The Role of Nudity in Fashion

In the early 1900’s women were labelled disrespectful for showing so much as an ankle or an elbow, since then there has almost been a complete transformation on societies perspective of nudity in fashion.

In the 1910’s, more revealing outfits were worn not to rebel against societal norms but for practicality. Long skirts were traded in for skirts that finished just above the ankle so females could complete practical tasks such as sweeping and household chores. Youth in the 1920’s dared to raise the hem line to their knees which made way for flapper dresses in the 1930’s. The creation of sleeveless and backless flapper dresses allowed females to show even more skin. The 1940’s brought forth the first bikini designs which took challenging the status quo to new heights, so much so that strippers had to be hired to model the first bikini designs. Once bikinis were accepted, boundaries were continually pushed with nude beaches and topless tanning which lead to the notion of nudity in advertising. In 2000, a YSL campaign featuring a nude model was banned throughout the UK, however, today nudity in fashion and beauty advertising is acceptable. This evolution of nudity in fashion throughout the 1900’s was a mix of practicality and protesting against societal norms. In just four generations women have gone from being covered up from head to toe to topless tanning and being featured as nude photography. However, does showing more skin enhance fashion?

Given advancements in technology which allow increased accessibility to nude images, it’s not unexpected that social nudity has grown in popularity and widely recognized as normal. The acceptance of females showing more skin opened up new doors for designers. It made way for mini and midi skirts, lead to the birth of spaghetti straps and allowed beachwear to progress to bikini’s and sandals. The way that social nudity allowed designers to explore and create new styles and use new materials has enhanced fashion. Nudity has also made fashion and beauty advertising more effective as the use of nudity in advertising can sway to customer to purchase the product, therefore enhancing sales and maximizing communication with customers.

Nudity on the runway has been used to make a point or comment on society. In the 1990’s Alexander McQueen used nudity on the runway to comment on rape culture and domestic violence prevalent in society at that time. Other designers have indicated that nudity was used to emphasize the idea that the female body comes in all shapes and sizes. Fashion is an art form and acts as a method of expression, therefore fashion is an accepted method to communicate an opinion on current issues in society. Both examples of runway nudity send a message and are therefore examples of how nudity enhances the reception of fashion. However, nudity for the sake of fashion experiences backlash due to its impact on adolescents. Given that runway fashion filters down and is idolized by adolescents, the message designers are delivering can be misinterpreted by young minds.

Today, society is still pushing boundaries with campaigns such as Free The Nipple which advocates for the right for females to show their nipples in public. The rising popularity of Instagram has allowed the Free The Nipple campaign to gain celebrity support and become an international campaign. Change in relation to public and social nudity is still occurring which begs the question, given the speed at which social nudity has changed, what will our grandchildren be wearing?


Images sourced online 

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