The absence of any significant drama wasn’t the only boring thing about Sunday night’s Oscars. On the red carpet, the overused, underwhelming “naked” dress trend — if you can still call something that Kate Moss was doing 30 years ago a “trend” — was regrettably abundant.
The worst offenders at the Vanity Fair afterparty included Ciara, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Daisy Edgar-Jones, but others like Emily Ratajkowski also opted for the worn-out look.
First of all, the “naked” dress just isn’t flattering. The risque look can’t even be described as suggestive — it’s not suggesting anything; it’s just spilling the beans all over the red carpet.
It’s generally not a good thing if your outfit keeps people from noticing your face, and the odds of that happening here are high. Neutral, nude tones work best when used to highlight the wearer’s face or hair or the cut of an outfit. When those neutral tones are instead emphasizing a visible thong, that effect is completely lost.
See-through mesh fabrics in variations of skin tone don’t provide enough visual contrast to be stunning on their own, either. “Naked” dresses rely on the wow factor of the wearer being, well, nearly naked — a factor which is reduced considerably when you’re the hundredth celebrity to do it.
Maximum skin per square inch isn’t always sexier, either, and Vanity Fair attendee Hunter Scafer’s decision to forego a shirt in favor of a single feather is as good a proof of that as any.
For comparison — Kate Hudson’s afterparty look, with its severely plunging neckline, was just as daring as the fishing net get-ups above, but the bright, solid color helped balance the suggestive neckline instead of competing with it. The dress itself is striking, but her face doesn’t get lost in a mess of sequined chain mail and underwear.
The gender studies majors at women’s magazines who try to cast the “naked” dress as a symbol of abortion and women’s empowerment are missing the mark, too. Marie Claire quoted “trend forecaster” Jessica Richards to explain that a key “reason sheer pieces have been trending” is in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. “Body-baring trends defy a climate created by legislation that restricts women’s autonomy of their bodies,” Richards insisted, without bothering to explain why the trend started long before Dobbs was decided.
Sending the message to women that they have to strip down to be empowered, just like telling women they have to get abortions to be successful, is the opposite of empowering. The former teaches that a woman’s worth is tied to her body; the latter teaches women to hate the beautiful functions their bodies are designed to do.
Maybe the reason the “naked” dress seems so tired and boring is that our culture is turning sex into something tired and boring. Our casual irreverence for sex devalues it, leaving little boys to think that the consumption of pornography is a normal and healthy behavior and leaving little girls to think they can solve the challenges of puberty by simply becoming boys. It’s no coincidence that, in a culture where sexual gratification is more accessible than ever, young people are having less of it.
As with a naked culture — Burke might say our “decent drapery of life” has been “rudely torn off” — so with “naked” dresses. In a society that hides nothing, exposing everything isn’t interesting.
(When Marilyn Monroe debuted a similar look to the “naked” dress with her infamous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” gown, on the other hand, it was transgressive enough and left enough to the imagination to be interesting. And it didn’t have to show her underwear!)
Here’s hoping the “naked” dress goes the way that skinny jeans are heading. Hollywood is in a creative drought — not just in the studio but also on the red carpet.