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Dare to bare: The new sexy and skin-baring looks

By Guest Contributor

Nov 17, 2021

Fashion

Victoria Beckham - Nensi Dojaka - Ottolinger

If there’s one thing this pandemic has given us, it’s a desire to rid ourselves of the memory of restrictions and shed our sweatpants in favor of sexy dressing. How the pendulum has swung. Only a year ago, loungewear dressing catered to our need for comfort in the confines of lockdowns, yet now there’s an inherent need for human touch that surfaces with skin-baring looks. Due to the touch crisis and being deprived of seeing people in person - let alone touching them - we’ve segued to 2021’s “hot vax summer” or Summer of Love. This is the first time in a while that we saw consumers seriously show off skin, and the emotional reasoning behind it has lasting power well into 2022 and beyond.

FashionUnited & FASHION SNOOPS have partnered to explore important shifts that will impact consumers, as we both believe it is essential to inform you of future inspirations, business shifts and design strategies. In this report, written by Melissa Moylan, VP of Womenswear at FS and Patricia Maeda Director of Womenswear at FASHION SNOOPS, we examine the growing need for consumers to show off skin.
New York Street Style / Valentina Valdinoci/IMAXTREE.COM

How did we get here?

Of course, this shift didn’t happen overnight. In Spring 21, loungewear offerings began to feature more sensual designs, partly due to sweatpants fatigue and mostly because of a rising feeling of optimism as vaccination rates were on the rise. Skims’ body-hugging slip dresses, launched in March of this year, convinced women to invest in sexy loungewear, going viral on social media platform TikTok, and returning for fall with a sensual keyhole update. As we eased out of sweats and loungewear, sweaters and knitwear swooped in, offering an elevated look that easily transcended from inner-to-outer wear. The comfort factor was always fundamental to knitwear, but what started to change were the silhouettes. Instead of oversized shapes, styles moved in closer to the body, often with the support of slinky rib knits. While the conversation included a lot of knit sets, what also emerged in the summer were knit column dresses with cutouts, popularized by Cult Gaia’s Serita dress and a fan favorite of Hailey Bieber and the Jenner clan. The column shape is undoubtedly sexy with cutout placements on the side or back and remains a key style in Spring 22 collections.

Victoria Beckham Spring 22 / Courtesy of Press Office

The build up

Adding more fuel to the fire per se, select brands have gone all-in on lust worthy advertising campaigns that put the spotlight on intimacy. Makeout sessions ensue; perhaps the most surprising coming from Suit Supply’s “The New Normal” ads displaying an orgy of men and women in underwear, save for one in a suit. The timing of the ad at the beginning of the year struck some as a bit premature, while Diesel (who is no stranger to sexy ads), featured a similar campaign at the same time. Titled “When Together,” Diesel’s ads offered a relatable explanation, describing the ads as “a portrait of absence and desire told through the words of lovers who have experienced both time apart and the intense reconnection that follows.” More recently, in the sultry Fall 21 Skims campaign, Megan Fox and Kourtney Kardashian posed together in underwear feeding each other fruit. As Paris Hilton commented, it’s hot, and really no further description is needed.

What is sexy now?

Silhouettes have undoubtedly gotten closer to the body, illustrated by the return of items such as body-con dresses which now take on a contemporary slant with details such as ruching, cutouts and fabric draping. The idea of shifting the focus back to the body can be attributed to the current mood for sexy dressing and a new season of sensual exuberance. On the runways, we have seen designers embrace sensual dressing through copious amounts of flesh on display, where items are precisely tailored to leave very little to the imagination. Expressive cut-outs, applied everywhere from neckline to hip bones, expose fashion’s obsession with new erogenous zones: revealing the shoulders and collarbone through halter, one shoulder, and strapless necklines that feel liberating and inclusive at once. Hip cutouts in the form of a thong-pant hybrid can be daring and exciting too, and resonate especially with Gen Z.

Act N°1 Spring 22 / Daniele Oberrauch/IMAXTREE.COM

In fact, as consumers shop for new “going-out” clothes, dressing up and undressing become tightly linked. Sexy cutouts inform new deliveries from dresses to tops and even winter staples such as cardigans with open front designs styled with nothing underneath - cue Jacquemus’ logo clasp cardigan, another hit amongst the younger crowd. But the trend for revealing skin has also brought new items (paradoxically) back into the fashion radar. Mini skirts, for instance, were all over the runways, from Miu Miu’s micro-minis to Chanel’s updated mini tweed suits. After seasons of midi hemlines dominating the skirt classification, minis seem to be creating a new sense of desire to update spring offerings. The look is completed with similarly revealing silhouettes such as bra tops to maximize visible skin. These items undoubtedly arouse the enthusiasm of an ever-increasing audience motivated by a thirst for something new - which in this case happens to be body reveal.

Miu Miu Spring 22 / Filippo Fior / IMAXTREE.COM

New and noteworthy

This is not the sexy of the Aughts for a few reasons. A younger generation of designers is driving this in addition to established luxury names. London designer Nensi Dojaka, who recently won the 2021 LVMH prize and is a favorite of Dua Lipa, is a go-to for this new brand of sexy with signature body con party dresses and lingerie details. Other designers to note include Supriya Lele, Rejina Pyo, KNWLS and Ottolinger. It should be noted that this new guard of designers are all women designing for women, which shifts the conversation from the male gaze to what women actually want to wear to make themselves feel sexy.

Nensi Dojaka Spring 22 / Daniele Oberrauch/IMAXTREE.COM
Ottolinger Spring 22 / Filippo Fior / IMAXTREE.COM

What also makes this overall shift different from most trends, is that there is typically not a specific aesthetic assigned to sexy dressing. For example, cutouts apply just as easily on sporty looks at Stella McCartney as they do on disco catsuits at Saint Laurent. The only exception to trend fluidity is that this new wave of body consciousness resonates especially with the Y2K-obsessed crowd; cue Blumarine with the micro shorts and tied cardigans.

Ultimately, sexy dressing in this decade comes with a renewed sense of liberation and a dose of post-pandemic escapism. Unlike the 00s version, sexy now is more in touch with how it makes the wearer feel as opposed to serving the male gaze. Sexy clothes are for everybody with high hemlines and fitted silhouettes, taking body consciousness quite literally, to new heights.

About
Fashion Snoops is a global trend forecasting agency helping leading consumer-facing brands around the world unlock innovation and propel growth. Through a combination of human and artificial intelligence, we analyze cultural shifts and interpret detected patterns in order to surface trend-driven business opportunities. Learn more here.