From Whale Tails To Visible Ovaries: The Evolution Of The 2021 Cut-Out Trend

Photo: Marc Piasecki/GC Images.
A week ago, Bella Hadid arrived in Paris for Haute Couture Week wearing a lace camisole and yoga trousers circa 2007. But the most eye-catching part of the ensemble wasn’t its throwback nature: it was that her stretchy flared leggings bore two cut-outs that exposed the oft-hidden area around her pelvis. On social media, her hip-baring bottoms, I.AM.GIA’s Carrie trousers were swiftly pegged “ovary pants,” and dubbed the next big thing. Days later, the trend was solidified into the zeitgeist when Kim Kardashian debuted a lace dress by Barragán while visiting the Vatican in Rome. The floor-length frock left her pelvic area exposed, a fact that apparently didn’t break the location’s strict dress code. 
As a result, searches for “pelvic” and “hip” cutouts spiked on global fashion shopping platform Lyst, growing respectively by 23% and 19%.
Pelvic pants are but one of many 2021 trends that revolve around peek-a-boo sartorial moments, ranging from subtle side cut-outs to full-on holey. In fact, in the last month alone, Lyst reported a 39% increase in searches for cut-out pieces in general, a number that will likely continue to rise as more and more brands take the Edward Scissorhands approach to their collections in the name of fashion. But why are we all of a sudden so obsessed with showing skin, so much so that we’d put our bellies, ovaries, backsides, underboobs, and more on display for the world to see? And who is to blame for driving us to do so? 
Photo: courtesy of Jonathan Simkhai.
Jonathan Simkhai fall '21 collection.
When spring ‘21 collections were presented last September, hardly a cut-out was in sight, the closest approximations being an orange spaghetti-like skirt at Salvatore Ferragamo and a purple naked dress at No. 21. Consumers wanted to cover up and hide from both the world and themselves — their only company during lockdown — doing so with baggy silhouettes and stay-away-from-me shoulders. 
Six months later, when designers debuted their autumn ‘21 offerings, everything had changed. Jonathan Simkhai’s collection featured leather pants with cut-outs beneath the belt loops that left going commando the only viable underwear option. Other pieces in the collection included dresses with rib, shoulder blade, and upper-ab holes. At Cult Gaia, hardly a garment left something to the imagination, with under-arm, hip, and side cut-outs appearing throughout the 39-piece collection. 
The trickle-down effect from Fashion Week led to a stripping-down effect on social media, where apparel that appeared shredded by the Hulk — or better yet, a character on Teen Wolf — became a mainstay for celebrities like Dua Lipa and Kylie Jenner (both wearing Poster Girl). Brands like Rui Zhou, Merritt Meacham, and Noush also got in on the ubiquitous tearing-at-the-seams look. 
From there, we witnessed a whale tail comeback that, unlike the early-aughts version, now included pants with upper-butt cut-outs that only gave off the illusion of an exposed G-string. Next was a rise in visible underboobs on the red carpet, with highlights including Zendaya, Andra Day, and Vanessa Kirby at the Oscars. And finally, there was the introduction of floss fashion, or clothing that’s made up of mostly strings that you tie this way and that until something akin to a garment appears. 
Essentially, fashion has taken a turn for the naked, with the oversized suits and nap dresses of 2020 being replaced with something a little (or a lot) more revealing now that pandemic restrictions have lessened and lockdowns are coming to an end. Finally, we can go out again, and in the process, show off the bodies we spent the last year-plus of COVID life protecting and learning to love. Cut-outs provide an easy way to do so. They also make showing off varying degrees of skin an option, with wearers being given the option to subtly display their shoulders (a great option for vaccine appointments!) or collarbones, or go all the way, leaving their entire midriffs or ovaries exposed. Pick your poison.
And if today’s vast range of cut-outs doesn’t show enough skin for your post-quarantine wardrobe, there’s always the naked dress.

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