At London Fashion Week, as the models walked back down the catwalk, showgoers’ eyes were all focused on their backs. The backless fashion trend is having a major moment as backless dresses, barely there backless tops and low-cut jeans (paired with butterfly-detailed visible whale-tale thongs, seriously) proved that the view from behind is the one to watch. Ideal for making an exit or adding drama to a simple look, the backless fashion trend proves that sexy is back.
Often combined with cut-away details and low-slung hipster waistlines, backless dressing is definitely an echo of Y2K’s enduring influence on the catwalk – and the high street. We spotted bare backs at established brands for Spring 2023, including Burberry, David Koma and Christoper Kane, along with KNWLS and Masha Popova – both new labels at fashion’s front-line. If you can’t wait that long, or have a less extravagant shopping budget, the high street has been quick to adopt the trend with backless dresses everywhere from ASOS to Zara and backless tops providing the perfect pairing with baggy jeans.
Backs might be having a moment right now, but fashion – and society in general – has a long history of fetishising and showcasing an array of different body parts in different eras. In the same way that when different body shapes are exalted, when the focus falls on a particular type of body part (like the Wonderbra-inspired big-boobed aesthetic of the Nineties or the flat stomachs of Britney and Xtina in the Naughties) it can be seriously problematic. Body types should never be trending. Although perhaps this time round, fashion’s focus on bare backs (that’s any size, shape, colour or skin type of back) is evidence of a more inclusive industry, rather than one that places ridiculous demands on certain body parts to fit a defined aesthetic. We’re hoping so.
But why are designers drawn to certain body parts at different times? Fashion’s shifting focus all comes down to sex and the role of erogenous zones around our bodies. Everyone responds differently to touch in certain places, whether you’re left rolling your eyes with boredom or screaming the house down, and it seems the fashion industry is fully aware of the power of touch when it comes to creating clothes (and accessories.)
Behavioural Psychologist and business consultant, Professor Carolyn Mair PhD is author of The Psychology of Fashion and explains. “A touch on the scalp or the neck, especially behind the ears, can be very arousing. This is why we wear necklaces and earrings. Feet, fingers and legs also respond to a range of touching, licking and kissing and many footwear designers are aware of this, building sexually attractive artefacts into their designs. The small of the back, where it dips at the waist, is also highly erogenous because its nerve endings are connected to the pelvis, an obvious erogenous zone.”
But why do erogenous zones seem to shift (along with heel heights and skirt lengths)? Carolyn suggests it’s all a result of how fashion creates trends that are absorbed into wider society. “Fashion is cyclical and needs to change or we’d never need to buy anything new. Jeans are a great example of this [with the explosion of baggy jeans recently.] The same is true for erogenous zones. They don’t actually change, it’s that fashion focuses on a different one to influence consumers that that area is the ‘hot’ one now.”
So, that’s the science bit, explained. Although we just know we love the look of the backless fashion trend and are fully on board with going bare-backed into 2023 and beyond…
Read more from Glamour UK Fashion Director at large Alex Fullerton here or follow her on Instagram @alexandrafullerton