Runway News

Free the Fashion Nipple: A Brief History of Runway Boobs

Images: Madonna for Jean Paul Gaultier 1992 (left) / Alexander McQueen Spring 2001 (center) / Kendall Jenner for Marc Jacobs Fall 2014 (right)

Images: Madonna for Jean Paul Gaultier 1992 via Getty (left) / Alexander McQueen Spring 2001 via Getty (center) / Kendall Jenner for Marc Jacobs Fall 2014 via IMAXtree (right)

Thanks to Rihanna's nipple-related Instagram eviction and Scout Willis's important #FreeTheNipple campaign, boobs seem to be having a pop culture moment. 

But are nipple-related style statements really so new? In the 16th century and beyond, nipples were the height of fashion in aristocratic societies; in the 1800s, Napoleon's sister, Pauline Bonaparte, was notorious for her breast-baring diaphanous dresses, which revealed her cosmetically rouged nipples.

Closer to our own time, Madonna made a headline-grabbing appearance on the runway at Jean Paul Gaultier in 1992, wearing a bizarre bandage boob harness. A decade later, Alexander McQueen elevated the fashion nipple from sheer provocation (pun intended) to art. 

Breast-baring designs continued to trickle down the runways for years, but no one was prepared for what happened last September, when an actual nipple trend came into effect at the Spring 2014 shows. Directional designers like Haider Ackermann, Balmain, Ann Demeulemeester and Christian Dior all showed sheer tops galore. It was a nipple extravaganza. 

By the time Kendall Jenner made her now-infamous breast-revealing NYFW debut on the catwalk at Marc Jacobs for Fall 2014, runway boobs were here to stay.

Below, you can review some important moments in the history of fashion nipples:

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