In an industry where Kim Kardashian bares all on the cover of Paper magazine and Alexander Wang ads feature Anna Ewers wearing nothing more than jeans around her ankles, it’s hard to imagine that sex and provocation are losing their appeal. But a recent article in WWD about the widespread desexualization of fashion advertisements has us wondering if, perhaps, we’re in the midst of a sea change.
See, sex and fashion have gone hand in hand for years now—just look at the designs that have come down the runways of Versace, Tom Ford, or Balmain. Though it’s certainly not a requirement, opting for a more risqué aesthetic has always helped brands garner extra attention. But according to consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, we millennials are less interested in the overt skin-baring and seduction that many brands have relied on for so long. “[Millennials] do sex in a much more casual way: ‘Does this look sexy? I didn’t know,’” she told WWD. “[They don't] want to look like they’re trying at all; they want to look like they were just caught being sexy.”
Well, she has a point—we do seem drawn to clothing that is less about obvious enticement and more about sending a subtle message. Consider the widespread trend of minimalism and, subsequently, normcore. Not to mention fashion’s recent fixation on all things ’70s, which has had designers at brands like Chloé and Gucci sending out nostalgic pieces that are sweeter than they are sexy.
However, this doesn’t mean there’s no room for titillation—it’s just achieved in a less obvious way these days. While we once took layers off, coiffed our hair, and loaded on the makeup (hello, smoky eye) to spice things up, we’re now more likely to scrub our faces clean, mess up our hair, and slip into something languid and easy. We rely more on a singular detail—a peek of skin, a dash of red, a lace-up heel—for allure than a totally suggestive look. Think new Gucci ads, not the old.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing it up like we used to; we’re simply craving something new after years of the same—what’s fresh always gets the pulse going faster. And there’s something to be said for not giving it all away at first glance, because who doesn’t enjoy a little mystery in matters of love and lust?
Scroll down to shop some our favorite subtly sexy pieces!
Topshop Crinkle Off Shoulder Bardot Top ($52)
T by Alexander Wang Mesh-Paneled Swimsuit ($365)