Two Of A Kind: The Sheer Black Dress

If you are proud of your body, show it, even if under a dress

Sheer power: (Left) Rihanna in Dior at the Dior show. Photo Getty Images. (Right) One of the looks at the recent Gucci cruise 2023 show. Photo: Gucci

Now that Rihanna has given birth and the sartorial baton is passed to Adriana Lima (see her appearance at the Cannes Film Festival), stomach-on-full-display is on track to be the maternity look of the pandemic era. Rihanna’s “lingerie moments”, as we know by know, have been widely lauded as “stunning” and “redefining”. If Beyonce made the naked dress acceptable on the red carpet, Rihanna was certain to affirm the naked maternity frock’s commitment to a very public existence. No wonder Alessandro Michele was quick to offer one on Gucci’s latest runway that is rather similar to the Dior dress that the star wore in Paris, even if the Italian house’s version was designed first as a sheer dress (Rihanna reportedly had the Dior’s lining ripped off) worn on a braless (not-skinny) model rather than an expectant woman. Could Gucci be targeting expectant customers now that there is no doubt how nude some are willing to go?

These days, the encouragement is dress to ‘celebrate’ the body, not to hide it, pregnant or not, slim or otherwise. Conservative attitudes towards a woman’s bare baby bulge (or any bulge) has no place in today’s society, just as Harry Styles in a dress should not have to threaten anyone. Immodest, when it comes to dressing to go out, whether pregnant or not, is preferred because every body has to be exalted. In the ’60s, American civil-rights activists wore their “Sunday best” to show that dignity is not the reserve of the non-whites and they are not by default relegated to the lowest rung of the social order. Today, the “any-day least” allow wearers to demonstrate that the skimpiest clothes need not be just for the pool or beach, and less so for the confines of a bedroom. And baring is really not restricted to exotic dancers.

Conservative attitudes towards a woman’s bare baby bulge (or any bulge) has no place in today’s society, just as Harry Styles in a dress should not have to threaten anyone

Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, if you remember, stripped away all the pre-natal dress conservatism that the Victorians left behind since the 19th century. Sure, we had many women wear clothes that hinted at nudity since the Sixties, but those in diaphanous dresses that substantially show the body are mostly latter-day individuals with specific interest (obsession?). The easy shift to near nudity has been attributed to the need to show individuality, boost confidence, embrace empowerment, gain attention, express sexuality, and simply because they can. On our shores, the weather. Could it also be because it is still provocative, and provocation is fun—let you see, but not touch? Gucci’s sheer black number was simply answering to today’s needs.

In both cases, the naked dresses—an oxymoron if you think about it—have fabrics acting merely as a sort veil for the body. Like the silk screens Empress Cixi sat behind from, where she ruled in the 19th century, these dividers are not there to conceal the wearer or make them inscrutable (are women today as manipulative?). They are there for a peekaboo effect. Tease is very much a part of modern fashion’s commitment to overt shame-free self-expression. Even the retired Victoria’s Secret Angels were more modestly attired. Trenchant media support for Rihanna’s near-nude maternity style and Emily Ratajkowski’s unconcealing every-day wear would only boost Gucci’s desire to send other sheer black dresses down the runway. There would be more to come.

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