Trend Spotting

“Free The Nipple” Wedding Dresses Are The Next Big Thing In Bridal

Nontraditional brides, this story is for you.

Originally Published: 

There has always been a small faction of brides who intentionally deviate from the norms and traditions of the wedding industry with unique venues, modern vows, and individualistic dresses. Fashion has evolved to reflect that, with buzzy trends (massive bows, posh suiting, etc.) trickling from couture runways to bridal shops.

In recent seasons, the concept has been taken to the extreme, with the most controversial of high-fashion trends now entering the bridal space. Yep, they’re freeing the nipple.

Originally introduced in 2012 by filmmaker Lina Esco, the #freethenipple movement advocates for a woman’s right to show theirs in public, just as men are free to do. This mobilized people to embrace bodily autonomy everywhere — from Paris Fashion Week and Hollywood awards shows to your local neighborhood bar.

Over a decade later, the same movement is shaking up the bridal space. This was evidenced at the most recent season of New York Bridal Fashion Week. In October 2023, several designers made the styling trick a focal point of their show. Bronx and Banco, as well as Maria & Marco, led the nip-baring charge, sending alternative designs down the runway.

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The same NYBFW season, wedding dress designer Rime Arodaky showed nip-baring styles of her own — striking the balance between revealing and elegant. According to her, the secret is in using traditional bridal fabrics.

“It’s being translated into the bridal space through lace and more lace,” she tells Bustle. “The floral pattern of French lace or embroidery makes it cool, sexy, and on-trend, but still forgiving [and] not too sheer.”

Courtesy of Rime Arodaky

This shift in bridal aesthetics didn’t start there, however. A season earlier, the look was already beginning to take hold. In April 2023, both New York and Barcelona Bridal Fashion Weeks featured many a sheer bodice.

Reem Acra, for example, sent a model down the catwalk in a sheer lace crop top. Similar scenes unfolded at the Isabel Sanchis show, where organza button-downs were left completely unlined. In this case, the designer used rosettes to balance out the bare.

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While the trend is still far from mainstream, a select few daring brides have indeed begun wearing sheer dresses for their weddings. Singer Rita Ora, for example, wore a one-shoulder creation by Tom Ford at her 2023 wedding. Crafted from whimsical lace, it showed a mere shadow of the skin below, giving Ora’s look an editorial touch.

Beyond freeing the nuptial nipple, the larger shift toward more revealing wedding gowns — via details like sheer mesh, cutouts, and bustier silhouettes — represents something far more powerful than an aesthetic choice.

As Arodaky says, these designs are meant “to embrace the concept of fearless femininity and to celebrate the beauty of the female form in a bold and unapologetic way.”

“It goes with the female empowerment movement, as well,” she adds. “Societal attitudes have evolved and this cultural shift will encourage brides to be more daring. We see more women wanting to express themselves and the growing desire for uniqueness and body positivity.”

This trend is a signal that the wedding industry is breaking away from outdated ideologies rooted in sexism — i.e., that brides must be virginal and chaste. It celebrates the fact that brides of any gender are now free to walk down the aisle wearing whatever they want, to marry whoever they want. And even if it’s only sported on runways and at celebrity weddings, its existence alone is a step in the right direction.

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