Why Are Celebrities Walking Around In Their Underwear?
For a lot of people, showing up to an event in nothing but their underwear is a literal nightmare. Not for some celebrities these days.
When Lil Nas X hit the Met Gala red carpet earlier this month, he provocatively sidestepped conventional dress code expectations. The 24-year-old showed up in only a metallic G-string and head-to-toe crystallized makeup by Pat McGrath. The star did not merely indulge the flurry of flashing cameras and spirited reactions to his look on the carpet. He luxuriated in it. He playfully purred and meowed when Vogue red carpet host Emma Chamberlain presented questions about his revealing cat look. And, after the event, the rapper posted a viral photo, pulled from Getty Images, to his Instagram page. The snap is of Lauren Santo Domingo on the same carpet. At least, ostensibly. A literal rear view of Lil Nas X in the background draws the eye.
The musician is not the only notable person turning underwear into outwear as of late. A quick survey of runways and celebrity fashion reveals that intimate wear is fast-becoming, well, not-so-intimate.
Just last fall, Bella Hadid enjoyed pizza while out-and-about in a pair of snug white short-shorts that called to mind boxer briefs, the piece crafted in a similarly thin fabric. Earlier this week, Julia Fox donned a pair of Diesel boxer briefs for a trip to the gas station, styling them with a blazer and tee that read “High class white trash.” Kendall Jenner put a different spin on the trend by wearing her underwear over a sparkly semi-sheer dress, crafting an intriguing reverse-dressing ensemble for a Met Gala after party. Singer Mahmood performed at Eurovision last weekend with a prominently exposed thong pulled over his tucked-in button down, almost like a deliberate wedgie. And over in Milan, Miu Miu’s gender-inclusive fall 2023 show featured various models in chic, thick-weave briefs. All of these moments seem to go beyond merely being shocking.
One could also argue that, in a way, the shock value of seeing someone in their underwear has faded away slightly—at least compared to, say, Victorian times. Celebrities nowadays publicly in a variety of barely-there ensembles—leotards, chaps, nude dresses, etc. A pair of underwear covers no more or no less than some of those looks. At the same time, social media has increasingly become replete with people sharing intimate photos—whether it be artistic, personal, or a shameless thirst trap. Shawn Mendes shared a photo of him in underwear on Instagram this week to millions of followers—how different would it be if he took it to the streets?
“One of the ways to analyze this is in terms of privilege,” said Dr. Jill Fields, who teaches history at Fresno State and wrote An Intimate Affair: Women, Lingerie, and Sexuality.”Who can dress like this, be photographed like this, and still feel safe. Not only physically safe, but also in terms of their reputation within their communities.” Her short answer: Probably not everyone. Celebrities, however, are a different matter.
It is possible that we are witnessing a tongue-in-cheek redefinition of what is and isn’t appropriate outerwear (at least in Hollywood). It wouldn’t be the first time. Tees weren’t always the acceptable go-to we know them as today. “A T-shirt, until the early 20th century, was effectively a piece of underwear,” says Dr. Shaun Cole, an associate professor of fashion at Southampton University. “There are cultural moments when these things change.”
Cole has researched the ever-changing cultural norms and visibility around underwear, specifically among men. Over the years underwear has gained visibility through the rising prominence and sway of intimates advertising (Calvin Klein ads in the ’80s being a key watershed moment and, later, Victoria’s Secret shows), the adoption of sagging amongst communities of color, and queer image-making. He argues that a series of factors could be behind fashion shedding pants entirely this go-around.
“By revealing underwear in the way Thom Browne has played with jockstraps and Miu Miu created these kinds of ostentatious women’s knickers— maybe it’s not necessarily an overt stand, but it certainly can be read as a reflection on the idea of gendered bodies,” he says. “One of the places we often think about gendered bodies is with the genitals, and while we’re not exposing them, we are doing what fashion historian Valerie Steele calls, ‘hinting at what is hidden.’”
Either way, the look has certainly resonated with users on social media. Paris-based TikTok user Marie Gaguech replicated Miu Miu’s panty-centric look with her own at-home version, asking her followers what they thought. She overwhelmingly received more meaningful feedback than jeers or hard-nos. One person responded, “I think if the tights are all clear without the line, or throughout with a pattern it could be better.”
Speaking to Vogue over email, Gaguech, 24, says she does like the visual aesthetics of exposed underwear. But she worries about the varied, complicated responses such a look might elicit out and about. “I would love to wear it outside, but even with a coat I don’t know if I would feel 100 percent comfortable,” she says.
Still, she thinks there are already more conservative or hedged versions of the get up out in the wild. “A sporty short-short, warmers, and sneakers is not so far from the Miu Miu look,” Gaguech says. “But are we all going to end up in panties on the street? I don’t believe so. But I do think that skirts and shorts will shorten even more.” In short, the line between underwear and outerwear—at least from a tailoring perspective—will blur even more.
This rings true across both womenswear and menswear. On the women’s side, the corset, historically viewed as the most intimate of intimates, has become a multifunctional outfit. They can be spotted on-stage at sold-out arena shows by Blackpink, Dua Lipa, and others, inside clubs on a Saturday night, and, if styled right, even at brunch or two. While menswear has, increasingly, embraced the short-short, with Paul Mescal and Donald Glover being prominent early adopters, and various men’s labels now effectively dishing out pieces that go shorter than even the standard pair of boxer shorts.
We might not be stripping down to skivvies literally, like Lil Nas X and Julie Fox, but we are collectively testing the limits.
Originally Appeared on Vogue
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