A Fashionable History of the Nip Slip

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A wardrobe malfunction is historically regarded as a scandal and the moment when an outfit goes awry. We know it from the covers of gossip magazines, from looming paparazzi waiting to catch celebrities at their worst moments. We also try desperately to avoid them with contraptions that secure clothes in place, and yet many of these dreaded „malfunctions“ didn’t even begin as scandalous, but were actually quite fashionable.

Perhaps, the most common of wardrobe malfunction sub-terminology is the „nip slip.“ The origins of the word „nip slip“ first appeared in 2004 after the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy, in which Justin Timberlake performed “Rock Your Body“ alongside Janet Jackson. He subsequently ripped off her bustier, exposing her breast at the conclusion of the song to over 140 million viewers nationwide, causing a major scandal in the process.

But what many don’t know is that the costume Jackson wore was none other than the work of the irreverent Alexander McQueen. His design of the bustier was provocatively genius, attaching buttons to the cups of the bustier for quick and easy removal in mere milliseconds Timberlake had to shock the nation. The nip slip seen around the world was executed by the mastery of McQueen’s design, right down to the decorative sunburst nipple shield that was revealed under the bustier. Though McQueen’s design was jarring for the country, resulting in the blacklisting of Jackson’s music, it was nothing short of history in the making for the fashion world.

The nip slip began in fashion as not so much of a „slip“ but more of an everyday practice during the 17th and 18th centuries. For queens and couturiers alike, showing your breasts was a fashion statement, whereas showing your ankles or knees was considered faux pas. Low-cut bodices that pushed breasts upwards became increasingly popular during this time, encouraging the display of breasts. In response to the trend of ultra-plunging scoop necklines, Voltaire’s mistress, French mathematician and coquette extraordinaire Émilie du Châtelet, created „nipple rouging“ or nipple makeup to accentuate the natural color of nipples through a cocktail of natural oils and pigments.

Nip slips were particularly evident in portraiture during this time, with breasts symbolizing different meanings. The exhibition of youthful-looking breasts implicated a sense of purity and chastity. On the contrary, breasts could also be used to communicate maternal nature as the exposure of a single breast symbolized high birth and strong moral character. If women were to show both breasts, however, this generally hinted something quite different about her virtues and was often seen in the portraits of mistresses, such as Nell Gwyn, mistress of King Charles II.

When the promiscuous behavior of The Regency period was replaced with a new order of Puritan control during the reign of Queen Victoria, the nipple seemingly disappeared from everyday fashion. Paintings were even altered, censored with flowers, or even destroyed in an effort to censor areolas from society altogether as a suppression of female anatomy.

Though the nip slip was banished from common culture for centuries, it prevails as historically one of the best and most rebellious statements on the runway. Throughout the ’90s, various designers created pieces to embrace the female body. From Gaultier to Galliano, designers worked to change social structures by creating pieces that displayed the nipple as part of the garment rather than hiding beneath it. Today, you’ll find nip slips are normalized on the runways, whether intentionally part of the look or a true „slip,“ the nip is always stylish.

Nip slips have recently circled back to their origins and have become less of an accident and more part of the look. Notably, Rihanna dropped jaws at the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards in a sheer gown made from 50,000 Swarovski crystals by Adam Selman. After being questioned about her intentional nip slip look, she replied in classic bad gal style: „Do my tits bother you? They’re covered in Swarovski crystals!“

If you’re not into a full-on nip slip, the more modest little sister of the nip slip is the „side boob“ defined as the profile and view of breasts. Because the side boob doesn’t show the full breast, it’s a bit more achievable on an everyday basis when you want to show some skin. Side boob is a lot like nip slips due to the fact that in many cases, they are accidental, but more recently designers are creating low-cut pieces that flirtatiously suggest a nip slip without fully delivering. More recently the alternative of the „under boob“ or under profile of the breast has become popular with the rise of undercut clothing and cropped shirts.

Today, we still face a bizarre double-standard when it comes to the nipple. Social media’s community guidelines feed into the censorship of women’s bodies that society has dealt with since the Victorian era. The #FreeTheNipple movement was founded in 2012 to combat censorship and reclaim the nipple for the equality and empowerment of all. So whether it’s a political statement, fashion statement, or a combination of both, go forth and free the nip slip.

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createdAt:Tue, 28 May 2019 18:06:53 +0000
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