Now that we’re done frothing at the mouth let’s talk about Rihanna’s naked dress.
On June 2, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) held their annual fashion awards.
And all the right faces showed up. Then Rihanna arrived. Dressed in a custom-made Adam Selman gown hand sewn with over 230,000 Swarovski crystals, held by a personal trainer whose phone must be ringing off the hook, a nude thong and the insouciance of a very attractive woman, the US musician was named 2014 Fashion Icon. READ: Rihanna Bares all.
Introduced by the Vogue editor Anna Wintour as someone who “enjoys pushing buttons while remaining true to herself,” Rihanna accepted the award declaring with no sense of irony whatsoever fashion was “an outlet for me to express myself, to speak up, to say who I am and to be very loud about it at times. Fashion is just a world of thrills, it’s exciting, there’s no rules. I mean Wintour has a ton of rules. There are rules! But rules are meant to be broken.”
NORMAL IS BORING
Let’s start from there. No one else on the planet could have worn this dress. We may have been shocked at it, not who wore it. Rihanna’s body is frankly a work of art from every conceivable angle.
This Naked Dress as it came to be known was pieced together by little more than imagination, well-lit swaths of carpet and sheer audacity. Still, there was an elegance to her carriage that overshadowed the nudity.
Truth is Rihanna has prepped us for months. This was no bare-bottomed decision. Her dressing has progressively disappeared to the point of no return earning a ban from Instagram.
From the very beginning, fashion has been controversial. Normal is not just boring, it’s a faux pas. The Naked Dress attracted moral outrage and aptly so, from how dare she, role models, print boycotts to what the heck is wrong with this child and where is her mother!
On the flip side, people will discuss this into 2044. I loved everything about the look. The provocateur appealed to me. Turning up naked in public is such a dread, psychologists tag it our most common dream. Rihanna simply wore it with a shrug.
Driven by the need to be proper, you may think a near-naked woman on a red carpet shouldn’t shift your world. Except she must. At 26, RiRi is worth $90 million with 87 million likes on Facebook, 35.7 million Twitter followers and 111 million hits on Google. It would be wrong to presume she wields no influence.
This Naked Dress on this particular body matters. It carries the realisation just how deep morality and fashion are linked, weighs on reality, interactions and assessment of people, illuminates political correctness and proves we do judge women based on clothing and looks more than the measure of accomplishments; even one as notorious as Rihanna.
A few months back, a woman posted in the comments section of a Rihanna story: “It’s now official. I have seen her butt cheeks more than I have seen my own.” Hilarious. Except it reveals a disconnect from her own body as much it is reaffirms another’s penchant for underdressing.
It’s easy to automatically presume Rihanna piece of meat peddled for her sex appeal and the inevitable traction translating into money. Because would a woman actively and repeatedly objectify herself or allow her own objectification? Good question.
Women have been taught to err on the side of demure. Sexuality, suggested, hinted or overt, has consequences. I’m not privy to boardroom politics when her team discusses career trajectories.
However, women who are smart enough to realise they possess other avenues of power. Rihanna is/may be on top owing to her talent and/or sex appeal. But in fashion she is the ultimate industry muse not for being beautiful, but for constantly making it possible to push the envelope and express itself through her.
She’s the perfect rule-breaking conduit who always makes fashion a point of relevance, examination and discussion. Admit it, you had no idea CFDA Awards existed prior to this and didn’t care.
Beyond the morality of public nudity lies another, more powerful conversation. The attitude towards the female body, a woman’s expression of her sexuality, women’s fashion choices, society and women’s role, expression and power in it and how fashion is the thread tying it all together come up.
Most of us will never be as comfortable naked as we are fully clothed. Still, how much do you own your body. To what degree are your fashion choices truly your own as opposed to informed by others, rules and fear; enough to be unapologetic, fully trusting what they say as clear and unmistakable? Bold enough to wear daily, consistently. Unexpected instances like this lend themselves to deeper self-examination. Once you’re done reacting, your truth will out itself.