Fashion freed the nipple ages ago. When will the rest of the world catch up?

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On the same day that Florence Pugh wore Barbiecore’s sheer pink Valentino dress to the heritage brand’s couture show in Rome this summer, her breasts peeking through the sheer layers of tulle, Elon Musk ended his deal to buy Twitter, prompting abortion rights activists to prepare were marching on the White House, and the BA.5 sub-variant made its way around the world.

You wouldn’t have seen it from our feeds: rude, misogynistic comments about the don’t worry darling The star’s nipples dominated our timelines. This reaction was not surprising; Even Pugh anticipated the backlash, saying in an Instagram post two days later, “When I wore this incredible Valentino dress I knew there was no way that there would be a comment,” she wrote. “What’s interesting to watch and witness is how easy it is for men to publicly, proudly and completely destroy a woman’s body for all to see.”

Because, as Pugh well understood when sporting this exquisite look, in a world where women’s bodies are hypersexualized and hypercontrolled and increasingly not our own, people would always have something negative to say.

The fashion industry may have liberated the nipple long ago with totally see-through looks on the runway that are as common as flowers for spring but the visceral response to Pughs hardly The bare breast is the latest example of society still not being ready to accept breasts simply as anatomy.

“Women’s bodies are just sexualized all the time. Even when you’re breastfeeding, even when you’re feeding your child, someone could potentially be looking at your nipple. It’s almost a crime [to show breasts in public]’, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, London-based fashion psychologist and author Energy in a big dress. “Florence knew this would spark controversy… and the fact that she had to do it [respond to] what has been said about it… shows that as much as we think we are liberated, we are still very much bound by restrictive social norms.”

At least off the slopes. Typically, fashion “lives in a fantasy zone” above such social codes and criticism, says Ilya Parkins (PhD), associate professor of gender, women’s and sexuality studies at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Boobs and bodies, even if they’re a certain type – sorry for the rest of us with a cup size larger than B or bodies larger than a 0 – are treated with neutrality when not celebrated.

Check out the almost naked offers of fall 2022. Like the sheer tops at Loewe, or the trompe l’oeil homage to Gaultier at Y/Project, or the optical illusion dress at Balmain. While not presenting totally nipple-free looks, designers found a sense of joy and delight in the body and bust: from the surrealism of Schiaparelli’s gold-cone busts and pointy, pencil-shaved blazers to Marc Jacobs’ nipple-hugging triangle bras and busty polo shirts and sweaters prada

This celebration and liberation of the breasts has seeped into more recent pop culture. See: Beyoncé’s Schiaparelli outfits and nipple tassels and star pasties in her Renaissance album covers, Kylie Jenner’s “Free the Nipple” bikini and the Billboard Music Awards look, and Bella Thorne’s disease red carpet dress. It’s impacted our lives, too: Wireless bra sales are down as women ditch the constricting underwear in favor of the comfort we’ve come to appreciate in recent years.

Forbes-Bell sees this as the next phase of our post-pandemic casual world: “Barely-there clothing is almost a continuation of the comfort clothing trend. See your clothes not only as something very practical, but as something that is an extension of yourself and use your clothes as a way to express yourself and your identity.”

And your politics.

That the reaction to Pugh’s dress happened against the backdrop of the upset Roe v. calf is not irrelevant. “These things are connected and characterized by a deep sense of the need to control women’s bodies,” says Dr. Parkins. “We are at the beginning of a period of backlash against women being loud and taking up space.” In this case, getting naked can be seen as an act of protest, a way of holding on to control and autonomy when we are being stripped of them . “It reignited those conversations about what it’s like to be a woman, to own and to take up space,” adds Forbes-Bell. “And how you want to translate that. And I think people translate that through their clothes.”

Of course, in the real world beyond the imagination of the runway, there are limits to how comfortable we can be using fashion as a political weapon. Like many others, I’m angry at the erosion of my physical rights, but despite wearing a see-through top and no bra to walk my dog ​​or go topless for a picnic in the park, there will no doubt be a reaction, but probably not that make a statement which I hope will do. (I’d be far better off protesting, voting, donating money to abortion funds.) Then there’s the fact that Pugh operates in the privilege of her fame but also her cis whiteness; The same actions would likely have very different consequences for others, especially women of color.

“Conventional notions of gender are completely enmeshed in this kind of hysteria about public nudity for women,” adds Dr. Parkins added. “Until we move away from what requires a total dismantling of gender, it will continue to be locked into this cycle.”

And this cycle is only broken when we allow bodies to just be Body, vessels that carry us through the world and that we can decorate as we please. It’s about “moving from positivity to pure neutrality and seeing your body for just that,” says Forbes-Bell.

nipples and such.

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