By Kristopher Fraser
At the 2014 CFDA Awards music superstar Rihanna made headlines for wearing a custom made Adam Selman gown embellished with Swarovski crystals. While Rihanna has made some bold fashion choices before, this particular gown became a major subject of the entire fashion blogosphere because of how little it left to the imagination. Her breasts were exposed, as was her derriere, but the level of artistry that went into this gown went neglected. Selman is a designer on the rise, whose other looks include functional ready-to-wear style pieces for the everywoman. He just also happened to create a beautiful sheer gown for Rihanna to rock on the red carpet.
In a society where “sex sells” the level of artistry that often goes behind depictions of nudity, whether it be Rihanna in her sheer gown, Miley Cyrus in her Terry Richardson photo shoot, or Allure’s nude photo spreads, often goes ignored. Rihanna nearly broke Instagram with the amount of times that photo was reposted. In the process, she also helped put Adam Selman on the map.
Selman was a relatively unknown before Rihanna wore this gown. For the entire week preceding the CFA awards he got to be the most talked about designer on the internet. Despite how revealing the dress was, Rihanna was very tasteful in it because she remembered the fashion for the art. That it takes a certain kind of woman to wear that dress, and wear that dress she did. She walked the red carpet with such grace, not once forgetting how much artistry went into that work.
In the April 2014 issue of Allure, referred to as “the nude” issue, Minnie Driver, Nia Long, Kirsten Bell, and Jenna Dewan Tatum bared it all for the magazine that is primarily associated with cosmetic products. While this was Allure’s nude issue, this spread wasn’t just about depicting naked women, it was about female empowerment. It was about letting women know they are beautiful in their own skin.
In her interview with Allure, Driver was quoted saying, “I could’ve never done this when I was 25. All I saw were the flaws. I still see flaws, but I see what’s great – and I’ve got a banging body.” In Bell’s interview, she said “I talk about being comfortable no matter what size. I wanted to put my money where my mouth was.” With all the talk of a need for more body positivity in the fashion industry it was great to see Allure telling women to love their bodies in its most natural form.
No one has made bigger headlines recently about showing some skin than Miley Cyrus. From her nude colored ensemble that left little to the imagination at the 2013 VMA’s (which cost her a Vogue cover), to her video for “Wrecking Ball”, she has become all about how much skin she can expose. While many critiqued her “Wrecking Ball” video as an attempt for her to try and break away from her Hannah Montana person, the world seemed to ignore what the song was about.
It was about a girl who had suffered immense heartbreak and was left feeling bare and exposed. The nudity was symbolic; it was for the sake of art. In contrast her racy photo shoot with Terry Richardson went a little too far. She went from sensual to sloppy, as she stuck her famous tongue out, sexually sucked on lollipops, and made terribly awkward faces at the camera. Her nudity lost its purpose and turned into spectacle.
I’m sure we remember all remember the 90’s, and hip-hop star Lil Kim’s famous nipple pasties, which worked for her aesthetic, but was just about spectacle. And who could forget Rose McGowan’s black see through thread dress from the 1998 VMA’s when she accompanied Marilyn Manson. This was a dress that was not about art, but was about putting her derriere on display. Yes, we need a world where it is okay to embrace your body, but this isn’t a nude beach. So, remember, a little nudity can go a long way, but only if the artistry behind it is put before just baring a naked body.