Feminist Friday: Kicky Pantsuit Edition

“Shelley Hack jumps out of a Rolls-Royce and strides confidently down the streets of New York City in a kicky pantsuit, embodying all the freedom and confidence of the women’s movement with none of the baggy clothes or scowling.”

 – We Were Feminists Once (Andi Zeisler)

I recently started reading Andi Ziesler’s We Were Feminists Once, and by “started reading” I mean I’ve almost finished the first chapter. But I encountered the quote above, and haven’t been able to move beyond the word “kicky”. I think I might want a kicky pantsuit! For clarification, the quote is describing an iconic ad for Charlie, a perfume by Revlon, and the first perfume to become a “blockbuster”. This ad is largely attributed to its commercial success. (Shelley Hack is the ad’s model.)

As it turns out, the usage of the work kicky dates back to the 1790’s when it was used to indicate something that was clever or showy/gaudy. It’s usage as slang for something that was very chic/modish, exciting, or even “far out” pops up in the 1950’s and 60’s. (Source: The Dictionary of American Slanghttp://www.dictionary.com/browse/kicky). Incidentally, this is also when its usage peaks.


(Source: Google)

“But, wait!” you say, flipping through your mental catalog of Shakespearean dialog. “What about All’s Well That Ends WellI?” Aah, yes. Shakespeare uses “kicky-wicky” to refer to Parolles’ wife:

He wears his honour in a box, unseen / That hugs his kicky-wicky here at home / Spending his manly marrow in her arms (Act II, Scene 3)

(No, I didn’t make that connection myself. I had some help from an Internet search.)

At any rate, it’s hard not to associate “kicky” with Malibu Barbie, and I’m Shelley Hack isn’t really set free by her kicky pantsuit. Kicky-wickies needed to be contained by their burly men, though I could be on board with them at least being feisty. The Revlon ad is trying to rebrand feminism as pretty and sexy, or even fun. I mean, that’s why I’m stuck on “kicky” – it’s a fun word! The word itself isn’t gendered, though I think it’s safe to say we associate things that feel flirty as being feminine, and I can’t really imagine being presented with an image of a man being described as kicky in attire but only because this isn’t standard marketing jargon.

Still, I do love the word kicky, and surely it can be added to my lexicon in a delightful, gender neutral, yet slightly nostalgic, way. So, have a kicking, kicky day.

*Disclaimer about featured image: I cropped the original ad and applied the blue filter.

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  1. Inspector 75 April 29, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    In the Shakespeare I think that’s saying that the man wastes his time on that kind of woman…or am I wrong?

    1. Sarah April 29, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      Hmm…I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. As the term refers specifically to a spouse, I don’t imagine it would quite take on that meaning, but I guess you could read it as men spending too much time on women in general. Kicky-wicky doesn’t sound like someone warranting all that much respect!

      1. Inspector 75 April 29, 2016 at 3:19 pm

        kicky-wicky? So, I’m suggesting the characters are saying that sex with the “kicky-wicky” is a waste when one should be serving in war. Of course, that’s without knowing the play at all but just looking at that speech in full.

        ….To the wars, my boy, to the wars!
        He wears his honour in a box unseen,
        That hugs his kicky-wicky here at home,
        Spending his manly marrow in her arms,
        Which should sustain the bound and high curvet
        Of Mars’s fiery steed. To other regions
        France is a stable; we that dwell in’t jades;
        Therefore, to the war!

        1. Sarah April 29, 2016 at 4:04 pm

          Yes, my bad. I should have done my due diligence and read the whole speech. Not really trying to relate this to a retro era usage of “kicky” (50’s and 60’s) but I just thought it was interesting that it also popped up in this play. I’m sure it was probably used as phonetic play here, as I couldn’t find another instance of the word in his work or from this period, but it’s still flippant if nothing else.


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