All of a sudden, in place of the pants that were originally worn, everyone is wearing little trousers. on the runways, at least. In addition to a number of final looks entirely devoted to beaded, sequined briefs worn bare or piled on top of off-kilter coloured tights in chartreuse and brick red, Miu Miu put out smart, librarian-chic models for autumn 2023 sporting a collection that meditated on normcore. Miuccia Prada exclaimed, "If I were younger, I would go out in panties!" following the exhibition. Capes, polka-dot blouses and fitted tuxedo blazers were secured at Christian Siriano and Prabal Gurung with nothing more than plain black knickers. Sergio Hudson chose to go monochromatic, wearing a fitted neon yellow blazer with bottoms to match, and Puppets and Puppets displayed body chains and rosebuds on top of black tights that revealed their knickers.
But the latest trend in pantlessness goes beyond lingerie dressing and wearing your knickers outside of your clothes. It's not the whale story, nor is it a micro short or a pair of hot pants; rather, it's something more radical, shocking, and subversive that may provide the absurdist kick we need in a world where everyone is talking about quiet luxury and covert prosperity. The pantless redux first appeared during the spring 2023 runway shows, when Bottega Veneta debuted black tights, navy blue briefs and a jumper. Kendall Jenner was quick to wear this outfit in public.
Pants in place of pants isn't exactly a novel idea. Around ten years ago, at the start of the indie sleaze era, Lady Gaga made high-cut briefs her trademark, both onstage and while running errands in New York City. She once remarked, "I hate fucking pants and feel more liberated in knickers." On tour, Beyonce further popularised the "no trousers" look. But even before that, celebrities like Tina Turner and Josephine Baker were seen walking around in outfits that suggested quiet, private moments. This appearance is inextricably linked to performers. "Showing knickers for the lower part of the body is extremely radical," asserts Valerie Steele, a fashion historian and the curator of the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum. It's obviously more simpler if you're a performer onstage with security nearby because it's such a blatant type of exhibition.
In the 1960s, fashion luminaries like Edie Sedgwick made a striking fashion statement by donning black tights and knickers. But according to Steele, the 1990s are most closely related to the style as it is known today. One of the better instances of the trend making an appearance on the runway in the past is perhaps Vivienne Westwood, who invented the underwear-as-outerwear look. Take a look at the bodysuit from her fall 1989 collection that had a perspex fig leaf attached to the crotch. She also had her Cut, Slash & Pull outfit from 1990, which had a scarlet pair of pants with faux fur accent and a detachable ruched silk codpiece.
Who could forget Carla Bruni in a huge fur coat and matching bulky fur pants strolling down the Vivienne Westwood runway in 1994? In Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker played Carrie Bradshaw, who is remembered for tripping while walking the runway in embellished Dolce & Gabbana knickers. On the runway in the middle of the 1990s, designers like Alexander McQueen, Chanel, and Jean Paul Gaultier admired the brief-as-pants. "So much of fashion has been about attention between covering and exposing parts of the body, but that specific area has mostly been left out of the geography of exposure because it's the most taboo," explains Steele.
Why now, though? The past few seasons have mirrored an obsession with Miu Miu's micro miniskirt. The company quickly displayed micro shorts after that. Pants is the logical step after that. The past several years have also seen a love affair between ballet and fashion, with designers drawing influence from ballerina costumes, leotards and uniforms alike. Due to her own training in jazz ballet, Edie Sedgwick frequently wore black tights with polo shirts, basic sweaters, enormous earrings, and little else.
And will we notice an increase in the number of persons sporting the appearance in public? Steele likens it to how wearing a bra in public—whether it's a sports bra or one that's barely visible beneath a shirt or blazer—has become more commonplace. "The bra exposure became quite normalised, partly by being incorporated into sportswear," she claims. Through aestheticized body exposure at private parties, it might also catch on. At a party with like-minded people, everyone understands even if you don't wear the look out on the street. We'll see how many of them actually sell, though, if it draws criticism when it's on the runway," continues Steele.
Before you ever notice it, a pavement near you may be slowly being invaded by pantless people. For their high-cut cheeky shorts that go up to a size 3X, Char Workroom, which debuted in 2020, has developed a cult following. The best way conceivable to describe the ultra-short metallic ruffled hot pants is as knickers. According to designer Tacharra Perry, the environment in Houston served as a major inspiration for the CHAR brand. They've been worn by Rosala and Flo Milli as well. "We absolutely attempted to break away from this style for a while, but there is still a strong demand, so we had to restock. The reason, in my opinion, is that it's still quite flattering without revealing too much and that it's also enjoyable. They have been worn in looks by her fans with trench coats, dresses, and tights.
Others, like stylist and personal shopper Mary Higham, who was motivated by her friend, blogger Sarah Chiwaya, are also experimenting with going without trousers in public. Higham declares, "I enjoy a little old-school burlesque moment. "I got a lot of good feedback, and women expressed how much they liked my confidence. In a similar vein, many individuals either didn't understand it or thought it was excessive. Since fashion is so subjective, not everyone will adore every decision. What is her best styling advice for this? The secret to a trend like this is confidence. Own it with pride, go down the street with a strut, and let your confidence be the best accessory.