With the rise of experimental fashion and bold sartorial statements, underwear as outerwear has become a mainstay on the fashion runways and in the wardrobes of bigshot celebrities. Whether it be Madonna, Kim Kardashian, or Dua Lipa, the buzzy trend reimagines fashion's strict dress codes. In honor of National Underwear Day, L'OFFICIEL details the humble origin and subsequent rise of exposing one's undergarments for the sake of fashion.
Despite the trend's buzzy present, it has a Middle Age origin that was spurred by aristocratic figures and noblemen. Covering the male genitalia, the codpiece was one of the first instances of underwear as outerwear. The codpiece is a detachable flap that attached to the crotch of men's trousers and accentuated the genitalia of the wearer while helping to ease use of the bathroom. In the following centuries, the corset would also become a main instance of undergarments as outerwear with many women and men opting for the garment to create an exaggerated hourglass silhouette.
Codpiece during the Middle Ages.
Victorian era woman sports a corset.
Transitioning into the modern era, underwear became more of a fashion statement and less of a practical necessity. With the popularity of flappers and burlesque dancers, bras, underwear, and stockings became increasingly popular throughout society and proved that women's fashion had officially abandoned the strict rigidity of the corset. Although some looked down upon the scant styles of the period, it revolutionized the ways in which undergarments are utilized in fashion-especially in performance through the memorable fashion of legends like Josephine Baker, Clara Bow, and Tempest Storm.
The sexual liberation movement of the 1960s proved to be a pivotal point in the trend of underwear as outerwear. With a newly refreshed sense of dress, many women began to wear iterations of corsets and underwear in place of ready-to-wear. Though these styles were worn mostly by goth and punk subcultures, they soon became a forever favorite in fashion's sprawling lexicon.
The emergence of the popstar in the 1980s and '90s allowed for underwear to have its heyday across mainstream culture as well. For her Blonde Ambition Tour, popstar Madonna sported a custom Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra that instantly captivated an international audience. With pointed cups and an underwear-focused exterior, the cultural icon catapulted the trend of wearing undergarments into the focus of fashion. Like the corset, bra tops have become a seductive everyday piece, seen on the likes of Megan Fox and Bella Hadid. Also during the '80s, Princess Diana popularized wearing slip dresses as outerwear-a notable move since these dresses were historically reserved for night gowns and undergarments.
Madonna wears the Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra, 1990.
Continuing into the following years, the whale tail trend-an exposed thong worn under a skirt or pants-was rapidly popularized in the 1990s and early 2000s. Coinciding with the rise of low-waisted pants, the whale tail trend culminated in unforgettable looks on some of the decade's biggest stars-Paris Hilton, Halle Berry, and Britney Spears. Previously only worn by a certain subset of society, mainly entertainers and performers, the thong became a constant fixture across runways and red carpets alike.
Halle Berry at the MTV Video Music Awards, 2000.
Gucci Spring/Summer 1997.
Though the low-rise trend faded, whale tails are making a comeback thanks to brands like Versace and Gucci and fashion superstars including Bella Hadid, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Lopez. Whether it be an understated corset top or scandalously exposed thong tails, underwear as outerwear is seemingly better than ever. Here, see the most noteworthy examples of the memorable trend from recent runways and celebrity wardrobes.