how can we reclaim the female body if we can’t handle a little skin?

We delve into Britain’s views on cleavage, crop tops and whether you can go braless without causing a backlash.

by Elizabeth Pankhurst Moffatt
|
19 January 2015, 4:20pm

2014 was the year that the latest wave of feminism made its way out of Tumblr, off our screens and onto the streets, causing controversy, but also creating awareness about the trials and tribulations of owning breasts in the modern world. It was the year of Everyday Sexism, Pussy Riot and Joseph Gordon Levitt and it seemed like being a girl could only get better. So, how did we welcome 2015 in? By getting our collective knickers in a twist about Rita Ora wearing a white Ermanno Scervino suit on The One Show and forgetting to wear a shirt or a bra. And so she became the chest that launched a thousand complaints. Okay, four hundred, but still…

We belong to Europe, an oasis of free nipples and cavalier attitudes to casual nudity, so why get worked up about a bit of cleavage on our televisions when even America is down with getting it out? Lena Dunham's string-vest-no-bra vibes have led the way for an acceptance of our natural state that some seem to be slow to follow up on. Even ex-Disney princess Miley Cyrus is all tops off and bubble bath bush these days. While young stars Lina Esco and Lola Kirke are busy campaigning to free the nipple, and actress Caitlin Stasey is making digital waves with her new website herself.com, which celebrates sexual fluidity and the female form in all it's diverse naked glory, should Britain still be getting offended by a low cut top? Maybe it's time for the great British public to follow America's suit (or should that be birthday suit?)

In a world where we make glamour models celebrities yet slam celebrities for showing too much skin, it's no wonder girls are so confused. You can make a business out of your sex life, but if you're successful you better not show an inch of sexuality. If you're a Tom Ford girl, all red lips and no pants, or if your flashy prints and tanned legs are pure Versace, does it mean that's all you are; sequins, sunglasses and nothing under the surface? Or is it time we started accepting that we can be complex individuals who like both leather trousers and 19th century literature?

Fashion can be fairly misunderstood on this front. For anyone who hasn't seen Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci tell it like it is in The Devil Wears Prada, the industry might seem like a shallow machine of fabric swatches and champagne - no depth, just dresses - but as Miranda Priestly explains, whether it's Oscar de la Renta or fished out of a Casual Corner clearance bin, what you put on your back represents "millions of dollars and countless jobs," and whether you're bothered about it or not, nothing really exempts you from the fashion industry. As Nigel makes clear - the fashion world has produced some of the greatest artists of the century, "and what they did was greater than art because you live your life in it." If art is a mirror of society then what could be a better reflection of the common feeling than the style that starts on our very streets? When Dior is referencing Hokusai and Dolce & Gabbana are merging Catholicism with couture, how can you see fashion as anything but a melting pot of our culture? A sea of politics and passions, faiths and fantasies, it takes our everyday and turns it into something extraordinary.

So why is the way women dress such an incredibly severe sore point, and so often? You would think something so inextricably linked with our lives would be celebrated but wait, was that a bit of side boob I saw? No thanks. Straight to the Daily Mail sidebar of shame for you. With everything going on in the world, the Paris sieges and Boko Haram, you might hope that people's attention, and more importantly their outrage, would be elsewhere. Human rights are being infringed upon the world over and the most upsetting thing to happen to 400 people so far this year was that they saw a bit too much cleavage while they enjoyed some mid-evening broadcasting from the BBC. It seems our bodies are still battlegrounds, and while we are overwhelmingly lucky compared to so many women in the world it doesn't mean we shouldn't take a stand against the little infringements, the expectations and the inequalities right here on our streets, on our televisions and in our own lives.

So let's, please, all agree to let 2015 be the year we don't give a fuck anymore. The year we go braless if we want to, the year we forget about stretch marks and hyper-sexualisation and just enjoy that Moschino mini-dress or crop top, or whatever, for what it is. No subtext or sly judgements, just girl power and great outfits. In the immortal words of James St. James, "It doesn't matter what you look like! I mean, if you have a hunchback, just throw a little glitter on it, honey, and go dancing."

Credits


Text Elizabeth Pankhurst Moffatt
Photography Tesh
Fashion Director Edward Enninful
Hair James Brown M.F.H.
Make-Up Aaron De Mey At Streeters
Photographic Assistance John Molloy, Tom Kletecka, Jeremy Nelson And Christian Macdonald
Styling Assistance Michelle Cameron, Sharon Sylvester And Caroline Newell
Model Kate Moss At Img

Tagged:
feminism
Fashion
Tom Ford
Versace
Rita Ora
Edward Enninful
lola kirke
elizabeth pankhurst moffatt
lina esco
tesh