Why we’re talking about . . .

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”. 

‘Punk attitude’

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”.

Recommended

Why Boris Johnson clung on so long – and what finally made him resign
Boris Johnson makes his resignation speech outside 10 Downing Street
Talking point

Why Boris Johnson clung on so long – and what finally made him resign

How Boris Johnson lost the support of his party
Boris Johnson
Getting to grips with . . .

How Boris Johnson lost the support of his party

What will Boris Johnson do after leaving Downing Street?
Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street
Today’s big question

What will Boris Johnson do after leaving Downing Street?

Skeleton Coast safari: a life-affirming desert adventure
Sossusvlei sand dunes, Namibia
The big trip

Skeleton Coast safari: a life-affirming desert adventure

Popular articles

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 July 2022
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 July 2022

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?
Nato troops
Today’s big question

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?

The Week Footer Banner