The Naked Dress Is Interesting Because The Naked Dress Is Impossible

Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images.
The Naked Dress, a long, sheer gown encrusted with just enough jewels, feathers, and embroidery to keep the X-rated bits out of view, is having a moment.

Or, it's having a moment again. Cher wore one by Bob Mackie back in 1974, and J.Lo has been doing it for a few years now. But it’s reached critical mass this season, with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Kim Kardashian stepping onto the red carpet at the Met Gala a few weeks ago all sporting remarkably similar versions. A true devotee of the trend, Lopez showed up to the Billboard Awards less than two weeks later in yet another Naked Dress, composed of mesh with sequins carefully appliquéd into swirls over her breasts and nether regions.

There's a reason everyone talks about these Naked Dresses, and it has nothing to do with the shocking nudity involved. We’re fascinated by the style because we will never get to wear it. For non-red-carpet-walking humans, it is impossible.

If you are trying to imagine workarounds, events you could wear it to, and tricks you could use to get it onto your body, it is no use. Let me tell you why:

1. You cannot buy the Naked Dress.
The word “couture” gets thrown around a lot (thanks, Juicy) but these dresses are the very definition of it: unique pieces that are hand-sewn, lovingly beaded over many hours by a team of master seamstresses, and molded precisely to the eventual wearer. They each fit like a delicate mesh glove not because of stretch, but because they were made for one specific body.
Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Iamges; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images.
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Rihanna’s Naked Dress by Adam Selman, the one she wore almost exactly a year ago to the CFDA Awards, featured 230,000 Swarovski crystals that were applied by hand. Kim Kardashian’s white-swan gown boasted elaborate Art Deco detailing, and Beyoncé’s Met Gala get-up had crystals precisely applied along her underwear lines, making viewers all over the world smash their noses up against computer screens in an attempt to discern if she was wearing underwear at all. This attention to detail makes it plausible that Beyoncé put the unfinished dress on over her intended underwear so the people of Givenchy could mark exactly where the colorful stones would go.

There is no affordable Naked Dress. Below $5,000, it ceases to be a Naked Dress and becomes a mistake. It will be impossible for the prom or wedding industry to emulate the Naked Dress (though I'm sure there will be some unfortunate attempts). Glued stones will quickly pop off, cheap feathers will shed all over the floor, and the effect will be less Queen Bey and more Washed Up Vegas Performer. Not even double-stick tape can save you from mishaps in a poorly constructed Naked Dress.

2. There are only maybe a dozen bodies in the world “suited” for the Naked Dress.
Really, the Naked Dress is not about the Naked Dress. It is about the body underneath it. It allows a select few celebrities to show off their specific genetic assets: perky, small boobs (or large ones that defy gravity); an ample but pert butt; a flat stomach, lean thighs, and sculpted limbs that only look like that when they’re polished by personal training and meals crafted to a nutritionist’s strict specifications. (And possibly further polished by Photoshop before we see the dress in pictures.)

Tina Fey lamented in her book Bossypants, “I think the first real change in women’s body image came when J.Lo turned it butt-style… And then, what felt like moments later, boom — Beyoncé brought the leg meat… Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian.”

It’s not a coincidence that the same three women that she name-checked showed up to the Met Gala dressed in gowns meant to drive home the point. Fey was saying that their bodies are impossible to achieve, and you should listen to her. You can’t wear Spanx underneath the dress; your body is or is not made for it. There's no fooling a Naked Dress.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images; Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images.
3. The Naked Dress needs helpers.
Naked Dresses also require an entourage the day of, because there is no zipping the Naked Dress up. It demands delicate artistry to enclose the celebrity inside using a sewing needle and silk thread. Once her dress is on, the celebrity needs an assistant at the ready in case she pops a seam, loses a crucial crystal, or drops something on the floor. Naked Dresses do not allow for bending over, so we hope you can afford to pay someone to follow you around all night.

4. Where would you even wear the Naked Dress?
Since it won’t allow you to sit down comfortably, bend over, or make sudden movements, there are really no appropriate places to wear a Naked Dress other than celebrity-infested awards shows. You cannot wear one to a charity benefit (inappropriate), or a cocktail party (too much), and definitely not to your own wedding (Grandma disapproves), which is the only time you might conceivably have enough assistants (bridesmaids) following you around all night to help manage the burden. No, the Naked Dress is only for the kind of mega-watt events that are already focused on fashion, entertainment, and making a scene.

5. You are not a celebrity.
The Naked Dress is only for A++ list celebrities: the kind of women who will always be celebrities, no matter what, forever and ever.

That's why it is the ultimate power play. The woman in the Naked Dress is above reproach, outside the fashion rules that govern the rest of us. When Rihanna wore a dress one year ago that would have been completely invisible except for the glittering crystals, the media exploded in approbation, and absolutely nothing happened to her, her music, her fan base, or her sponsorships. Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian have looked body issues in the eye and scoffed. They do not care what the headlines say, because they’ve already heard it all and continued to kill it. They love the benefits of being a woman and have dismissed the drawbacks of femininity — the social strictures, glass ceilings, and male gaze — as a non-concern. Their naked dressing is proof of that.

Some people lament that the Naked Dress is yet another reason women feel bad about their bodies. But that isn’t exactly what’s going on here. In an age where we feel like we know celebrities because of their Instagram accounts, where fresh gossip is brought to us by the hour online, and fashion trends trickle down from the red carpet to Forever21 within weeks, the Naked Dress is so firmly and irrevocably out of reach, that we can actually just finally relax and admire the daring and celebritydom that brought it into existence — from afar! — like a piece of art in a museum we will never touch or own.

Relax, friends. You will never be expected, or have the opportunity, to wear a Naked Dress. And that is the most beautiful part about it.
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