What Florence Pugh’s viral sheer looks say about women’s need for body autonomy post Roe v Wade

By Jennifer Raymont

Published Mar 19, 2023 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Actress and national treasure Florence Pugh has been making waves in the acting industry and is now considered one of Hollywood’s most hotly-anticipated red carpet attendees. With the help of stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray, the 27-year-old went from being a relatively niche Brit actress to a high-flying risk taker. Even when it comes to her clothes, Pugh is certainly not afraid to make strong statements. And tackling the pressures of Hollywood and its ideals of beauty has become that bit more transparent—pun intended.

At the start of her career, Pugh played it somewhat safe with her style. It wasn’t until 2020 that the Oscar-nominated actress began to truly develop her red carpet confidence.

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In a moment of what can only be described as teenage angst, Pugh showed up to a film premiere in 2021 with hot pink dip-dyed locks. Only shortly later, the actress went as far as to chop it all off.

Fast-forward a few short months and Pugh had hard-launched her septum piercing on Instagram, recalling the moment and admitting: “When you wanna be a cool grown up and get a new piercing and you instantly fail, go green and then faint.” Give or take a medical emergency, Pugh was officially in her glam-rock era.

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As the lead in Don’t Worry Darling (DWD), Pugh chose not to be swept up in the media circus and countless conspiracies that came with the film and its chaos of a press tour. This mature approach was also reflected in her style.

Skipping the DWD press conference at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival, Pugh nonchalantly arrived in the floating city, Aperol Spritz in hand, in a violet Valentino loungewear-esque co-ord. By then, her creative relationship with Pierpaolo Piccioli, Creative Director at Valentino, was in full swing.

At the premiere itself, Pugh undoubtedly stole the show and avoided any mention of conflict with her co-stars—always an unproblematic queen. Wearing a voluminous sheer black and sequined playsuit with a matching train, the actress took to the red carpet with her grandmother, more affectionately known as “Granzo Pat.”

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Having already dabbled in all-things sheer, Pugh continued the year in full transparent mode.. During the Valentino Paris FW23 show, she dressed down a bedazzled sheer Valentino skirt with a grey cropped crew-neck sweater.

Fans’ most favourite daring look however has to be from Pugh’s appearance on the iconic Spanish Steps in Rome during Valentino’s couture show in July 2022. The actress donned a stunning sheer gown in the fashion house’s signature Pink PP shade and completely blew netizens away.

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Unfortunately for the Little Women actress, she was subjected to an influx of criticism from online body shamers for exposing her nipples in the gown. Pugh confronted the often-anonymous trolls and stated, “So many of you let me know how disappointed you were by my ‘tiny tits,’ or how I should be embarrassed by being so ‘flat chested.’ I’ve lived in my body for a long time. I’m fully aware of my breast size and am not scared of it.” Pugh concluded by including the hashtag #fuckingfreethefuckingnipple.

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Receiving support from her peers, including the likes of Kate Hudson and Nicola Coughlan, Pugh proudly took her body out of her haters’ hands and back into her own. And it certainly paid off.

Bridgerton actor, Regé-Jean Page, shared Pugh’s post to his own Instagram Story to call out men’s oppressive and backwards-thinking response to her iconic look. “Take a look at your mates and step up when it’s time to step up. When the boys are out of line, have a word.” He went on to add, “The weird thing about misogyny is men actually listen to other men.”

Even in attempts to reclaim our bodies, it is still beyond women’s control. So, can sheer fashion stop the unsolicited sexualisation of women’s bodies?

Why is sheer fashion currently dominating the red carpet?

The sheer aesthetic has been bubbling below the surface for a while but during the most recent fashion month, it dominated the runways. Emily Ratajkowski and Janelle Monáe jumped on the trend at the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party. Meanwhile, Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar balanced her America’s Sweetheart title reputation with a hint of sexy in a sheer lace mini dress worn over black lingerie.

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Trend forecaster, Jessica Richards, puts the rise of sheer down to a political response to Roe v Wade. In January 2022, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v Wade, and with it, women in the US were stripped of their right to safe abortion. In displaying their bodies so overtly, women are reclaiming their right to bodily autonomy.

On 17 January, Meta’s Oversight Board—which consists of a team of expert journalists, academics and politicians—recommended that the media platform reconsider its restrictions on female nipple censorship.

The board raised the case that such double standards could be damaging for women, trans individuals and non-binary people, and pose a threat to their freedom of expression. Nipples have always been taboo despite the fact that we all have them.

Pugh remains close with the Valentino team, while also collaborating with the fashion designers Harris Reed and Nina Ricci. One thing is for sure, Pugh won’t rest until the policing of women’s bodies is back in our control. How could we not stan?

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