Since I stuck my head (complete with running make-up and plastered down hair) above the parapet a couple of weeks ago I’ve had conversations with lots of interesting people (and a couple of dullards, ha ha) about the wetlook fetish and our varying experiences. It surprised me to discover that a significant number of us have very similar stories to tell about how we discovered the joy of wet clothes, and that many of us knew from a very young age – even before we knew anything about sex – that there was something special going on. I’ve also spent a lot of time answering the same questions from dozens of different people, so instead of repeating myself ad infinitum in private messages, I decided it would be better to write properly detailed accounts of my wet experiences. With that in mind, here’s part one of “How Hannah Discovered She Was A Weirdo Who Enjoyed Getting Her Clothes All Soaking Wet”. Catchy title, don’t you think?
There was no great epiphany, no moment at which I felt I had gone from being “normal” to being a wet clothing enthusiast; it’s always been there, like it’s imprinted in my DNA. Ever since I was a little girl, for as far back as my memories go, I was fascinated by seeing people on TV getting their clothes wet. The earliest example I can remember was a Sunday morning show on which young people would do consumer tests on various products. This particular morning, four teenage girls had been tasked with comparing different brands of bubble bath. I hadn’t been paying much attention until now, the programme was aimed at older kids and most of it was a bit over my head, but suddenly I was glued to the screen as it became clear that the best way for the girls to test the product was for each of them to be introduced to a bathtub which had been filled with water and their designated brand of bubble bath. And then for them to get in it. Fully clothed.
I only saw it that one time, but it’s stuck in my memory ever since. (If anyone has a recording of it or knows where it’s available online, please let me know!) There was one girl in a white T-shirt, skirt (or possibly shorts) and plimsolls; another in a black T-shirt, shorts and trainers; yet another in a blue T-shirt, leggings and jelly shoes. Each of them in their respective tubs, splashing around, trying to form as many bubbles as they could from their given product. I only saw it that once, but it stuck in my mind and over the next few days, weeks, years, I replayed it in my mind, asking all sorts of questions. Did they know they were going to have to get their clothes wet? How did they react when they were told? Did they have a change of clothes with them? Did they enjoy bathing fully clothed, or had they been forced into it? What did being in the bath with all your clothes on feel like? Could I try it for myself?
As I got older I came to realise that yes, they almost certainly knew in advance that they were going to have to get in the bath with their clothes on; they were all wearing clothes and shoes that wouldn’t get ruined by a soaking, and even in the 1990s no TV production company would risk a lawsuit by forcing teenagers to do something like this against their will. The answer to the last question came much quicker than that. It went like this:
Me: “Mum, can I get in the bath with my clothes on?”
Oh well, I tried. But the weird feelings wouldn’t go away. As I grew up I started paying more attention to pop music, and when I was eight we got cable TV installed. My favourite channel quickly became The Box, which would allow people to dial an eye-wateringly expensive phone number (which I was never allowed to do) and request a pop video, which would eventually be shown if you kept watching long enough. I remember two videos in particular from those days: “When We Are Together” by Texas, which involved the group’s singer singing the song in a swimming pool wearing a red T-shirt and trousers; and “Let Love Lead The Way” by the Spice Girls who, until recently, had been my favourite group, but Geri had left and the other four had decided to struggle on without her with disappointing results. The song was pretty terrible, but in the video they seemed to be singing it in a room with a terribly leaky roof – Sporty Spice in particular got pretty wet from the falling water, but for some reason the others didn’t. A missed opportunity, but better than nothing.
Between the release of those two videos, in the summer of 2000 I was able to scratch my itch, albeit very slightly. I was ten years old and my parents had decided that my little sister Amy and I were old enough to appreciate a foreign holiday. So it was that we trooped off to the airport one August afternoon and found ourselves deposited in a Spanish hotel twelve hours later. Our initial reaction wasn’t favourable: it was stiflingly hot, dark, weird and confusing, we weren’t allowed to drink the tap water, nobody had thought to buy bottled water, we were disoriented, tired, sweaty, thirsty and we wanted to go home.
The next day, once we’d had breakfast and been allowed to rehydrate, things started to improve. The sky was the clearest blue I’d ever seen and it was already a baking hot day, so naturally my parents’ decision that we should go for a walk and explore our surroundings was met with a chorus of disapproval from Amy and me. “Can’t we play in the pool instead?” Amy whined, pulling her big puppy dog eyes trick that she’d already perfected at the age of seven.
Our parents had a conference and decided that yes, as we’d had a pretty miserable night all told, we would all go to the pool for a bit. But only for a little while, we had to be out of the sun by midday when it was at its hottest. And we’d have to be covered in sunblock. And we’d have to wear T-shirts over our swimsuits, to protect us from sunburn.
Amy was puzzled by this and started to protest, why did we need to wear T-shirts if we had sunblock on? I had to quickly go into protective big sister mode. “Because your shoulders are above the water most of the time, so they burn easily,” I guessed, trying to sound grown up and knowledgeable, but more importantly trying to stop my parents from relenting. Luckily it worked and off we went to the pool, reeking of cheap sunblock, all in our swimming costumes except Mum who wasn’t much of a swimmer and preferred to just read a book and enjoy the sunshine. She looked gorgeous in a white off the shoulder sundress; Dad looked ridiculous in his regulation Embarrassing Dad™ swim shorts, sandals and nothing else. We huddled up with Mum and tried to distance ourselves from Dad as much as possible in the lift down to the poolside. Amy wore her protective red T-shirt over her swimsuit and I had an old white Spice Girls T-shirt over mine. It had been my favourite T-shirt for a long time and I had just about outgrown it, but I was determined to give it a good send off.
My sister and I were both confident swimmers, we’d been having lessons since we were very young, so as soon as Mum and Dad found a place to unload our stuff, Amy was off and running, jumping into the pool with a huge splash. “Wait for me!” called Dad, running after her and jumping in too. Mum was content to read her book and look after the bags while I ran off to join the others. I wasn’t jumping in though, I was all too aware that I was about to find out what wet clothes felt like and I wanted to savour it. The pool had steps set into it at the shallow end so you could just walk down into the water, so I decided that was what I would do.
The water was just lapping around the top step, so only my feet got wet at first, but the cool water felt refreshing. The next step took me in just more than knee deep, and I realised just how cold the water was compared to the heat of the sun. I caught my breath, aware that the next step would take me in deep enough for my T-shirt to start getting wet. Slowly I stepped forward. The water came up to my waist, allowing the bottom of my T-shirt to float around me. A combination of the coldness of the water and the excitement of what I was doing caused me to gasp and take a step back. The water poured out of my T-shirt back into the pool, leaving the wet cotton sticking to me. The Spice Girls’ feet were all wet. Sorry girls, I thought, it’s for a good cause.
By now Dad and Amy had swum over to where I was loitering. Amy stood up and pulled at her T-shirt, giggling as it schlurped away from her tummy and splatted back into place. “You should have just jumped in,” she said. I splashed water at her, a bit put out that I hadn’t been able to enjoy getting all wet on my own. She splashed back, Dad joined in and before long I was properly soaked. Realising I’d missed my chance to enjoy getting wet slowly, I launched myself at Amy and ducked her under the water. We played around for ages, swimming, splashing and enjoying the entirely new sensation of our T-shirts floating around us when we were in the water, but clinging to us when we stood up. I looked down at my shirt and realised I’d got the Spice Girls all wet. That thought excited me even more.
While Amy and I were playing together, Dad had obviously given up and gone to the side of the pool, where Mum had come to stick her feet in the cooling water. In between pulling the Spice Girls away from my chest and letting them slap back into place, I became aware that there was a bit of discussion going on. Dad was trying to convince Mum to join us in the pool; Mum was having none of it. Of course, looking back now I understand absolutely why she was protesting, given that she wasn’t wearing a swimsuit but a flimsy white sundress, and also why Dad was so keen to get her in the pool, given that she was wearing a flimsy white sundress. If I’d known then what I know now I probably wouldn’t have been so eager to comply when Dad instructed Amy and I to start splashing her, but we did it despite her protestations, and when she retreated back up the poolside beyond the reach of our splashing, we cheered as Dad got out of the pool, scooped her up and jumped back into the water with Mum in his arms.
Mum, of course, was absolutely livid and climbed straight back out again, but the damage was done. Her thin white dress was now effectively invisible, gushing water all over the pool side, plastered to her body and so transparent that her white underwear was on full display to everyone within a fifty metre radius. She hastily wrapped herself in a towel to protect what was left of her modesty while Dad went to apologise. I don’t know what he said to her, but it must have been good because within a minute or so they were gathering up the bags and Amy and I were beckoned out of the pool. They handed us towels and we were ushered back to the hotel room with minimal delay; we were left to dry ourselves off while Mum and Dad spent the next twenty minutes locked in the bathroom. Dad must have been helping Mum wash the chlorine out of her dress, we decided.
Over the rest of the holiday Amy and I swam in the pool almost every day. When we were finished for the day our T-shirts dried quickly in the hot sun; Amy wore her red one every day in the pool, not really caring how faded it had become by the last day. Not wanting to ruin my precious Spice Girls T-shirt, I took the opportunity to soak several different shirts over the course of two weeks, savouring the feelings as much as possible. Far from satisfying my curiosity about how it felt to be all wet in my clothes, however, it became merely a gateway to increasingly elaborate soakings… but that will have to wait for the next chapter!