Meet 'The Desperate House Dolls'

Meet 'The Desperate House Dolls'

Jun 27, 2024

What does it mean to be constantly perceived? For its latest drop, Peeled by Marie Sommers explores the question with clothing, tapping into the emotional reality of living in a body. In a world of incessant over consumption and sexualization on our feeds, for Sommers, it can feel as though there is a loss of autonomy when it comes to the relationship we have with our bodies.

Enter The Inflatable Set, a bodysuit printed with an inflatable sex doll, introduced in the brand's editorial called "The Desperate House Dolls." "My work has always revolved around the body, I started out as a figure painter and moved into fashion, taking that obsession of the human form with me," Sommers tells PAPER. "After starting my brand Peeled by Marie Sommers, I hyper fixated on the concept of interactive clothing, working on several collections that featured custom painted hands sewn into the garments to cover or expose the wearer's body. I wanted to explore the idea of being nude without actually being nude."

Below, PAPER chatted with Sommers about where the genius idea for the design came from, the realities of living in our bodies and if we have any autonomy in our social media-centric reality.

Tell me all about the Inflatable Set!

I had been honing in on the Peeled hands concept for so long, I started to think about what the next step forward would be for my brand. Thinking about body trends and the Y2K resurgence, I was obsessing on the idea of body modifications and the era of the BBL. I was looking into butt pads and silicone breasts, creating folders of every man made item we use to enhance and change our appearance. We are essentially building our own exteriors with modular interchangeable parts.

This led me to what that means in its most extreme and final form: a life-size sex doll. I was drawn to the accessibility and quick fix of inflatable sex dolls, in particular. I ordered a bunch of blow-up dolls and photographed them at different angles (shoutout to my landlord for the unexpected visit). I needed to figure out how to translate that imagery to an actual body and have it be wearable. I was like okay how can I blow up a booty without relying on 3D shapes? This eventually led me to The Inflatable Set, a new body in a box.

What was the idea behind the creative direction for the shoot?

When thinking about how to photograph The Inflatable Set, I really wanted to humanize the dolls. When we think of a blow-up doll, we think of them as a product, being bought and used and stored. They are owned by the purchaser. I wanted to highlight the dolls' experience. What does it look like to live in their world, the mundane and deeply emotional reality in which they live?

I talked to my talented friend Elle about wanting to use the lighting to create intimacy, to make us feel like we are getting a sneak peak into highly personal moments. The shoot was also meant to mimic the strong community that women create within an industry or ecosystem — the way we protect and entertain one another, the act of getting ready together and how we find connection in that process, the way we show up and hold families together, the way we have fun and bond even in activities that may have first originated for the pleasure of others versus ourselves.

What is the "emotional reality" of living in a body?

A goal for me personally has always been to think of my body as a necessary functioning part of my existence — a home for my soul and nothing more. But in the society we live in, it feels impossible to separate our bodies from what others project onto it. We are conditioned to find value in only a very small percentage of body types. All other bodies are deemed wrong in a culture grounded in fatphobia, racism, transphobia and gender identity expectations.

What does it mean to you to be constantly perceived?

With social media and living life for the most part online, I think there is an imbalance between how we look and who we are. People see your IG posts and fall in love with your body and who they imagine you to be. We don’t get to have a say in the narrative they create in their minds. Some random man from Idaho is having a sexual fantasy of you, and it's out of your control. To exist online is a continuous battle of the natural need for self-expression while simultaneously not wanting to be exposed to the endless consumption of others.

In this world of sexualization and over-consumption, how do you think there is a loss of autonomy when it comes to the relationship we have with our bodies?

In a culture that often objectifies and commodifies bodies, it's hard not to feel a loss of autonomy over our own. We are constantly bombarded with ads of products to improve how we look, while also being shamed for not loving ourselves wholly. The amount of times I've been advertised some sort of medieval contraption to eliminate a double chin is nauseating.

I think social media has also opened the floodgates of accessibility. I have gone through many phases in the past of trying to figure out what form of online expression is most true to myself. I’ve had eras of being too ashamed of how I look to even post a wholesome selfie, and I’ve had eras of thirst traps and social media sex work. Both have left me confused on who is in control, me or the consumer. Now I find myself looking for a balance, one that feels like I am sharing my body in a way that serves me. The Inflatable Set mimics that dichotomy. The wearer seems to be fully exposed, nude in the most hyper sexual way, but in reality is completely covered and in control of what they choose to share of themselves.

Photos courtesy of Marie Sommers

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