Today on the blog, we wanted to delve a little deeper than fashion trends and discuss controversies within the fashion industry. Every so often, Fashion Talk will be exploring such issues and aiming to objectively weigh the arguments. Today, it’s all about nudity and the fashion industry.
Without exception, every single human being enters this world naked. Before clothing, the birthday suit was the norm. As we have evolved, social expectations about how one should present themselves in public has drastically changed! It’s a well-known fact that walking around downtown in nothing but a pair of fabulous shoes will definitely get you in trouble. But when did the naked human form become culturally offensive?
In the fashion industry, the limits are constantly being pushed. Whether it be racy runway shows, sexualized advertisements, or barely-there garments, nudity has become a powerful branding tool which always shocks and causes a stir. Intentional or unintentional, a breast here and there typically makes headlines. Looking to add an avant-garde or hip element to your fashion brand? Bring on the nudity!
Opinions about how the human body should be presented in fashion range from the radical to nonchalant. On the one hand, we have the argument that freedom includes sexual freedom, and we should have the right to wear what we want and express ourselves how we so please. You’re offended by the nudity in this advertisement? Must be because you’re prude and close-minded. On the other side of the debate, we have the darker, exploitative realities of the industry. What counts as crossing the line? When does an ad go from sexy, to derogatory and misogynistic? How young is too young for models to pose naked? The answers aren’t black and white, and we continue to contradict ourselves. So the question is- how much is too much?
Bodies are beautiful- especially women’s bodies, and that statement is not objectifying. The human body deserves celebration and attention. It’s the purest, most natural and vulnerable way that a person can present themselves, and let’s be honest here, we’re all born with the same parts! So why not celebrate the beauty? And what’s the big deal with choosing to not cover up your assets? Anja Rubik, polish model, has sounded off freely on this debate, stating that “Covering up our bodies isn’t going to eradicate antifeminist problems or objectification, especially in the fashion world”, and that trying to censor images of nudity is ridiculous. She, along with many others, doesn’t believe in censorship in order to promote equality and respect amongst the sexes. Done tastefully, we whole-heartily agree that nudity can be beautiful. And nothing screams confidence more than models, celebrities, and every-day people who embrace their bodies. This doesn’t have to mean skipping your trousers- a provocative dress speaks wonders! If anything, embracing the power of our sexuality is empowering.
But we have to take the rose-colored glasses off for a moment here. While commanding your own sexuality is a powerful expression of freedom, it’s a reality that often times it is commanded by others. The fashion industry is a tough one to break into – especially for models. We’ve heard the many stories of young, aspiring models, getting pressured to strip down for the camera. Notorious for such practices is controversial photographer, Terry Richardson, who has done shoots with the likes of Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, along with countless young models eager to make it big. Several testimonials against Richardson have been made public, stating that he would manipulate the girls to strip in front of the camera, and perform acts in which they felt uncomfortable with by promising them stardom. Many girls shared a feeling of utter embarrassment and humiliation following such shootings. His influence within the fashion industry and long-standing relationships with editors from big-name fashion magazines seemingly enabled, and continues to enable him to exploit young models due to his status.
Fashion ads are also no stranger to flesh, and these guys can range from modest and tasteful, to downright insulting. Several Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana ads have been scrutinized for promoting rape culture, the dominance of women, and misogyny. Some have been so offensive, in fact, that they have been banned altogether. In two separate ads, both designer brand names feature a powerless woman, pinned to the ground by a group of men. While it may only be fiction, these images nonetheless are carefully crafted to trigger something inside of audiences. We can view that ad and know that it’s staged, yet does it make it okay to populate our magazines, television screens, and billboards with such ideas? We eat, sleep, and breathe what the media feeds us (unfortunately and whether you believe so or not). It takes a very aware mind to fight back against these images, because they are registered subconsciously. Clearly, seeing a sexualized ad in which a woman’s power is compromised will not make us believe that sexual aggression is okay. The issue is when we take into account the repeated nature of these images. We begin to become desensitized to these depictions. Slowly but surely, they build a society in which degrading images are considered “okay” because, it’s just advertising, right?!
So, when it comes down to it, we can’t paint a picture of or define a rule for how nudity should influence fashion. We believe that it can be empowering and beautiful, but can quickly move into an exploitative territory. Overall, it’s about feeling that you’re in control about how you display your body. Unfortunately, the majority of fashion models do not have a say. Can’t we just keep things respectful?
Truth is, sex sells.
What are your takes with this controversial subject?