February 5, 2023

There’s a new “naked” dress in town — and instead of the see-through, sparkly styles we’ve seen on red carpets for years, this season’s take is completely covered up.

In recent weeks, celebrities including Bella Thorne, “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Marlo Hampton and Kylie Jenner have turned heads in trompe l’oeil looks screened with photorealistic prints of the nude female form.

Designer Jean Paul Gaultier, who pioneered the nearly-naked look in the ’90s, recently teamed up with stylist Lotta Volkova on a cheeky collaboration that’s got Jenner, Hampton and Tove Lo “freeing the nipple” in a whole new way.

Syndical Chamber’s Sergio Castaño Peña is leading the trend as well, having outfitted Thorne, Iggy Azalea, Demi Lovato and Cardi B in his curve-enhancing creations.

Kylie Jenner, Marlo Hampton and Bella Thorne wearing naked dresses
Kylie Jenner, Marlo Hampton and Bella Thorne are among the stars who love the nearly-naked look — so I decided to try it for myself.
FilmMagic; marlohampton/Instagram

To be sure, this faux flesh-flashing fad isn’t for the faint of heart — but I had to know if a non-famous person could pull off one of these sexy styles in public, so I ordered a $12 Shein version that bore a striking resemblance to a dress I’d spotted on SZA, hit the streets of uptown NYC and hoped for the best.

Essentially a skintight, slightly more stylish version of those “bikini body” T-shirts you might find at beachside souvenir shops, my discount dress definitely earned a few double takes. As I strutted past the long line outside the Museum of Natural History, several men, women and kids shot me quizzical stares.

And one construction worker practically gave himself whiplash checking out the garment’s backside — printed with the image of a shapely bare booty seemingly modeled after a Kardashian’s — as I crossed the street. Who needs a BBL when you can fake it with fashion?

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It probably helped that the boobs, crotch and butt screened across the dress more or less matched up with my own bits; on Shein’s website, one petite shopper complained that the design’s “titties were literally near [her] belly button,” and the “vagina was touching [her] knees,” calling the effect “just so embarrassing and not cute.”

Still, I was somewhat surprised more people didn’t stop and stare at my optical illusion of an outfit; while a few folks sneaked peeks on the subway, most just had their faces buried in their phones. I guess it’s true what they say: New Yorkers really have seen it all.

Or perhaps it’s just that the trompe l’oeil naked dress isn’t quite as shocking as its truly nude predecessor; I certainly felt more confident out and about in mine than I would have in something seriously sheer.

Maybe I’ll even try it out again for my next night out — after all, wearing a dress screen-printed with a perfect body is definitely easier than working out.

naked dress
That’s a wrap!
Gabriela Milian