Traditionally, underwear is considered to be clothing that is worn underneath t-shirts, jeans, and other traditional outerwear. Underwear is understood to be a single layer of clothing that protects outerwear from bodily exudation and protects the wearer from unwanted rubbing or friction from articles of outerwear. However, there is currently a trend in underwear being worn as outerwear due to influences in pop culture and progress in women’s rights movements. This article will explore current trends in underwear as outerwear, look at past figures (such as Madonna) who influenced this trend, and examine how the trend has evolved over time.
As a trend or fashion statement, underwear as outerwear is based on the current definition of underwear at the time. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s, disco shorts, mini-skirts, and other short, tight-waist, revealing clothing were considered acceptable outerwear fashion. However, years earlier, even as recent as the 1950s, these garments were more understood as underwear one would only wear in the house or bedroom. This brings up one of the most important influences in the underwear as outerwear trend: women’s rights.
Today, one of the reasons underwear as outerwear is a trend is due to a new wave of feminism that brings with it movements like “Free the Nipple,” a women’s rights movement that questions laws that allow men to lawfully show their nipples in public but prohibits women from doing the same. Women’s fashion caters to the contemporary mindset of women and provides attire and styles that meet that mindset. Another example of this is seen in the 1920s. On the heels of women’s suffrage in the United States, the 1920s saw women sporting shorter hemlines and even teddies as outerwear. Those 1960s short shorts occurred during and following the second wave of feminism in the United States. There is a link between the progress of women’s fashion becoming more and more revealing and the progress of women’s rights movements.
Pop culture has also significantly influenced the trend of underwear as outerwear. Pop culture artists, who are often in the public eye even when they are performing, have the luxury as wearing almost anything to fit the theme of their respective performance and have it considered fashion. This is not to say that their attire is not fashion but that pop culture icons have the ability to create trends and forward fashion off of the traditional runway. For example, Marilyn Monroe was often seen in magazines wearing provocative underwear as outerwear, Madonna, who constantly changed her style, incorporated conical brasseries and other traditional under garments in her outerwear outfits, and today, companies like Victoria’s Secret, which holds an annual underwear fashion show, and pop culture figures like Kim Kardashian, who recently launched her own line of waist trainers, are continuing the underwear as outerwear trend.
Underwear could potentially be worn more and more as outerwear as society and pop culture propel forward towards the 22nd century because of the clothing trends that have occurred to this date. Currently, especially as it relates to female garments, fashion allows for more and more skin to be exposed. There is a clear progression towards more revealing clothing in female fashion. As mentioned above, women’s fashion used to be dictated by reservation and an attempt to preserve “female purity” in the visual capacity. Today, “modesty” in female fashion has been replaced by a united female effort to accept female bodies, fully clothed or in underwear. Underwear as outerwear is a part of the current feminist movement and will likely evolve to a point where those in the future will look back at contemporary times in the same manner as we observe the 1950s.