Clothed is the New Naked

That’s right, cover it up! Fall is here and, suddenly, bare skin is just so yesterday. Those legs beg to be encased in thick denim and the entire body yearns to be wrapped in something warm and, preferably, dark. What once seemed playful, a pink bra strap peeking out, say, or a sliver of visible skin above the waist, now feels slightly crass. Every year at this time, we collectively reconnect with the power of the hidden. When it’s cold outside, we’re forced to redefine sexy. Stiff leather boots and tailored wool coats bring us back to elegance. And wearing a silhouette-skimming sweater-dress and leggings manages to be alluring, while feeling so very cozy at the same time.

Of course, it’s all relative. In seven month from now when spring makes its long awaited return, our heavy coverings will feel somber and oppressive. Yet, at present, there’s something soothing about slipping back into our protective winter uniforms.

I've always enjoyed good somber Belgian design. Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear Collection

I’ve always enjoyed good somber Belgian design. Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear Collection

When a Revelation is Anything But

And speaking of context, there’s never been a better time to celebrate the satisfaction that comes from covering up the body in a tasteful manner. Something clicked for me this summer at an event where almost every other woman, regardless of age, was clad in garments short and tight. In contrast, I felt special and sophisticated in my billowy feminine frock. Strangely, I sensed that, by being understated, I had tapped into a discreet pleasure, a quiet sexiness. In fact, it’s hardly surprising that, in a world in which our eyeballs are constantly drenched in nearly naked bodies, hiding ourselves should become newly exciting.

Downton Abbey - The power of appropriate dressing

Downton Abbey – The power of appropriate dressing

The first time I can remember having such an inkling was as an undergraduate student in Montreal. In that notoriously sexified city, I would stop to notice the modestly dressed Palestinian students at my university. They enjoyed every freedom of living in the West — acquiring an education, being independent — yet, whether they covered their heads or not, their clothing was notable for the fact that it revealed very little of the body. These young women appeared self-assured and at ease where other girls pulled at hemlines or teetered on ultra high heels. That’s when I began to suspect there might be a secret power in covering up (in context, of course; if one is being forced to do it, then freedom lies in breaking out of clothes). Is it any wonder pop stars like Rihanna and Lady Gaga have dabbled in niqab chic? They’ve reached peak nudity and must now drastically reverse the mode in order to attract notice.

The queen of outfitting women in slightly awkward yet highly feminine clothes, Miuccia Prada, spoke about the paradox of dressing sexy in a 2004 New Yorker interview (“The Designer”). Referring to her young gorgeous assistants, she said “And they are so obsessed about being beautiful and sexy, and they are always alone. And I tell them that the more they dress for sex the less sex they will have.” And there you have it. Focusing too much on the superficial impression of sexual attractiveness is, in fact, anti-sexy because real sexiness can only come from being a fully realized, passionate human. Besides, it’s the unseen that is most provocative in the end because it engages our imagination.

Wearing clingy revealing clothing can be fun and definitely has its place. Yet, choosing to be tastefully and modestly clad is not only appropriate in this climate (and for most social occasions, I would argue), but the person wearing them can also telegraph a confident grace that is surprisingly bold even while appearing outwardly demure.

And what could be sexier, really?


  1. yes – self assured and at ease! This reminds me… years ago in Montreal – I was at the Casino with my friends. I don’t gamble so I wandered away from them to go to the bar to order … I just happened to walk in to the bar area with 4 women (strangers). I was in no way “dressed for sex” as Muccia says; these 4 ladies were. yaddayadda, order at the bar, a lovely young man came over, chatted me up and asked me out. On our date he told me he thought we 5 were all friends and the reason he approached me was bc I wasn’t dressed for sex and seemed self-assured.

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