Since the 1970s, Cindy Sherman has placed herself both behind and in front of the camera. Her exploration of the myriad ways in which women are represented has long been the central theme in her oeuvre. Untitled #138 belongs to a series of images published for French Vogue in 1984. As seen in the performative aspect of the work, Untitled #138 is at once a critique of the fashion industry, confrontation of the dynamics of fetishism and a rejection of tradition concepts of beauty in favour of something sinister, even disturbing. The degree of contrived artifice and construction of the self through her role-playing in Untitled #138 sees Sherman making full use of fashion as a form of masquerade:
'Right away I started feeling antagonism from [the French designers], not really liking what I was doing, because they expected me to imitate what I had done in the last series. But I wanted to go on to something new, and since they were going to use these pictures for Paris Vogue, I wanted the work to look really ugly. The clothes were boring and not the ones I had asked to use so I thought I'll just go all out and get really wildThey hated it. And the more they hated it, the more it made me want to do it, and the more outrageous I tried to be.' (The artist quoted in J. Siegel, Art Talk: The Early 80s, New York, 1988, p. 273).