Home » The End Of The Naked Dress? Designers Return To A More Refined Take On Sexy

The End Of The Naked Dress? Designers Return To A More Refined Take On Sexy

While the autumn winter 2023 shows delivered a slew of unforgettable moments, this season as a whole felt particularly void of social-media gimmicks. The focus instead? Clothes that were exceptionally well-made, which resulted in exquisite tailoring and razor-sharp lines. But there was also a subtle undercurrent of tactility throughout, some body-conscious and some more textural, which felt sensuous in the most elevated way. 

Even though New York and London fashion weeks, respectively, may have featured spectacles that exuded playfulness, such as Christopher Kane’s AI-generated pig print and Collina Strada’s shredded prairie dresses, there were a few collections that concentrated on sophisticated eveningwear. In New York, for example, Gabriela Hearst’s floor-length gowns with peekaboo hips felt quietly sensual, while LaQuan Smith achieved the ideal harmony between his signature daring cut-out details and precise tailoring. “Jason Wu and Carolina Herrera both showed their heritage with great occasion collections – the mood was slightly cleaner, more pared-back and less flashy, but equally fabulous,” says Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at Matches Fashion, of other NYFW moments. “We have seen amazing, strong wardrobing with a modern twist.” Elsewhere in London, brands like Feben, David Koma, Talia Byre and Nensi Dojaka took party-appropriate attire to new heights with refined, figure-hugging silhouettes.

Ferragamo AW23.

Courtesy of Ferragamo 

Flash forward to Milan, where the tasteful yet seductive mood was cranked up a notch. Prada, for one, specialised in sleek pieces, with excellent coats and chic midi-dresses – sleeveless with Art Deco patterns, as well as long sleeves with collars and chest pockets – that were ideal for transforming from day to night. The critically-lauded collection from Bottega Veneta featured a range of evening looks, including midi-dresses with pronounced hips and a mint green dress with an A-line skirt and drop shoulder accents. Another standout of the season was Ferragamo, which was the second mainline outing by London designer Maximilian Davis for the Italian label. The collection reimagined modest styles from the 1950s into masterfully cut separates with nipped waists, full skirts and sweetheart necklines.

Paris continued pushing the new fashion agenda to conclude the big four cities. In addition to its trademark knife-pleated dresses with cinched waistlines, Balenciaga’s return to the runway contained a multitude of tailoring. Naomi Campbell’s opening black corset jumpsuit from Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen collection is unquestionably a highlight, among other impeccably tailored moments. In addition, elevated pieces from labels like Balmain, The Row, Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu, among many others, included everything from the classic everyday separates, to painstakingly embroidered party dresses. “We have seen way less skin this season – I think we are collectively over the Y2K mania,” proclaims influencer Declan Chan, who attended the London, Milan and Paris shows. “Precision is the new sexiness – sensuality has replaced sexuality.”

Alexander McQueen AW23.

Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Versace, who cleverly brought its show to Los Angeles the week before the Oscars, was equally in keeping with the season’s restrained yet polished take on sensuality. The Italian mega brand unveiled a predominantly black range of skirt suits, low-slung gowns with corset inserts and boucle mini dresses with modest necklines. 

“It was all about elegant simplicity,” remarks Libby Page, market director at Net-A-Porter. “We saw some immaculate tailoring, which felt like a stark contrast compared to the sheer, naked dressing from previous seasons.” When you look at the season as a whole, the main way this mood manifested was with elegant little black dresses, with either strategic cut-outs at the hip or with necklines that scoop or fall off the shoulders to expose the collar bone. 

The verdict? Refined sexiness is the much-needed palate cleanser in a time when sheer gowns that leave nothing to the imagination have long held sway. 

Saint Laurent Layered Cutout Draped Satin-Jersey Maxi Dress

H&M Asymmetric Jersey Dress

Camilla And Marc Cypress Midi Dress

Zara Midi Dress With Tabs