This story appears in the Summer 2013 issue of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below.
Showing some skin may not be a novel notion in the world of fashion, but this season one of the predominant trends is not just about exposing a little epidermis, but doing so in more of an un-obvious, discreetly provocative, subtly seductive way. What we’re seeing is called “cutout” clothing, and with it, designers have seemed to master the art of sartorial peekaboo with dresses baring mere glimpses of skin at the chest, waist, shoulders and everywhere else, proving that thigh-high slits and plunging necklines aren’t the only way to assert one’s sex appeal. “I don't think you need to show a lot of skin to be sexy,” remarked Lubov Azria, referencing BCBG Max Azria’s Spring 2013 Ready-to-Wear collection, which featured dresses of relatively long lengths with cutout details across the chest and collarbone.
If you study women's fashion throughout the last century, however, it becomes obvious that revealing skin has long represented sexual provocation, and the state of women's right to bare it in society. Consider the 1920s, for example, when newfound societal liberation (women earned the right to vote in 1920 and began entering the workforce in record numbers) brought a liberation of clothing; hemlines were raised, exposing women’s legs above the ankle for the first time, as both a trend and a social statement.
And while women’s fashion over the last 100 years has seen a plethora of apparel innovations, statements and styles of either fleeting or recurring endurance, one trend has seemed to persist — the tendency toward less fabric. But the dominating fabric-less trend seen on the runway for this season — think Michael Kors’ black crepe dresses with cutout bodices, Versace’s strategically slashed slip dresses and Carven’s blazers with heart-shaped cutouts at the midriff — involves hardly suggestive skin exposure.
What this may indicate, in a world in which today’s young women were already born with a notion of sexual freedom and the right to vote and pursue a career, is that women no longer feel the need to assert our sexuality. We already own it. And we have control over it — through our fashion choices and otherwise.
How and when we dared to bare more.
At the start of the 20th century skirts were long and full and often included a small train.
“Flapper” style emerged, behaviorally defined by in- dependent young women who disobeyed social and sexual norms of the time. By 1927 skirts rose to just below the knee, and flashed even more leg when worn dancing the “Charleston,” and other defiant dance styles of that age.
Limited materials due to World War II-era fabric rations resulted in even shorter skirts than before, and women were often encouraged to make due with bare legs over nylon stockings.
The 1960s saw another revolutionary change in the female societal role and female fashion — hot pants and short shift dresses became commonplace thanks to youth rebellion against traditional values, demands for the freedom of individual expression and growing awareness of feminism. It has been argued that the introduction of the birth control pill evoked a change in the image of women from mother to carefree girl that was sartorially expressed through the ubiquitous “miniskirt.”
An everlasting fashion influence, Madonna propelled the trend of underwear as outerwear. Young women were seen wearing bra tops, bustiers and lacy slips as an assertion of sexual freedom.