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Style Watch

Do-it-yourself kink comes out to play at Sin City

Style Watch By Pieta Woolley

Publish Date: August 2, 2007

If Pride Week is like the LGBT Christmas, Sin City Fetish Night is like the Festivus for the rest of us­–with spanking and kinkier style. The event, held the second and fourth Saturday of each month (the next one is August 11; details at ), recently celebrated its six-year anniversary. One of the keys to its 400-guests-per-night success is that it's the cure for frustration with Vancouver's casual street aesthetic.

Dressed as a very naughty angel at Gastown's Club 23 West (23 West Cordova Street) on July 28, Rachel Sherwood was on vacation from her usual vocation: Guess-jeans-wearing wife and mother of two. She loves clothes, but her normal life doesn't call for her to sex it up in public.

"Everyone at fetish night is bringing out something that's inside them that they can't show on a daily basis," Sherwood told the Straight in a phone interview the following day. "They're either looking for a part of themselves or running away from something."

Sherwood's costume was tame compared to some at the event. On the dark and smoky dance floor, two burly men writhed chained together, one in a kilt and the other in pants, otherwise bare except for their boots. One lithe woman in dreadlocks wore electrical-tape X-marks over her nipples, black wings, and little else. A half-naked chef, a pirate, a naughty schoolgirl, two nuns, and a sailor milled around by the bar.

The unifying concept: everyone pays attention to what they wear, and what they wear is an authentic expression of their sexuality–straight, gay, bi, or whatever. It's a see-and-be-seen event, and no peepers are allowed: everyone must come in some kind of costume.

Michael Barrick, Sin City's official photographer, noted that since dressing up is so unusual here, it's a West Coast fetish in itself. As well, he said, the vulnerability of showcasing something genuine about yourself and the overt sexual tone of the night breed a live-and-let-live mentality that's missing from most club nights.

"You see the whole gamut [at Sin City]," he explained in a phone interview with the Straight . "Some people are into things that are not your thing, but no one gets judged there. It makes it an interesting place."

Barrick, a computer professional whose alter ego is a goth persona called Atratus, notes that Sin City is one of the tamer fetish nights, with a focus on costume rather than sex play. He quipped that the attraction is S&M–"'Stand and model', rather than 'sadism and masochism'."

The unsexiness of everyday wear, Barrick said, is a reflection of the blurring of gender roles in society. He explained that fetish night is a challenge to that, which is why so many participants choose period clothes: powdered wigs, corsets, and lace.

His own costume included a black, ruffled Edwardian blouse from Venus & Mars (315 Cambie Street)–one of the coven of fetish-inspired stores near Cambie and West Cordova streets. (A second location is at 708 Columbia Street, New Westminster.) Sin City's style aesthetic emphasizes do-it-yourself garb, with many participants donning items from thrift and dollar stores, the Internet, Davie Street love shops, and such fetish standbys as Coquitlam's Fetwear (931C Brunette Avenue).

Sherwood, whose alter ego is Candy Sunnywhip, said many of her friends are scared of the fetish concept, or just don't understand it.

"It's so much more than sex," she said. "It's a different way of being. Once a month, I get to not be a wife, not be a mother, and be something else.…When else can I wear six-inch hooker heels?"

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