Bras are now also “t-shirts”

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A few weeks ago, actress and director Olivia Wilde arrived at the Venice Film Festival wearing an elegant Chanel suit with an open jacket, under which she wore only a black bra. On the same day, colleague Florence Pugh was also photographed wearing a purple Valentino suit, made up of shorts, an open shirt and only a thin band covering her breasts. The two were among the most anticipated and talked about personalities at this year’s Festival due to a story of gossip that had been going on all summer, and their style choices were certainly not left to chance.

After a period, during the first lockdowns, in which it seemed that the end of the bra was near, in recent months this item of underwear has begun to be seen more and more often worn as a top, under jackets and open shirts, but also with nothing on it. It was one of the most evident trends of the fashion week that just took place in New York, but it is also very widespread outside the entertainment and luxury fashion circles. There are various hypotheses about its origin and why it is so popular.

As the Wall Street Journal, the ones you see on celebrities are almost never bras-bras, but “garments designed specifically as tops, made to be shown, and with more structure and substance than lingerie or the typical triangle bra”. At first sight, however, the difference is often minimal, especially given the great variety of bras models that are on the market. And there are also all kinds of bras-tops: some play with laces and straps like swimwear, while others are made from simple bands, some are sporty tops and still others have lace and underwire very similar to underwear .

One of the reasons why it is having such success is probably also the fact that the “bra-as-a-shirt” solution is a much more accessible and “democratic” solution than it may seem. In fact, bras used in this way are often combined with jackets or shirts of large sizes, which cover the uncovered parts and give a relaxed and comfortable effect, or with jeans, trousers and high-waisted skirts, which therefore hide the navel and leave only a small part of the abdomen is bare. It is a way to play with nudity, but without feeling too exposed.

As always, it is not easy to reconstruct when and how it began. Last fall Vogue he described the “bra-as-a-shirt” as a “micro-trend” born of the pandemic. Many haute couture designers had in fact begun to offer little opaque garments to respond to the desire to return to feeling worldly and sensual after months locked up at home. That was the period of Jaquemus’s knitted top, very short and closed by a thread on the front, then in February, the crop top (short tops) by MiuMiu made with shirts and sweaters cut just below the bust were very successful.

Some speculate that it was the eccentric actress Julia Fox who popularized the use of bras as a top, who in the last year has made a lot of talk about herself and her style choices, and who almost always wears tops that leave a lot of of the bare belly.

But going even further back, the Wall Street Journal reconstructs that already in 2019 the actress Katie Holmes had been photographed and filmed by fashion magazines while wearing a cashmire bra of the Khaite brand under an open sweater. The garment had sold out in no time and Holmes had recounted in an interview with Style Magazine that for her this had been a great moment of unexpected visibility.

That year the same idea was taken up by other celebrities such as models Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid and actress Kristen Stewart, so much so that The Cut he wrote that bras were perhaps one of the biggest “winners” of 2019, “completely transcending their functionality to become a completely different piece of clothing: t-shirts.” More recently, other famous actresses who have worn bras this way have been for example Zoë Kravitz, Kaia Gerber and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Gwyneth Paltrow at an event of her Goop brand (Bryan Bedder / Getty Images for Goop)

The one who is perhaps the forerunner of the “bra as a shirt” is the American actress Zendaya, who is now one of the most famous in the world, but who put her first bra (skin-colored) on a red carpet when she was still very less known: at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. From there he reissued it – a red sash coordinated with Vera Wang’s skirt – most recently at the CFDA Awards, the awards for personalities who have distinguished themselves in the field of fashion, for not surprisingly, receiving the award as Fashion Icon of the Year.

Zendaya at the CFDA Fashion Awards (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images)

An article by Harper’s Bazaar however he points out that the bra and jacket combination is much older than it looks: actress and model Brooke Shields wore it at the film’s presentation. Staying Alive in 1983 and Madonna in the video of Vogue 1990s (although hers was perhaps more like a bodice). Songwriter and film producer Jody Watley, who is dressed like this in the album cover photo Affairs of the Heart of 1991, made it his distinctive feature.

At the fashion week that has just closed in New York, there have been many bras and very different brands: from Tom Ford to Michael Kors, which is usually one of the fashion houses least interested in following the latest trends. The Wall Street Journal he wrote that, between the shows and the front rows of the audience, there was always “at least one woman in a bra”. Consistent with herself and with the fashion of the moment, Julia Fox showed up at one of the fashion shows wearing only a strip of what looked like metallic scotch tape as a top.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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