic," she says. "I don't think it would work as well."
She prefers to prod her confessors for the illuminating detail or the amusing oddity. "I always find out something weird or unusual or funny about it," she says. "I think everyone has this notion that their own dating life is really weird and everyone else's is normal. And it's not the case based on these interviews."
Taken together, the picture that emerges is a refreshingly realistic portrait of young women in today's meat market—a sex ethnography for the bar scene. In part, Hines is correcting a stubbornly persistent portrait of women as less sexually motivated than men.
"A lot of people have an idea about how women act or think that's erroneous," she says. "People think that women either aren't that interested in sex or that they shouldn't have casual sex because they'll just meet horrible guys. Having these stories from all different kinds of women contradicts that."
In an age of no-strings-attached hookups, pop culture still seems bent on promoting images of young women as man-obsessed, grabby materialists whose idea of a grand slam looks more like marital cuddles than postcoital shivers. But Hines' narratives reveal plenty of levelheaded women just trying to make their way through the world—and stopping to have a little fun on the side, be it in a bar bathroom or a backseat.
And the Holy Grail in this case isn't a ring but a magical amulet—that elusive object of clothing that guarantees a sure thing. For one woman it may or may not have been her tattoo. For another, it was simply a white one-shoulder tank top held together by a gold ring.
Not a $600 Dolce Gabbana dress, not a pair of strappy Jimmy Choos. A tank top.
"She said she just thought it was a really flattering shirt that showed off her best features," Hines explains, a little mystified. "I would have thought with these Holy Grails that there'd be something more to it, something more mysterious. But it turns out they're just really nice, flattering items that make the person feel confident."
Hines doesn't see herself as the advice-dispensing type—"You can find some of this out on What Not to Wear," she admits—but she has become something of a sex anthropologist, toiling away under the blanket of night, tracking down hot leads and scribbling tales of seduction onto receipts at bars, hoping they're decipherable in the morning.
She's had a few naysayers—people who don't feel she should encourage "skanky bar hookups" because they don't lead to healthy relationships. But Hines is well aware that proper courtship can just as easily end disastrously while one-night stands can yield long-term love. Her only regret is that more men don't contribute high-five-worthy tales, mainly because straight dudes simply don't remember what they were wearing. "Just keep the idea in mind for the future and send me the email right afterwards, when the clothes are still on the floor," she instructs.
But in these trying economic and political times, she's just happy people are getting laid. You can practically hear her applauding from the sidelines.
"Part of it is I just like stories that have happy endings," she says, munching on the last olive from her martini. "When I hear stories where two people got together and hook up I'm like, 'Aw, that's great. Somebody succeeded at something.' "