“I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Conceptual Nakedness and Chosen Exposure in Fashion
When we first found we were naked, we were riddled with shame, at least according to the Bible. The Tree of Knowledge granted us shame and fear. Religion aside, I’d argue that nakedness as a feeling and as a state is not one of fear. Furthermore, the clothing we wear today, ironically, can be the catalyst for a better understanding of how valuable it is to honor that bare state.
When Di Petsa premiered her newest collection, she called it “a symbol of
self-acceptance and honoring of our fluid state, embracing the natural self.”
The Di Petsa collection pioneers a new method of mesh draping that allows for dry material to appear wet and see-through when placed on the body. Resembling the wet drapery of Classical art and Greek marble, the Wet Dress is bringing us back to a calling on the body.
In Classical sculpture, the Greeks introduced a revolutionary craft of making hard stone appear as if it itself was wet. More importantly, it took the nude pieces of the period and swathed them, instead of the typical modest placement of the hands. It introduced conceptual nakedness, or the idea of teasing at one’s nudity while still technically clothed.
Today, it is sexier to wink at the concept of one’s naked body rather than offer it alone. Thus, we in fashion now find ourselves discovering the art of covering oneself but still allowing the concept of the body to shine through. With backless, mesh, and cutout pieces hitting all the runways and markets—conceptual nakedness is trending.
In previous fashion eras, from corsets to skirt cages, the body has been adorned by clothing. We have extenuated and fabricated the body through the clothing we wear. Now, we are entering a new era, one of nakedness. Since heroin chic is reemerging in its dark, grotesque nakedness, we are reminded of the exposure expected of and craved by us all. Those skin-tight silhouettes popular in the 90s have remained popular, and we’ve become even more obsessed with the body. Since the 2000s, we’ve seen pieces become skimpier, teasing more and more skin with every runway (even getting as far as a nude Bella Hadid being ‘dressed’ on the Coperni stage with a dress exactly to the shape of her body). Di Petsa’s Wet Dress only furthers how much more fashion today is more about the body than the clothes that adorn it.
However, Petsa strikes a different cord than all the other revealing pieces we are seeing, and it is because of her inspiration that stems from an honoring of our natural state, and a destigmatization of bodily fluids. “I’ve always been very interested in bodily fluids, the idea of wetness, and how in Western society we are really taught to hide our wetness. If you cry in public, you have to hide it. If you sweat, you need to hide it. If you breastfeed in public—that has even been forbidden in some places,” says Petsa in an interview with Vogue, “I always ask which parts of your body you want to reveal and highlight and which parts you want concealed. The wet look is very much about:
How do you want to look and feel in your body?”
With the expansion of the internet and social media, we are granted chosen exposure. We may produce exactly which images we approve of to others and hide those which we do not. This curated exposure of ourselves leads us to examine our own bodies in a compartmentalized sense. This could allow us the power to see our bodies for each individual aspect and its strengths, but it often leads us to dissect our bodies into which is the most externally presentable. The access we give others to images of our bodies—whether falsified, fabricated, or true—leads us to see our own bodies through others’ eyes.
Di Petsa hugely stresses the importance of feeling one’s own body more importantly than presenting it to others. She refers to the promiscuity of her clothing as “sexiness in clothes [that is] more of a masturbatory kind of sense because it’s for your own pleasure.” Petsa asks us to finally take agency over our bodies. She creates clothing that serves our higher self-image and bravely exposes how we have become our own voyeurs through an intense period of over-saturated media and rampant social comparison.
Di Petsa’s Wet Look not only pushes the boundaries of conceptual nakedness but also begs the customer for a more personal reflection of how they feel about their body. In an appreciation for our “fluid state,” perhaps we can more honestly explore our corporal vessels in a way that truly exposes us, rather than opting for a curated persona that becomes our self-image.