The naked dress: feminist fashion or novelty ‘nude’ apron?
Critics divided on whether new trend is bold political statement or just post-pandemic sartorial fun
Celebrities including Kylie Jenner are making headlines by baring all – almost – as the fashion world goes wild for “naked” clothing.
The Kardashians star posted a selfie last week featuring her wearing a bikini from the Jean Paul Gaultier x Lotta Volkova collection that has “gasp-inducing, photo-realistic” nipples, said The Guardian’s acting deputy fashion editor Fleur Britten.
Fellow A-listers including Miley Cyrus, Bella Hadid, Iggy Azalea and Maisie Williams have also embraced “trompe l’oeil nudity”, which is clearly “having a moment”, Britten added.
‘Trend for flesh’
According to fashion journalist Letty Cole, the head-turning trend “allows people to be flirty without exposing themselves too much”. Just accessorise the dramatic look with a “bit of a wink”, she told BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour.
Fake nudes may be one of this season’s hottest trends, but “as always, fashion has been here before”, said The Guardian’s Britten. Vivienne Westwood unveiled her iconic “Tits” T-shirt in 1976, while Gaultier wowed fashionistas with dresses overprinted with lifesize nudes in 1999.
Some critics have interpreted Westwood’s T-shirt as a “feminist statement”, Britten continued. And a Balmain dress photo-printed with a near-naked body that reality star Jenner wore to an awards show last month was heralded by Vogue as “the ultimate metaphor of physical obsessions caused by the madness of social media”.
But Britten argued that “something else is going on here” too.
Post #metoo statement
Fashion historian Dr Kate Strasdin has linked the “current trend for flesh” to “today’s financial adversities”, wrote Britten in The Guardian.
Falmouth University academic Strasdin told the paper that a “spike of glamour” often occurs during hard times. “Being on show was a big thing during the Depression,” she said. “It was a celebration of the visibility of the human body, and a rejection of all those privations.”
But the trend is also about “using the female body as a shock tactic”, according to Strasdin. “Post #MeToo, women are saying, ‘I can celebrate my body by wearing whatever I want.’”
Not everyone is totally convinced. The nude look has been embraced “by everyone from Madonna to Rihanna”, said The Sunday Times’ New York correspondent Laura Pullman, yet “I can’t help thinking of those naff aprons adorned with Michelangelo’s David statue”.
But after wearing Gaultier’s £515 “naked” dress out on London’s Oxford Street, Pullman conceded that it felt “strangely empowering to confidently walk around the capital in the dress, (replica) nipples out, head high”, at a time when “women’s bodies are, once again, a raging political battleground”.
London designer Sinead Gorey has won A-list fans including singer Cyrus with her takes on the nude look.
But Gorey told The Guardian that she “didn’t have feminism in mind” specifically when designing her show-stopping creations.
Instead, said Gorey, “it’s that punk attitude of like, ‘We don’t give a fuck.’ If I want to wear something that looks like my naked body, I can.”
“It’s a young generation thing,” she added. After being“ locked down for two years with no festivals, no raves, no partying, no dating”, young people are “desperate to wear these crazy looks that get you noticed”.
And “the more attention, the better”.