Why Exposed Bras Dominated the Cannes Red Carpet

Move over whale tails, there’s a new underwear-as-outerwear trend.

Collage by Ashley Peña. Images courtesy of Getty

If you weren’t a fan of the exposed thong trend, which faced yet another resurgence at the beginning of this year, we have some good news for you: It seems whale tails have gone back underground (or, more appropriately, underwater) for the time being, and they’ve been replaced by a slightly less scandalous yet still provocative equivalent.

Exposed bras are taking over, or at least they are if you’ve had your eye on Cannes recently. Over the past few days, three celebrities have stepped out in looks with their bras on full view, and considering the film festival is one of the largest displays of fashion every year, it seems like a given that others will be inspired, and soon this look will cross the French border and become ubiquitous internationally.

First, to clarify, we’re not talking full-on bralette exhibition. That look has been in vogue for so long, it’s not even shocking anymore when someone steps out in, say, a blazer with nothing but a bra underneath. No, this newest look features just the top of the bra peeking out over the neckline of the dress. The effect makes it seem almost like a mistake, like your undergarments just slipped out, or your top dropped too low. It’s almost more scandalous for that reason, as it feels like a fashionable wardrobe malfunction, and brings the scandal back into the overdone trend of bras as shirts. The first to display the look in Cannes was Sydney Sweeney, who was seen exiting the Hôtel Martinez in a slinky light blue Miu Miu slipdress, which, even if worn on its own, would have proven the actress to be a lingerie-as-daywear advocate. But she opted to take it a step further, layering a satin blue bra underneath. The dress featured a lower neckline, exposing the tops of the bra cups and creating the desired layered effect.

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But while Sweeney created her exposed bra look with two separate pieces and some clever styling, the other two recent examples of the trend boasted built-in bras. Take Scarlett Johansson, who, just two days after Sweeney appeared showing off her undergarments, arrived to the Cannes red carpet in an elevated version of the look. Johansson attended the premiere of her upcoming film, Asteroid City, in a pink Prada column dress with a strapless neckline from which a sequin-covered, white, almost vintage-style bra emerged. As with Sweeney’s look, only the tops of the cups could be seen on Johansson, but unlike with Sweeney’s, the Black Widow actress’s bra looked to have been built in.

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And while it seems like Miuccia Prada might be the biggest champion of this new bra-forward look, the third example comes from a different source: Kim Jones at Fendi. It was Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, at the same premiere as Johansson, who rounded out the exposed-bra trio. The model presented the tamest take on the trend, showing up in a Fendi spring/summer 2023 couture dress that, like Johansson’s, initially featured a strapless neckline, but with an added bra-like layer peeking out. If Huntington-Whiteley wanted to embrace the trend even further, she wouldn’t have had to search too far. Jones’s recent couture collection featured many bra-revealing looks of varying degrees of exposure, proving the designer was ahead of the curve when he originally presented these looks in January.

Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Of course, underwear as outwear is nothing new; it’s just that this one specific iteration of it does feel slightly more creative than some of the more repetitive takes we’ve seen lately. These recent displays also prove the versatility of the trend. Sweeney’s take was a bit more obvious than Huntington-Whiteley’s, with Johansson’s falling somewhere in the middle. And while the look can be worn for a day out à la the Euphoria actress, it is definitely black tie appropriate as seen on Johansson. One could even go more casual, layering an especially pretty bra underneath a strapless top or tank, with a pair of jeans or a skirt. Really, the options are endless, but if you’re going to try it out yourself, we suggest doing so soon. The appearance of this look three times in just a few days proves that it likely has the legs to go fairly far in the world of trends, so it might be smart to jump on it before it goes the way of overdone.