The "Seduction" exhibit currently on at the Museum at FIT raises some interesting questions about what makes an outfit seductive.
Take this French afternoon dress from around 1785. It was a bit too tight and structured to qualify as sexy in its day (though the flesh-colored bodice filling is suggestive). A woman intent on seduction would have been just as covered but more déshabillé. Her garments might show less of her body's shape, but their looseness would imply accessibility.
Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Next, when I cast mine eyes, and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!
Finally, the genius of Halston was to produce clothes that were simultaneously body-conscious and freely moving, that simultaneously concealed and revealed. The Galliano is great, but I think the most seductive dress in the exhibition is this one, donated to the museum by Lauren Bacall.
Watch a slideshow of the exhibit here.