A Complete History Of The Modern Naked Dress: From 1925 To 2023

Actors have been sporting sheer, barely-there dresses on screen for nearly a century. Today's iterations pull from those sartorial legacies.

ROME, ITALY - JULY 08: (EDITOR’S NOTE: Image contains nudity.) Florence Pugh is seen arriving at the...
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You’re not imagining it: Seemingly everyone in Hollywood has been spotted in naked dresses over the last few months, including style-setters like Florence Pugh and Rihanna.

People have run the gamut with their takes on the trend. Emily Ratajkowski and Olivia Wilde have opted for more risqué looks, in which are undies are completely visible under diaphanous or netted fabrics. Dua Lipa sported a whimsical, nostalgic version on this, featuring Patrick Star nipple pasties under a netted dress. On the more conservative side, celebrities like Jennifer Lopez have donned skin-tone slips and crystal-encrusted gowns.

Others have taken more playful, ironic routes, like siblings Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who are fans of Jean Paul Gautier’s iconic trompe l’oeil style, in which naked bodies are imprinted on dresses.

The revealing style actually dates back to the 1920s, when burlesque performers and silent film stars wore versions of the barely-there look. But it was Marilyn Monroe in 1962 who resurfaced the look in the latter part of the century.

Ahead, a look at the complete history of the naked dress, from the ’20s to now.

1925: Clara Bow Wears The Look In A Silent Film

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While starring in the silent film My Lady of Whims in 1925, Clara Bow wore a backless dress that was completely sheer, save for Art Deco-style details strategically placed throughout. The actor, who often played the coquette on screen, would become a stand-in for flapper fashion.

1936: Mae West Takes On The Trend As Well

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In her 1936 film Go West, Young Man, actor and vaudeville star Mae West stunned audiences in a see-through gown with a smattering of floral appliqués that covered select areas.

1962: Marilyn Monroe Serenades JFK

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In 1962, Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to then-president John F. Kennedy in a bedazzled skin-tone gown. Her rendition of the birthday song, which she performed in Madison Square Garden, was deemed so seductive that it sparked rumors the two were having an affair.

Covered in more than 6,000 hand-sewn rhinestones, the gown was reportedly so tight that Monroe couldn’t wear anything under it and had to be sewn into it. (Teaser: The dress will make an appearance again in 2022.)

1969: Jane Birkin Adapts The Trend To The ’60s

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Jane Birkin, whom the status-symbol Hermès Birkin is named after, was an early adopter of the naked dress. In 1969, she rocked a see-through, long-sleeved mini — a go-to hem length at the time — with Mary Janes and her signature wicker basket bag.

1974: Cher Attends The Met Gala In A Feathered Version

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The 1974 Met Gala, themed “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design,” saw one of the fête’s most iconic looks: Cher in a beaded and feathered naked dress designed by her frequent collaborator Bob Mackie. She re-wore the shimmery ensemble on the covers of Vogue and Time magazines that same year. (Forty-one years later, Kim Kardashian would reinterpret the look at the 2015 Met Gala, crediting Cher as her inspiration.)

1993: Kate Moss Accidentally Dons A Sheer Look

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This 1993 naked look from Kate Moss is still one of the most enduring photos of the supermodel, despite her industry tenure and the images she’s shot since. Her metallic slip was representative of the minimalist leanings of the ’90s, but Moss reportedly had no idea the dress was sheer. “I did not know that this dress was see-through until the pictures came out the next day in the newspaper,” she told British Vogue in a 2022 interview.

1997: Sarah Jessica Parker Borrows Carrie Bradshaw’s ‘Naked Dress’

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While people now equate the “naked dress” with showing skin, the term actually originated in 1998 in Season 1 of SATC. A beige, DKNY slip — not see-through at all — got its own storyline as the skimpy item Carrie Bradshaw wore on her first date with Big.

A year prior, likely after the episode had already filmed, Sarah Jessica Parker wore Carrie’s exact DKNY slip to the 1997 VH1 Vogue Fashion Awards in New York.

1998: Rose McGowan Brings The Look To MTV

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Jawbreaker star Rose McGowan made MTV Music Awards history in 1998 when she sashayed down the red carpet in a dress made completely of beads. She was also one of the first to rock a divisive Y2K-era whale tail.

1998: Gwyneth Paltrow Attends A Movie Premiere In Something Sheer

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While Shakespeare In Love’s Viola de Lesseps had a conservative wardrobe, Gwyneth Paltrow wore a see-through, beaded Giorgio Armani dress to attend the film’s 1998 premiere. It was a winning look for the would-be Oscar winner, who received the Best Actress award for the role the following year.

2003: Britney Spears Debuts “Toxic”

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While technically not a dress, Britney Spears’ sparkly, rhinestone-encrusted bodysuit in her “Toxic” music video is naked ’fit cannon.

2000: Jennifer Lopez Debuts Her Iconic Versace Dress

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Jennifer Lopez has worn many body-baring dresses, rocking the look since the ’90s. But the tropical-print Versace gown, with a neckline pushing past her belly button, is arguably her most iconic. She wore the revealing look to the 2000 Grammy Awards. (To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the moment, Donatella Versace updated the dress for J.Lo to wear during the label’s Spring 2020 Milan Fashion Week show.)

2014: Rihanna Revives The Risqué Look

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More than a decade later, Rihanna revived the daring look to attend the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards. Her glitzy Adam Selman dress featured over 216,000 crystals, a fitting look for the night’s Fashion Icon Award recipient.

2015: Beyoncé Goes Bejeweled And Sheer

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A year later, Beyoncé wore a gilded Givenchy look to the Met Gala, which was equal parts decadent and revealing.

2017: Kendall Jenner Goes Spicy At The Met Gala

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Who could forget Kendall Jenner’s La Perla gown at the 2017 Met Gala, with its massive torso cut-out and hip-high slit? Like her sisters, Jenner is no stranger to the naked dress, but this deliciously shimmery dress is one of her more photographed barely-there ensembles.

2021: Zoë Kravitz Wears It With A Matching Thong

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When Zoë Kravitz waltzed into the Met Gala in 2021, her custom Saint Laurent number, made of crystal-encrusted, mesh-like fabric, gave the illusion of a bedazzled metal cage. She paired it with matching G-string undies. A slay.

2021: Zendaya Wears A Version Of The Look

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While this look is decidedly less risqué than others on the list, it calls back to Carrie Bradshaw’s 1998 dress that named the trend. Zendaya wore the Balmain gown, with its torso fitted around her bodice and her leg fully exposed by a thigh-high slit, to the premiere of Dune at the Venice Film Festival, channeling the film’s desert environment.

2022: Kim Kardashian Gets Her Marilyn Moment

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Kim Kardashian didn’t wear any old naked dress to the 2022 Met Gala, whose theme was “Gilded Glamour.” She wore the same one Monroe slipped on in 1962.

The SKIMS mogul borrowed the dress — the most expensive in the world, at $4.8 million — from Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Orlando, Florida, where it’s stored. Kardashian only wore it to walk the red carpet, changing into a replica for the rest of the night, but the choice still sparked outrage on fashion Twitter, especially after (now-debunked) rumors swirled that the delicate archival gown was damaged.

2022: Florence Pugh Makes Headlines In Pink

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Fashion girlies know all about Florence Pugh’s frothy pink Valentino number — and the backlash that followed her see-through outing. The dress, among others, would be a precursor to Pugh being announced as a Valentino ambassador the following year.

2023: Emily Ratajkowski Embraces The Trend

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Countless stars have adopted the look in the last couple of years, donning it at red-carpet events including Cannes and the Grammys. Emily Ratajkowski has worn the style on multiple occasions, like at the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party, to which she rocked a glimmering metallic number by Feben that fully exposed her beige thong.