Nudity vs Nakedness in fashion industry
Author - Divyashree Thacker
When London’s Victoria and Albert Museum was opened in the mid-nineteenth century, Queen Victoria saw a replica of Michelangelo’s David for the first time and was deeply shocked by this unexpected confrontation with male nakedness. The museum directors immediately ordered a fig leaf to be positioned over the vulnerable parts of the beautiful young man in order to prevent such an embarrassing situation from ever happening again when a member of the royal family paid a visit to the museum – a protocol maintained until the 1950s.
In other parts of Europe, the increasing sense of modesty led to many more statues from classical antiquity being provided with green varnished metallic fig leaves.
Since then, the restrictions on matters previously considered shocking have spectacularly diminished in the Western world. People see more nakedness than the Victorian age could ever have imagined.
For almost the whole of known human existence, our ancestors lived in communal nudity. Until technology emerged in Asia around 7,000 years ago, clothing simply wasn’t available unless one was fond of fur, which was worn by tribal villagers in colder climates. But it was not the best material for hot and humid days. Since the invasion of western civilization, tribal people had lived happily and unashamedly nude for thousands of years.
The compulsory cover-up of naked savages in the name of civilized modesty led to a sense of body shame, which at the time was an essential element in the control and conversion of native people but which has prevailed throughout the centuries to the 21st century.
Few aspects have dominated human culture to such an extent as the subject of nakedness – and the forever recurring indignation over it. Despite bare-bosomed beauties on glossy magazines, potency pills in drug stores, and easily available pornography in video stores on the corner, sex, and with it nudity, is still a topic which raises eyebrows and can lead to heated debates in modern day civilisation across the world.
Classical aesthetics in nudity captured by artists has clashed with the opinion of the same as ‘indecent’ and ‘objectionable’ to some sections of society.
But as slippery as our fleshly aspirations may be, they tend nevertheless to have outlines.
These have been most visible throughout history in the pictures drawn by those self-elected gods we call artists. History provides us a record, and from it one basic, inescapable, and ultimately unconscionable truth stands out: the ideals women are asked to embody, regardless of culture or continent, have been hammered out almost exclusively by men.
Physical ideals are changeable, manifestations of the cultures they come from, yet some aspects change more readily than others.
Even when produced by those of their own gender, images of women have historically followed a pattern set down by males.
“The nude” is an important facet of the artistic tradition dating back to ancient times, making the unclothed figure unavoidable in a comprehensive consideration of art. Nudity can be discussed in terms of the reasons artists choose to portray the human body or form without clothing. The human form is beautiful, making it an ideal subject for art. The human body can be expressive. It may be used to express a full range of emotions and feelings to which the viewers can relate. One might be encouraged to recreate the subject’s pose in hopes of better understanding the expressive qualities of the work, perhaps taking their minds off the fact that the subject is unclothed. A possible subject of discussion is the difference between “nudity” and “nakedness.”
The human form is part of the commonality which holds the human race together.
It is familiar to all people regardless of background, sex, education, culture, or ethnic identity. Thus, artists often use the human form in their art to express universal truths and to address those ideas or concepts which bind all human beings together. Because of our familiarity with the human form, artists can use it to symbolize human values, e.g., a pregnant woman or nursing mother often symbolizes innocence. Also, artists can use distortion of the body or simplification of human form to achieve an emotional recognition and intellectual response to the artwork from the viewer because of our immediate identification with the human form.
The human body contains variations of all geometric shapes such as the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, the cube, etc., making it an ideal subject for exercises in rendering and demonstrating artistic ability and creativity. The body is viewed as a design form of shapes, highlights, and shadows. The human body is anatomically consistent, which makes it a good subject to represent realistically.
Throughout history artists have gone to great lengths, including dissection, to examine human anatomy in order to achieve artistic accuracy.
Most sculptures of Greek gods, heroes, and athletes are shown without clothes. This is because the Greeks were the first people to discover how to realistically portray and even “improve” the human body in art—giving it beautifully proportioned limbs, well-developed muscles, and idealized contours. Covering the body with clothes only concealed its natural beauty. For this reason, Greek society accepted nudity.
Athletes practiced and competed in the nude, and countless statues honouring them were placed in public spaces.
It bears noting that if art holds a mirror up to culture, it has with rare exception failed to reflect a manifestation of the beauty in nakedness in the last decade or so. But, in large part, art seems not to have taken account of the fact that the naked body is no different and has become a figure of everyday life, not just that of a painting or model. Embracing this raw form of art, is a struggle we are yet to endure.