Wearing underwear as outerwear is a fashion trend. Current examples include the display of thongs and bras in women's clothing, and the display of underpants under low-slung pants in men. As of 2009, the visible wearing of corsets had become fashionable, popularized by stage performers such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
The idea of underwear as outerwear is part of the deconstruction of trends that has taken place in the 20th and 21st century. Part of the popularity of this trend was brought about by a couple of contemporary lingerie brands such as VPL, The Lake and Stars and alt-fashion lingerie designer Stephanie Paterek (of Love Cage NYC and NYC Sex Trash), and with that concept being heralded by the days modern intimates designers as part of an effort to grab at the elusive ring of crossing over categories. These two brands in particular have been successful in straddling the line between underwear as outerwear by marketing to a contemporary customer who this look appeals to.
From high fashion to mainstream, the popularity of this trend has been fueled by celebrities who actually do wear lingerie and intimate apparel as clothing. This is nothing new, as Madonna began the trend in the '80s by wearing her cone bra and girdles over her clothing. But it has been picked up in everyday environments as depicted on shows like Sex and the City, in which a corset, bustier, or bra peeking through becomes an accepted norm. In addition some performers particularly Madonna, Lil' Kim, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Lady Gaga perform with underwear or lingerie only, which can be credited with popularizing coverage of this fashion trend in the news and press. This celebrity driven trend is then picked up by fashion magazines and fashion blogs as the "underwear as outerwear" trend and promoted as a mainstream style. Some companies have credited this trend in leading to an increase in the sale of pasties as a result.
The wearing of underwear as outerwear has historical antecedents in the display of undergarments in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Although the corset had been departed from mainstream fashion since the early 1900s, it continued to exist in fetish and pornography culture used for SM role-play. Nevertheless the sexual liberation movement of 1968 began the re-appropriation of the corset as a symbol of rebellion and “sexual perversity” by young women associated with London’s punk and Goth subcultures. Now instead of an undergarment, the corset had become an item of fashionable outerwear. It was not long until Avant-garde fashion began to catch on to this trend, as designers such as Vivienne Westwood began to adopt the corset in their designs, starting the second life of corsets in fashion. Women no longer felt the need to wear corsets, but now had the choice to do so. This re-appropriation allowed a symbol historically associated with female oppression, to become reconceived as a symbol of sexual empowerment in fashion.
However, although the punks and Goths pioneered the transformation of the meaning of the corset, pop singer Madonna played an instrumental role in popularizing it. Most famously debuted in her Blonde Ambition tour of 1990-1, the iconic pink satin cone breasted corset worn by Madonna and designed by French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, have had a profound influence on fashion, especially in the trend of underwear as outerwear. Gaultier, a designer notorious for emphasizing sexuality through the use of fetishized garments, was one of the first to make the corset an integral part of his work.
Many high fashion designers have adopted this contemporary corset trend in clothing items including evening gowns and wedding dresses. With sexual attitudes and behaviors within society becoming much freer, the visible corset has become a socially acceptable form of erotic display that will recycle in fashion forever.
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