Viral moments have taken over the runway. With fashion brands competing to feature the most memorable trope, we’ve seen everything from flaming models to spray-bottle dresses utilised in the hopes of filling our feeds. But these new tricks are only the most recent in a long list of tactics used by brands to draw the public’s attention. In fact, there’s one viral trope in particular that’s been used for decades, and is somehow still shocking us today: boobs.
Bare torsos on the runway is a trend that’s far from new. Since the conception of the modern fashion show, designers have been using sheer fabrics and deep necklines to expose model’s breasts, accessorising them with embellishments or just leaving them bare. Society’s love-hate relationship with the breast has been utilised as a tool to create drama on the runway, by revealing something that’s not usually revealed. Yet this has been happening for decades, so why are we still being shocked by boobs on the runway? Shouldn’t we all be over it by now?
Arguably one of the reasons society’s not over seeing bare breasts on the runway is because the boob we’re used to seeing in fashion has kind of grown – literally. Back in the 90s when supermodels dominated and diet-culture was at its height, models’ boobs were extremely uniform. It’s been cited that the average bra size of a model working in the 1990s was only a 34B, compared to the average bra size of the modern woman living in the UK in 2023, which is a 36D. Even amongst models, boobs are bigger; however, they’re no less exposed.
Society’s treatment of bigger breasts is what’s caused the boob to continue to cause a stir on the runway even in 2023. We might believe that we’re all behind “Free the Nip” but our reactions to exposed breasts on the runway says otherwise. Plus-sized women still receive backlash for going topless on the runway, despite donning dresses that would be perfectly acceptable when worn by the likes of Bella Hadid. And even applauding a designer or model for their bravery creates an environment that says bare breasts are something to normally be ashamed of or kept hidden.
On January 17th an oversight board of experts put forth to Meta – the parent company which owns Facebook and Instagram – that it’s about time they revoke their ban on the female nipple, yet still nothing solid has come into place. It feels like fashion is desperate to move away from the past’s over-sexualisation of the female body, yet our shock in the face of the boob on the runway demonstrates we’re not quite there yet.
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