High Fashion Is Trying To Make "Free The Nipple" Wedding Dresses A Thing

Fashion weeks around the globe are known to set emerging trends, and based on some of the dresses we saw at New York Bridal Fashion Week, the unfortunate "free the nipple" movement might be coming for wedding dresses in 2024.

By Carmen Schober2 min read
Pexels/Leeloo The First

The "free the nipple" movement is credited to feminist filmmaker Lina Esco, who argues that women should show off their nipples in public. Her reasoning for this is that men's exposed nipples are less controversial than women's. While this "movement" never became mainstream for obvious reasons, it does continue to pop in some fashion and celebrity circles. Florence Pugh, for example, defended her choice to wear a completely sheer gown at a Valentino fashion show in 2022.

"I’m very grateful that I grew up in a household with very strong, powerful, curvy women. We were raised to find power in the creases of our body," she wrote. "To be loud about being comfortable. It has always been my mission in this industry to say ‘f*** it and f*** that’ whenever anyone expects my body to morph into an opinion of what’s hot or sexually attractive. I wore that dress because I know."

Making a Statement or Seeking Attention?

Likewise, fashion writers at Bustle have celebrated exposed nipples for years, with one writer claiming that "nipple censorship" is something that needs to be destroyed to achieve equality. In her mind, the fact that nobody stopped and stared at her bare breasts during New York Fashion Week was a good, inclusive thing that signaled the city's "titty-positive" attitude.

Designers such as Bronx and Banco, Maria & Marco, and Rime Arodaky, among others, incorporated this concept into their recent collections at NYBFW with designs that feature sheer fabrics, strategic lace placements, and other elements that subtly or overtly reveal the nipple. Some argue that freeing the nipple on your wedding day is a symbol of "bodily autonomy" and "challenging traditional norms" while others point out that neither of those things is probably on a happy bride's mind when she walks down the aisle.

Misunderstanding Empowerment

Weddings, across cultures, symbolize the union of two lives and families, celebrated through ceremonies steeped in shared values. Using the occasion to make a feminist statement through provocative clothing seems pretty distasteful, if not just distracting.

More importantly, the idea that female empowerment is achieved through exposing your body is not actually "progressive" or groundbreaking when one considers that women have been steadily influenced by the entertainment and media industries over the last sixty years to expose increasing amounts of skin. A return to more modest dressing would be truly "countercultural" and probably quite empowering to many women. Brides don't have to sacrifice any glamour or statement-making power when they choose a more modest style. In fact, subtlety is often a more powerful statement of self-respect.

In Conclusion

"Freeing the Nipple" is a movement most women didn't ask for, especially within the context of wedding fashion, and reflects a shallow, reactionary understanding of what it means to be an empowered woman. But that's not a surprising result when someone creates a movement for women based on the overly simplistic idea that "if men do it, so should we." That line of reasoning hasn't served women well for decades, in fashion and beyond.

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