The term body-conscious, when applied to fashion, tends to mean something curve-hugging, shape-revealing, and above all else, sensual. Greek designer Dimitra Petsa’s garments are all that, but they are also body-conscious in another sense: they consider what’s happening inside the human body as much as they flatter its silhouette. Petsa’s most well-known contribution to fashion is her “wet look,” a proprietary method of draping, stitching, and combining sheer, usually white fabrics to make garments that seem to be drenched with water.
“This is really the outcome of very long-term research for me because I’ve always been very interested in bodily fluids, the idea of wetness, and how in Western society we are really taught to hide our wetness. If you cry in public, you have to hide it. If you sweat, you need to hide it. If you breastfeed in public—that has even been forbidden in some places,” Petsa says. “I felt this very intense internalised oppression even around this.”
Her solution was to make garments that celebrated bodily fluids in all their forms. While she offers corsets that reveal a breast for breastfeeding and trousers that emulate urine, Petsa’s wet-look dresses are her calling card. They have been worn by Gigi Hadid while pregnant, Arca, Yseult, Rina Sawayama, and Kylie Jenner. And now, in the January issue of Vogue, photographed by Annie Leibovitz and styled by Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Paloma Elsesser wears one, aptly submerged in a body of water. “It took me around six months to develop this technique, though it’s informed by a very old couture technique. It’s very labour-intensive,” Petsa says, noting she’s not keen to reveal too much about how she makes dry clothing look wet. “I drape every piece, so it’s really personal.”
Working with her customers on wet-look pieces, Petsa continues, is really somewhere between fashion design and therapy—a habit she picked up from her grandmother, who ran a seamstress shop in Greece. “It’s about a human connection; a seamstress is also a bit like a psychologist, you know?” Petsa says. “I always ask which parts of your body you want to reveal and highlight and which parts you want concealed. The wet look is very much about: How do you want to look and feel in your body?”