The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing

On Halloween 2023, SKIMS officially launched their faux nipple bra and, to those who are more conservative, this may very well have been the fright of the night. Their new release was a push-up bra that made the wearer seem as though their nipples were in constant arousal. Kim Kardashian made an appearance in April on Jimmy Kimmel to further promote the garment and revealed that it was actually molded from her own breasts. Thus, anyone wearing the bra would be wearing a copy of her chest. The brand clearly intended for the design to be bold and shocking, likely to get more people talking. However, considering the history of support garments in fashion, this may not be as revolutionary as Kardashian’s PR team seems to think.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineKim Kardashian models the faux nipple bra in her new campaign for SKIMS. The setting is based on the ‘90s technology craze aesthetic, clearly meant to depict the bra as something completely new and fresh.

Breast support garments have been around for centuries, but the most well-documented predecessor to the modern bra is the corset. Made from boning and ribbons, these garments were extremely structured. Rather than complement the wearer’s natural shape, they were often used to modify the body in order to conform to whatever beauty standard was fashionable at the time. This is where tightlacing, the practice of tightening a corset as much as physically possible, comes into play. Tightlacing was essential to many of the silhouettes in vogue at the time because they often required one’s waist to be practically non-existent in comparison to their bust and hips. Obviously, no healthy grown female can naturally possess a 12-inch waist. While working-class women did wear corsets as well, they were made with cheaper materials and certainly more comfortable than those worn by the aristocracy.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineThis nineteenth-century whalebone corset found at the Royal Ontario Museum becomes pliable when exposed to body heat. Photo: Brian Boyle

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineThis fashion plate from Les Modes Parisiennes was drawn by artist François Claudius Compte-Calix around the mid-1800s. Due to photography still being in its developmental stages, fashion plates were used to depict current trends.

After the industrial revolution, more women gradually began entering the workforce. This meant that restrictive corsets fell out of public favor, instead being replaced by the more comfortable brassiere. One of the first iterations of the bra was created in the early 1910s by Mary Phelps Jacob using two silk handkerchiefs. The design grew in popularity over the next few decades and, by the 1940s, it became the standard support garment for breasts. At this point, however, modesty was still strongly expected of women and their undergarments still had to be covered up. Brassieres came in mostly neutral colors and their shapes concealed the bosom. That is until Perma-Lift released the bullet bra, a brassiere which made the wearer’s breasts appear more pointed and perky, in 1941.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineMarilyn Monroe’s iconic Sweater Girl look could be achieved simply by wearing a bullet bra and a thin sweater.

Marilyn Monroe is often credited for popularizing the bullet bra in the 1950s, a time when sex appeal was catapulted into the mainstream by the rise of Playboy Magazine. While the hippy movement embraced the braless trend, it was left to Jean-Paul Gaultier to debut his risqué Fall/Winter 1984 collection which featured velvet corsets that took the bullet bra’s concept to the extreme and turned it into more of a rocket bra with its long cone-shaped, hypersexualized breasts. Madonna shocked the whole world when she wore Gaultier’s “cone bra” for her iconic Blond Ambition tour in the 1990s. This was a turning point for fashion. Suddenly, it was cool and trendy to wear lingerie as outerwear.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineThis look from Gaultier’s 1984 Fall/Winter collection is still talked about and referenced to this day.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineGaultier’s design genius combined with Madonna’s boldness revolutionized the world of fashion.

By 2010, feminist discourse centering around the brassiere’s practicality started gaining traction. At this point, lingerie was a staple in fashion, but many wondered if it had any use beyond aesthetics. By then, corsets were widely considered oppressive due to the practice of tightlacing and some felt as though the bra was in the same vein. Controversially, public figures and normal women alike quit wearing breast support garments completely, possibly in solidarity with the “Free the Nipple” movement which had gained a lot of support. Women and those who are gender non-conforming were tired of their bodies being objectified for the sake of the male gaze. They wanted to be able to simply exist in the body they were born in without being sexualized.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineModel Bella Hadid is often seen braless in public. Considering her influence, this has helped destigmatize the braless look.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and celebrities seem to have taken this to the extreme and are leaving behind clothing altogether. The red carpet is now dominated by “naked dressing,” a trend where one pushes the limits of public indecency by wearing only underwear and some sort of sheer fabric overtop. While this may be a complete 180 from the attitudes towards modesty in the 1800s, the overarching classism most definitely remains. The working class could never get away with being practically nude in public. The rich do it just because they can.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineDoja Cat bears her nipples in a Dilara Findikoglu dress at the 2024 Grammys.

, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul Magazine
Dakota Johnson wears a crystal Gucci naked dress at the premiere of Madame Web.

Considering the long history of corsets and bras as both fashion statements and breast support, SKIMS’ new launch does not seem so polarizing. At the very least, they are not giving anyone long-term health issues. In fact, they may actually be somewhat helpful and inclusive, as they allow for those who absolutely require bosom support to now fashionably flaunt their nipples just like the rest of us.

 


, The Growing Movement to Flaunt the Nipple is in Full Swing, Liminul MagazineAnaïs-Aimée Rafaelsen is an artist and critic based in Toronto. Her work has been shown in exhibitions as well as featured in The Walrus. She is currently obtaining her BDes in Material Art and Design at OCAD University.