NYFW & Boobs: What's the Big Deal?

February 17, 2014

Michelle Harper attending shows in New York (photo by Chantal Adair for Elle.com) | Kendall Jenner making her runway debut at Marc Jacobs

When I was twelve I was a little off-put when I saw skinny models in sheer tops traipsing down the runway like it was no big deal. I had just delved into the world of high fashion and the concept of of fashion being as much about nudity as it was clothing took some time for me to adjust to. 

Nowadays it's really no big deal for me. Sheer tops are a thing and they don't always come with corresponding lingerie when shown on the runway. Fashion editorials feature topless models as much as Playboy does. Toplessness is not unusual to me anymore and as I look back on the middle school me who blushed just looking at Chanel runway shows and the occasional see-through top I wonder why exactly I was so alarmed by it all in the first place. After all, it's only a woman's body, it's not something unfamiliar or dangerous. 

So what exactly is wrong with the occasional sheer top, anyways?

I found myself looking back on my first encounters with toplessness in fashion and asking the above question this weekend when the social media universe was all atwitter (on Twitter) over Kendall Jenner's runway debut at the Marc Jacobs show this past Thursday. 

The eighteen-year-old member of the Kardashian clan was almost unrecognizable beneath a cropped wig and pale makeup that included bleached brows. Her involvement in the show was kept quite hush-hush until she stepped out into the spotlight, and even then I didn't recognize her as I livestreamed the show. It was only when I saw my twitter feed erupt with excitement over her first stint as a runway model that I did a double take and conclude that Kendall had indeed walked down the runway in equestrian-inspired trousers and an incredibly lightweight knit top.

The first thing I thought was: meh, I wish they had put her in a better outfit. 

The second thing: oh, her boobs are out. People are going to freak out about that probably.

Big shocker: I was right about the ideas people were going to have regarding her somewhat scandalous outfit. People started freaking the eff out over Kendall's outfit. If you search "Kendall Jenner" and "Marc Jacobs" the majority of results focus on the fact that the young starlet exposed her breasts on the catwalk - and not, you know, that she just walked for one of the biggest names in fashion and did well. Kendall is getting called a bad role model and an attention whore (usually along the lines of "she's just like her other attention whore sisters"). 

Nice, people. Very nice.

While personally I would not opt to wear that outfit to my next lecture, there's a reason why Kendall is the model and I am not. If she feels comfortable wearing the outfit then go for it, girl! And it's not like only the celebrity wore a revealing outfit - she was but one in a long line of models that sported slightly-transparent tops for Marc Jacob's fall 2014 show. 

In addition, one must consider the context. Many people tweeted about how disgusted they were with Kendall's choice in outfit, as if she went to Barney's and purchased it or had requested a see-through top. This was the outfit Kendall was given, and as a model it is her job to wear the clothes. 

Consider the street style choice of Michelle Harper during NYFW: she wore a nude mesh top that similarly left her breasts exposed - and she was wearing it on the streets out in public. When I first saw her outfit I'll admit I was a little shocked, but it was more of a "Oh, that's something we don't see everyday" than an "AHH! Boobs!" Most commentators felt similarly about Harper - shocked not by the "obsceneness" of her outfit but rather by the rarity of such a look, and in the dead of winter no less. I think the main thing that came to mind for me was, Ohmigod, she must be freezing. That is true dedication to your look over fear of the elements.

So why are two cases of semi-toplessness interpreted so differently? I suppose the two most important factors are Kendall's age and celebrity. Granted, she is young, but she is average in age for a model and she is a legal adult who is capable of making her own decisions. On the second factor - her celebrity - I think the context of the outfit is important. It is her job to wear the outfit, rather than a choice to go out in public wearing it. 

But in all honesty, would it be so weird if she did that either? I see plenty of women walk about sans bra and personally I like wearing bras (they're pretty!) but I can understand that bras can be uncomfortable and that some women don't like wearing them. And people don't really freak out when women choose to go without a bra, so I don't really understand why the level of sheer-ness affects how appropriate not wearing a bra can be. And it's like, people, it's no mystery that women have breasts whether you can see them through a shirt or not. They are there and we should stop fixating on them and on Kendall's outfit and instead celebrate the huge accomplishment that walking for Marc Jacobs is. Don't let anything - especially something as stupid as boobs - distract from that huge achievement. 

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I love hearing your thoughts! Thanks for reading! ♥︎Lindsey