I’ll cut to the chase. Last week at the CFDA awards, Rihanna was naked. Well, not entirely naked, she was swathed in fishnet and crystals. An Adam Selman creation that left little to the imagination, other than some sort of modern-day “does she or doesn’t she?” regarding the grooming habits of her nether regions. Much ado about Nipples, Nipplegate, The Year of the Nipple, and on and on the Internets roared.
The thing is, Rihanna looked beautiful. Sexy, yes, but the fishnet and crystals (and thong she wore beneath), were all dyed to perfectly match her caramel Barbadian skin. The effect was jaw droppingly erotic and elegant at the same time. Styled with a sequined head wrap, 1920’s pin curls peeking out, flawless makeup, fingerless gloves, and a fur stole that she playfully used to cover and reveal her body, most likely infuriating Paparazzi and Red Carpet watchers in her wake.
The same week, Mariah Carey attended a Fresh Air Fund Fundraiser in an Atelier Versace gown. Also with gloves, and also revealing, this low-cut dress had technically far more coverage than Rihanna’s. Both women are incredible talents, and likely (whether they want it or not) role models for the collective “Our Daughters”.
Much is made of young artists’ wardrobe choices and its influence on our youth. Miley, et al, have been lambasted in the press for lewd outfits, with lewd behaviour to go along with it. Lest our daughters run out and break their school’s dress code with a giant foam finger, we cover our kids eyes to the vulgarity. When my daughter asks my opinion about her own outfits I always ask her, “Well, what do you think it ‘says’ to the world?” I want her to know that whether you like it or not, clothing (and how you present yourself) is just one more non verbal communication tool in your tool box. So when we see celebrities in magazines I will pose the same question — “What does that dress say to you?” Often her responses include things like, “She looks pretty. She looks fancy. She looks uncomfortable. She looks like her clothes don’t fit.” So what message did Rihanna’s dress convey?
To my eye, Rihanna and her dress conveyed unfaltering confidence. Comfort in her own skin. A living, breathing, nude study. Mariah’s, conversely, conveyed the opposite. She appeared to be trying to garner attention for, um, assets, that she clearly obtained unnaturally. Or maybe as though she was bound and determined to get her money’s worth from her implants. Or that she wanted to be seen for the sake of being seen . And not for her vocal range. I could wax on about the dress itself looking like a cheap prom dress, the fingerless gloves an 80s throwback gone awry, the poor fit, etc, etc, but really, that dress just makes me think Ms. Carey needs a hug. And a coat.