It’s almost fall, the temperatures are finally dropping, and things are getting a bit…nipply.
At this year’s New York Fashion Week—a parade of influencers and who’s who in the fashion world—one trend floated to the top of all the yards of silk and chiffon. It’s very inexpensive, and nearly anyone can pull it off. Yes, that’s right: I’m talking about the nipple.
This year’s NYFW models emerged from their shadowy designer curtains with nips a-blazing. Whether obscured by sheer bits of fabric or on full display, pointedly staring front-row celebs in the eye, a litany of nipples showed up and showed out. Fashion writer Tyler McCall first pointed out the proliferation of nipples—or rather a “tits out” aesthetic—on this year’s runways over the weekend, pulling images from Victor Glemaud, Jason Wu, and Prabal Gurung. The vice president’s stepdaughter, Ella Emhoff, walked in Gurung’s show with her full right boob exposed, nipple peeking delicately out of a swath of lime green. (See above.)
But the nipples spotted on last week’s runways were a culmination of the previous eight months of fashion philosophizing and navel-gazing. In February, Harper’s Bazaar declared that “Fashion Is Obsessed with Boobs Again,” citing designers like Loewe, Prada, and Schiaparelli, whose “golden nipple motifs” and “denim cone bra jackets” have been worn by cultural, um, entities like Julia Fox. “Breasts are having a renaissance in fashion on the spring 2022 runways, and after years of BBL (the Brazilian Butt Lift) and focus on the back, it makes sense that designers are now putting their emphasis on top,” the piece proclaimed.
To be clear, we at Jezebel very much support freeing the nip. No longer trapped at the idyllic nude beach, the “tits out” aesthetic is one all women and femmes should have the agency to enjoy. Mesh tops without bras belong at raves just as much as they belong on the streets of Los Angeles. I love all nipples, and I want to see those unfettered areolas hailed in all their sizes.
In a post-Roe v. Wade environment, in particular, it’s important for all breast-havers to be able to exercise freedom over our bodies, including the freedom to display our nipples whenever and however we’d like—an action that is inherently political, due to centuries of old men decrying nipples as sexually deviant, morally decrepit, and just plain old slutty.
Body parts, including butts and noses, have been deemed trendy by fashion and media gatekeepers for decades. Specifically regarding boobs, in 2017, Vogue mused that Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Rihanna could be credited with “desensitizing the nipple.” That same year, the Daily Beast described NYFW as “sexed up” with “so much flesh.” During another nipple cycle back in 2014, the Guardian declared exposed nips a trend at London Fashion Week. Kate Moss has been picketing for nipple liberation since the mid-1990s in her own privileged way. The nips-out cycle runs every three years or so, I’d venture to guess.
The problem, I might warn, with Big Fashion declaring a body part trendy is that the industry generally presents just one version of that part to be pined after, emulated, and purchased. At this year’s NYFW, said version was tiny, perky breasts with microscopic nips on the bodies of very thin women. That positioning of itty bitty boobs as “fashionable” is precisely the reason why Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner were credited with desexualizing nipples by the leading industry magazine, and not the snaking line of women who came before them.
The antithesis of today’s nipple trend, then—women with jugs, women in bigger bodies, women in Black and brown bodies, and, really, most regular women—are considered the boobs of an uncivilized dirtbag. Nips out may be in for New York Fashion Week nobility, but not for you.
Exposing one’s nipples as a means to regaining political power or bodily autonomy works for some people. It’s fine, even, that our tastemakers are proclaiming grand statements about nipples as politically and sexually liberating—and letting your nips hang out of your string bikini like a hammerhead shark is gleeful liberation indeed. But until that particular statement includes saggy boobs—those with stretch marks; uneven ones; and nipples of every color and size under the sun—the political statement will have too many caveats to say anything revolutionary at all.