The HT City’s March 3rd edition carried a item on its front page titled ‘The inside, outside’. It also showed pictures of four celebrities, Chitrangda Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kim Kardashian and Kangna Ranuat. But then what these actors had to do with the headline ‘The inside, outside’? It was their peek-a-boo bra. Style experts say that ‘paring a sheer top over a sexy bra is a cool trend’. Innerwear is new outerwear this season.
Apparels are commonly distinguished as inner or underclothes and outerwear. The need to wear underclothes was born out of a need to protect outer clothes from getting soiled due to bodily discharge (perspiration) and providing support (breasts). The additional layer of clothing inside can protect from cold and prevent physical activity related injury (sports bra or guard). The usage of undergarments can also be traced to the reason of modesty preservation. Garments like slips and camisoles to ‘cover up’ body to avoid unwanted attention.
Apparently innerwear owes their usage to protective role- from unwanted attention or physical injury. Undergarments are also called intimate apparels (lingerie). Their intimacy connection comes from their being next to skin. Further this category includes products such as gown, night robes, nightdress, and underwear. The term ‘intimacy’ describes the nature of relationship between people in physical and emotional sense which includes love, romance, and sex. Intimate relationships are close, personal and are emotionally charged. These garments draw their name from their use situations. At work here is their role in moments of physical intimacy (love and sex). Their use- context pushes their meaning into the realm of emotions. Away from their protective role, now innerwear is coveted for its higher order role in fueling passions in moments of physical proximity. In private, innerwears are instruments of seduction. It is for this reason; most lingerie brands never draw attention to protective functions in their communication. Rather seduction, passion, desire, and sex form core of their appeal. The obvious paradox between the huge prices that top lingerie brands command for such a small itsy bitsy piece of fabric can be reconciled by the fact that it is not the piece of fabric that commands you to sacrifice huge price rather the promise of passion, excitement, ecstasy and exhilaration.
But then why bra is getting out from close confines of four walls out in the open? It is that two triangles and a string have assumed new extended role? One fashion expert says that peek-a-boo bra is about revealing but not everything. Dress is culturally constructed and socially enforced. Deviations invite outrange and sanctions. The extent to which body can be exposed depends on culture. For instance western societies accept body exposure more than eastern societies. Revealing clothes breach socially imposed boundary of what is construed as decent. It is a deliberate act of transgression, daring and challenge of power balance between genders. Dress is much more than mere body cover. Quantitatively less of cloth implies qualitatively more of power.
An intentioned act aimed at blurring the division between inner and outerwear reveals ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ and ‘don’t care’ attitude. It is about assertion and assumption of individuality. From being governed to governor. Bikini arrived in western society in 1950s as a fashion item later evolved into a symbol of female expression, an emblem of freedom. The two- piece swimwear had tough time in getting to mainstream because of opposition from the orthodox. So coming out of innerwear as outerwear is not entirely about being in fashion, it is also about identity and emancipation.
In marketing use of sex appeal to promote products is common. Scantily dressed women are often used to break through communication clutter and capture attention. Vance Packard in his book mentioned about a controversial ad of Maidenform Bra: ‘I dreamt I stopped traffic in my Maidenform Bra’. In the campaign the model fully dressed expect that she wore only a bra above the waist was shown wandering with normally dressed people. Her undressed state was justified on the ground that she was dreaming. The ad was claimed to be sound because the desire to appear naked or scantily clad in a crowd is ‘present inn most of us’. Hence it represented ‘a beautiful example of wish fulfillment’.