Underwear as outerwear was the sleeper trend of spring 2023


In 2022, underwear as outerwear was literally ubiquitous. Wherever you looked on the Spring 2023 runways, a version of lingerie as fashion could be found. Prada’s horrific-chic heroines wore tiny babydolls that looked like they’d been ripped from the 1960s. Burberry’s soft, silky briefs were richly embellished, with built-in bras and undergarments. Versace remade the Kinderwhore vamps with Courtney Love-esque undies and thigh-high stockings. Even Tory Burch, who typically eschews boudoir for the tennis court in his edgy designs, tried the concept with the sheerest of shirts revealing the outline of bras.

This trend has a complicated past, with a subtext that delves deeper into fashion history than even Miu Miu’s low-rise micro-mini skirts. Fashion’s focus on the body is ever-changing, and underwear as outerwear is just the latest manifestation. After years of bodycon trends – with brands like KNWLS, Ottolinger and Mugler pushing the boundaries of figure-hugging silhouettes – and new takes on nude dresses, the next logical step seems to be: visible underwear.

The Jenner sisters test their own underwear as outerwear.

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Although underwear as outerwear has prevailed in mainstream culture for decades, it is still a relatively new idea in the fashion industry. “The concept of underwear as outerwear is most commonly associated with the 1980s, but the look of lingerie has long served as inspiration for fashion wear,” according to the Museum at FIT’s Exposed: A History of Lingerie from 2014. The exhibit showed how, among other examples, a 1950s Claire McCardell evening gown resembled a nylon nightgown by lingerie brand Iris.

Even before the middle of the century, clothes that looked like underwear existed. Take, for example, the codpiece, created in 1463 in England, when the parliament of Edward IV made it compulsory for men to wear a covering over the clothing of their genitalia. In the late 1400s corsets were created, although they were strictly worn (and laced) under clothing. Perhaps the most famous example of undergarments as outerwear in art history is Vigée Le Brun’s 1783 portrait of Marie Antoinette wearing a muslin chemise – a shocking gesture to the ‘era.

Bella Hadid walks the Versace Spring 2023 show in Milan.

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In the 1920s, outrageous flapper dresses looked like teddy bears. The next big revolution? The corset, reinterpreted as a daring piece to wear alone, by Vivienne Westwood in the 1970s – and in the 1980s, as sculptural pieces by Issey Miyake, Thierry Mugler and Mr. Pearl.

But most people didn’t start wearing real underwear in public until a pivotal cultural moment occurred. “It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that wearing underwear as outerwear became the norm,” says fashion historian Einav Rabinovitch-Fox. An unexpected example: the t-shirt, which became a wardrobe staple in the 1950s. integrated him into the youth rebellion,” adds Rabinovitch-Fox. “In this shift from underwear to outerwear, the t-shirt has also shifted from a men’s garment to a unisex one. This is important because underwear is often very gendered, so by making it visible, you can also change their gender association.

A lingerie-inspired look at Louis Vuitton Spring 2023.

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In the 1990s, the boundaries of underwear as outerwear were pushed even further. Madonna’s signature conical bra, designed by Jean Paul Gaultier and worn on her Blond Ambition Tour, was a cultural reset. Whale tails originated in the 1990s, with Jean Paul Gaultier and Tom Ford’s spring 1997 Gucci shows featuring flip-flops and butt-baring looks. The trend became mainstream in the early 2000s. Around the same time, boxer underwear peeked over baggy, saggy jeans – a trend that many attribute to the origin of prison system, where seat belts are prohibited. Although it is rarely discussed as much as women’s underwear in fashion history and theory, its influence has undoubtedly been just as impactful.

A Chanel spring 2023 look.

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Why is fashion currently flirting with figure-hugging, revealing silhouettes? Historians believe the trend may actually be related to the post-pandemic world. “Similar things happened in the 1920s, after the 1918 flu pandemic, when clothes became light and baggy, almost wanting to get rid of heavy clothes which can be dangerous to health and make it difficult to breathe,” explains Rabinovitch-Fox. “He [could be] an unconscious way to break free from Covid. Elsewhere, the trend is an extension of many other popular looks. Born out of bodycon (and later balletcore), emerging designers take inspiration from traditional dancewear, creating sheer underwear-like pieces designed to be worn as everyday wear, with an inclusive edge. For example, Find Me Now recently launched a second-skin collection of colorful and comfortable pieces up to size 2XL. “People are more expressive about being comfortable in their body, no matter what stage they are in,” says Find Me Now co-founder Stephanie Callahan.

A whole new obsession with underwear as outerwear is also being modeled by TikTok’s maximalist generation, who often layer looks in eccentric ways. Take, for example, Sara Camposarcone, who wears burger-shaped bras with baggy ties and shorts, and layered culottes over airbrushed dresses for a trip to her local cafe. Then there’s TinyJewishGirl, who styled a custom loincloth over clown-print tights, or several sequined briefs over a kaleidoscope of sparkly tights. The videos she shoots in these looks rack up views to the tune of over 1.6 million.

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Yet there are undoubtedly two sides to this trend: for every sham nude dress and burger bra, there are just as many public figures who seem to use the body-checking trend, like Kim Kardashian, who won in Marilyn. Monroe dress and proudly claimed to lose 16 pounds currently. Underwear as outerwear can still represent the commodification and objectification of the female form. “It goes back to teenage body standards, which are super skinny and unrealistic,” Daspin adds. “The media’s obsession with the body is concerning, whether it’s curves or the lack thereof. A nude dress is essentially an extension of the body. It will sit exactly as your body is built, which for celebrities , tends towards objectively attractive, lean and toned bodies.

But Vaquera, with its famous lingerie t-shirt, and Jean Paul Gaultier, who recently reissued his Cyber ​​collection, give underwear as outerwear a goofy essence. Bloomers, associated with American editor and suffragette Amelia Bloomer, were once an undergarment that represented sartorial liberation in the mid-1800s. Today, they’re worn as pants all over TikTok, and even reinterpreted by some of fashion’s most avant-garde designers such as Noir Kei Ninomiya. Maximalist takes on layered underwear and puffy bloomers don’t feel inherently sexy, but it’s impossible not to celebrate wearing underwear as outerwear in 2022 without questioning everything it encompasses. Today, exposed underwear represents a new expression of ornamentation, a release from the global pandemic and our culture’s obsession with self-defeating.


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