New York Fashion Week: Visible Is The Bra

In a few months’ time, get ready for the show-your-brassiere trend. But you really don’t have to wait. The bra, or the sibling bralette, not under anything is already fashionable. NYFW merely confirms it

Bra as solo item at Michael Kors. Illustration: Just So

With lockdowns nearly behind us, people want to break free. Escaping the grasp of the pandemic and the social restrictions that followed it means showing how hot one feels—in all sense of the word. Or, according to the (mostly) IRL New York Fashion Week, how one should be released from the restrictions of certain clothes, mainly tops. It should have been called Freedom Week, just as many in the West look forward to the end of lockdown or social restrictions as Freedom Day. American designers, it seems, want shoppers and fans to know that now (or a few months later) is the time to, if not shed your clothes, undo all the buttons. The bra—and bralette—takes centrestage, alongside those that look like one, but may not, by definition, be underclothes. It’s one article of clothing that keeps popping up in the shows, from Altuzarra to Ulla Johnson, as base garment to disco wear. This will all, no doubt, be good for real brassiere makers—nobody’s secret, such as Triumph. When thwarted movement is no longer the norm, isn’t it rather peculiar that women will say the bra is the new sweatpants? Bra-less at home for too long translates to bra-for-sure outside?

Cathy Horyn, reviewing the NSFW shows for The Cut, wrote, “sex is on everyone’s mind”, calling it the “new freedom” (oh, that word, again!). As many dream to be on the other side of the closed-for-too-long door, did they think the pandemic dampened everyone’s urges and then amped depravity? We don’t know. But Ms Horyn seems to suggest that there is not just sex appeal at play, but something “primary”, rather than primal. Nothing, thankfully, like the unsexy visual categories on social media suffixed by the flaccid word “-porn”. We are, of course, creatures of needs, and the need now is to show the bra. Yet, these bras are, mostly, conservatively black, as if chosen because the designers forgot to include a top in the final styling and decided to just throw an easy-to-purchase-from-anywhere bra in the mix. Some are fancier, such as those at Moschino and Coach, but these aren’t quite sexy as they are too pretty, the kind women buy for each other for birthdays or Christmas. Since it’s NYFW, there are, unsurprisingly, designers who prefer no bra at all. But, exposed breast we do not consider fashion because there is not even a shred of fabric used.

Top row: Tom Ford, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Michael Kors. Middle row: Coach, Altuzarra, Jonathan Simkhai. Bottom row: Brandon Maxwell, Moschino, Coach

The bras, plain and simple—a cross between the plunge and triangle bras (no conical cups like Madonna’s, adopted during 1990’s Blond Ambition Tour)—are mostly worn under something, mainly a shirt or a jacket. Or, sometimes, over a top—at Maryam Nassir Zadeh, for example. Ms Zadeh’s collection is an interplay of light and opaque, so she hints and, when that is not possible, shows. Michael Kors, too, showed, sending out half a dozen or so looks featuring bras, but if you were hoping for something that is raise-the-temperature hot, you might be disappointed: a triangle bra under an unbuttoned cardigan above circle skirt, for example. This is all the sexy Mr Kors could muster? The thing is, you would not ask Kate Spade to do sexy, would you?

Stuart Vevers, too, came up with six visible bras for Coach’s skater-edgy collection, all worn under outerwear, suggesting, perhaps, that it has to either be a T-shirt beneath, or a bra. To play down exposed underwear’s potential provocativeness, some designers have theirs under suits, such as Altuzarra and Jonathan Simkhai. Smart sexy? But allowing the bra to be what it often symbolises, apart from protective inner garment, is Tom Ford. Unapologetically sexy and glamourous in equal measure, Mr Ford’s bras are a move to deliberately dispense with tops to contrast with shinny (sometimes glittery) bottoms, as the world prepares to boogie or, as the Fifth Dimension sings in the soundtrack, Let The Sunshine In.

The bra is, of course, just a small part of the everything-is-fashion mantra of the Big Apple. In all-inclusive America, every designer deserves a runway; every model deserves it too, even the non-model; every dress, even the non-dress; every bra, even the no-bra. Not at any other of the major fashion weeks will we see such knock-out diversity, gloriously celebrated, even by those in a wheelchair. The runway, as Thom Browne showed, sending models in full, animal-head mask, riding penny-farthings, is for wheels, as much as for legs. But despite its mish-mash, passed euphemistically off as diversity (even when, sometimes, it’s down-right freaky), is American fashion still respect-arousing? Just as the nation of America has lost its standing among the world’s leading nations, the fashion of America, too, matters less and less to those who consume fashion. Or, is The New York Time’s Vanessa Friedman right when she posted on Twitter, “So long #NYFW. It’s been real”. Really wanting.

Photos: gorunway.com, except Maryam Nassir Zadeh, courtesy of the designer

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