Wardrobe malfunction

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Jayne Mansfield's 1957 nipple slip
Photo: Joe Shere

A wardrobe malfunction is "the temporary failure of an item of clothing to do its job in covering a part of the body that it would be advisable to keep covered".[1] The word became famous after Janet Jackson's right breast was exposed at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show on February 1, 2004, when Jackson's spokesman Stephen Huvane explained that the incident "was a malfunction of the wardrobe; it was not intentional."[2] The word was nominated word of the year in 2005, then defined as "an unanticipated exposure of bodily parts".[3] In 2008, it was included in the Chamber's Dictionary with the current definition.[4]

Breast-related wardrobe malfunctions


  • Nipple slip: A nipple slip (coll. nipslip or nip slip) occurs when a wardrobe malfunction leads to the exposure of at least one female nipple. The nipple can be
    • covered, but showing the areola,
    • entirely nude.
  • Boob slip: The term boob slip or tit slip is used to describe an incident when a wardrobe malfunction leads to the exposure of one or both female breasts.
  • Transparency: Transparent clothing is normally designed to allow a certain view of the body parts it covers. It can, however, be considered as a wardrobe malfunction if
    • a nipple slips from opaque parts of the garment to transparent parts,
    • supposed opaque clothing becomes transparent when exposed to spotlights, photographer flashlights and sunlight.


Unwanted nipple and boobs slips can have different reasons:

  • Strapless clothing does not hold the breasts anymore when the arms are raised or the body is stretched (see Lucy Lawless's 1997 boob slip).
  • The garment's cleavage is so deep that the breasts tend to "fall out" when the wearer leans forward (see Jayne Mansfield's 1957 boob slip).
  • The garment's straps are too loose so that they tend to slip off the shoulder (see Tara Reid's 2004 boob slip).
  • Bikinis are pulled aside or down by the water when the wearer gets out too quickly.
  • Lingerie tape is used, but is not able to hold the garment in place (see Nicola Tappenden's 2006 nipple slip).
  • Extreme spotlights, sunlight or photographer flashes cause clothing that was believed to be opaque to become transparent, especially on red carpets.
  • Transparent garments with opaque parts supposed to cover at least the nipples (for instance the 0214272 0000 dress) reveal more than intended when the wearer moves, especially when not wearing a bra.

Related phenomena

The following phenomena are generally not considered wardrobe malfunctions, although they are very popular at celebrity blogs and websites, as they show more of a woman's breasts than usual:

  • "Pokies": This expression is used when a woman's nipples poke through her (mostly tight) clothes.
  • Sideboob (also side boob): A garment covers the breasts, but offers a generous side view (often caused by loose clothing and halter tops) without revealing a nipple.

Nipple slip

One of the first reported and most famous nipple slips in newer history happened in April 1957 at the Romanoff's restaurant in Beverly Hills, USA. American actress Jayne Mansfield leaned over a table at which Sophia Loren was sitting, showing one of her nipples. Photographer Joe Shere who was present at the event, reported this moment in his photographs.

The photo of Sophia Loren sitting next to Jayne Mansfield and regarding her cleavage became so famous that it inspired other photographers too: In 1993, Daniela Federici created an homage with Anna Nicole Smith as Mansfield and New York City DJ Sky Nellor as Loren for a GUESS? Jeans campaign.[5] Later, Mark Seliger took a picture named Heidi Klum at Romanoff's with Heidi Klum in a reproduction of the restaurant set.[6]

While real nipple slips where quite rare in the beginning, they started to increase on fashion runways when designs became looser and more daring in the 1990s.[citation needed] In the following years and with the expansion of the internet, more and more pictures of celebrity nipple slips circulated, either shot by paparazzi or at official events. The pictures, though often of poor quality, were sought-after and popular, especially when showing glamour models or other persons who generally did not model nude.

The 2000s have seen the creation of whole websites dedicated to nipple slips, and many celebrities and porn stars have deliberately provoked nipple slips by wearing daring clothes with deep cleavage:

Boob slip

La liberté guidant le peuple (1830)
by Eugène Delacroix

One of most well-known historical boob slips, though fictional, is depicted in the painting La liberté guidant le peuple (Liberty leading the people) by French painter Eugène Delacroix from 1830. Liberty is personified by a woman whose low-cut dress slipped off her shoulders during the fight for freedom. This woman became a symbol of the French republic[10] and later found her way into the offices of all French mayors as Marianne, a bust for which also Laetitia Casta served as a model from November 23, 1999, to 2003.[10][11] The bare breasts of Marianne are considered "a signature of civic strength"[12] and "a reminder that Liberty is the mother of France".[13]

In newer history, boob slips became less symbolic, but more a topic of celebrity blogs and websites. Nonetheless, some of them had a considerable social and cultural impact as well, such as Janet Jackson's boob slip of 2004 which lead to the creation of the word wardrobe malfunction and was widely discussed in the media.

  • On May 6, 1997, New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless wears a body while singing the US national anthem at an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, California, USA. When she raises her arm at the end of her performance, she inadvertently exposes a breast.[14]
  • On April 23, 2003, American rapper Lil' Kim suffers a boob slip at the JAM'N 94.5 Summer Jam Mansfield, Massachusetts, USA, when the lingerie tape that is used to attach the top of her skimpy swimsuit to her breasts fails to hold the garment in place.[15]
  • On February 1, 2004, American singer Janet Jackson performs together with Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show when he tears off the cup of her bustier and exposes her breast.[2] This incident marks the birth of the word wardrobe malfunction and is regarded as one of the most famous wardrobe malfunctions the world has ever seen.[16][17]
  • On November 4, 2004, American actress Tara Reid poses on the red carpet at Sean "P. Diddy" Combs's 35th birthday party in New York when a strap of her loose-fitting dress slips down unnoticed by her and exposes her breast.[18]
  • On March 26, 2005, Katrina Campins models for Tommy Hilfiger at the Funkshion Fusion fashion show in Miami, wearing a jacket with nothing underneath. As the jacket moves, her breast becomes visible almost during the whole appearance.[19]
  • On May 13, 2005, French actress Sophie Marceau's whole breast becomes visible when a strap of her dress slips down while she is visiting the Cannes Film Festival.[20]
  • On April 29, 2006, a boob slip happens to Argentine model Pamela David while she is cheering for the Argentine team at a football game, wearing a low-cut body in Argentina's national colours.
  • On March 29, 2007, Davorka Tovilo models for German fashion designer Marcel Ostertag at the 10 Years FashionTV event in Munich, wearing a revealing outfit that mostly stays in place during the catwalk, but exposes her breast when she comes out with Ostertag after the show.[21]
Janet Jackson's Super Bowl incident and the creation of the term "wardrobe malfunction" also inspired artists to cite both the outfit and the term in their works. On February 13, 2004, just two weeks after Jackson's boob slip, American bodypainter Mark Greenawalt painted her clothes on a model at the Alwun House Exotic Art Show 2004 in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.[22]


After fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent had introduced his Transparent Blouse into haute couture fashion in 1968,[23][24] and with the "nude look" becoming a common and popular phenomenon in the late 1990s and 2000s,[25][26][27][28] it became difficult to draw the line between real wardrobe malfunctions and deliberate exposure of breasts under transparent clothing.

Some of the early and also current incidents of clothes becoming transparent because of intense spotlights or photographer flashes may have been real wardrobe malfunctions. Davorka Tovilo stated that she was shocked after seeing the tabloid photos of her fist public appearance on December 10, 2003, adding that the dress she wore would have been opaque in normal light.[29] However, on almost all following public occasions, she exposed her breasts under fully transparent tops or dresses and was given the name "Miss Transparent" by the tabloids.[29]

Like her, many celebrities and adult entertainers started to play with the risk of their breasts becoming visible by wearing semi-transparent clothes in public, and others started to openly expose their breasts under fully transparent garments.

See also


  1. Dictionary suffers a wardrobe malfunction. The Mercury (2008-08-15). Retrieved on 2008-09-05.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Apologetic Jackson says 'costume reveal' went awry. CNN (2004-02-03). Retrieved on 2008-09-01.
  3. Word of the Year (PDF). American Dialect Society (2005). Retrieved on 2008-09-01.
  4. Electrosmog enters the dictionary. BBC (2008-08-14). Retrieved on 2008-09-05.
  5. Bowman, David (2002-08-23). Searching for Marcello. Salon.com. Retrieved on 2008-09-07.
  6. Heidi Klum at Romanoff's. artnet. Retrieved on 2008-09-07.
  7. Lampe, Knuth (2006-05-11). Diva Davorka: Jetzt rede ich! (German). Bild. Retrieved on 2008-09-09. (Google translation)
  8. «Дискотека 80-х» 2005 (Russian). Авторадио. Retrieved on 2008-11-29. (Google translation)
  9. Sara Varone va ancora fuori di seno (il video) (Italian). Gossip Mania (2008-02-14). Retrieved on 2008-09-22. (Google translation)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Model choice for France. BBC News (1999-10-08). Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
  11. Daley, Suzanne (1999-10-08). Mayors Choose a New Model Of Vehicle for La Republique. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
  12. Goldstein, Richard (2004-04-14). Courtney as Metaphor: When did breasts become so damned scary?. Metroactive Arts. Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
  13. Altabe, Joan (2008-03-31). Art and Nudity - A Sad Case of Beating the Chest. Fine Art Registry. Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
  14. Her cup runneth over (Reprint). Newsweek Magazine (1997-05-19). Retrieved on 2008-09-08.
  15. Lil' Kim at JAM'N 94.5's Summer Jam, Tweeter Center, Mansfield, Mass.. The 411 Online. Retrieved on 2009-03-16.
  16. Barnett, Leisa (2008-07-22). The Malfunction That Got Away. vogue.vo.uk. CondéNetUK. Retrieved on 2008-09-05.
  17. Alterman, Eric (2008). Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America. Penguin USA, 186. “[...] the most famous 'wardrobe malfunction' since Lady Godiva.” 
  18. Marcus, Bennett (2004-11-04). P. Diddy's Royal Birthday Ball. Open All Night. Retrieved on 2008-09-05.
  19. Miami Fashion Week Funkshion Fusion 2005 - Tommy Hilfiger - Runway. WireImage. Retrieved on 2008-12-08.
  20. Sophie Marceau has breast baring wardrobe malfunction at Cannes. starswelove.com (2005-05-31). Retrieved on 2008-09-05.
  21. Schmitz, Martin. 10 Jahre FashionTV: Marcel Ostertag Modenschau im P1 am 29.03.2007 (German). ganz-muenchen.de. Retrieved on 2009-03-30. (Google translation)
  22. Greenawalt, Mark (2004). Alwun House Exotic Art Show 2004. futureclassx.com. Retrieved on 2009-03-08.
  23. "Spring-Summer 1968 - Safari Jacket and Shorts Smoking" entry at 1962-1970 - Couture. Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent foundation. Retrieved on 2008-12-08.
  24. Denis, Stéphane (2008-06-06). Yves Saint Laurent : «Je vous quitte, mais je vous aime.» (French). Le Figaro. Retrieved on 2008-12-08. (Google translation)
  25. Transparente Revolution, at: Yves Saint Laurent - Mode-Genie mit Hang zur Provokation (German). ARD (2008). “[...] the founder of the 'nude look'” (Google translation)
  26. Asnaghi, Laura (1997-01-23). Valentino, il trionfo del nude look (Italian). La Repubblica. Retrieved on 2008-12-08. (Google translation)
  27. Alexander McQueen incanta Parigi (Italian). Very Cool! (2006-10-13). Retrieved on 2008-12-08. (Google translation)
  28. Nude Look (German). ProSieben. Retrieved on 2008-09-09. (Google translation)
  29. 29.0 29.1 Interview: Wagner, Peter (2008-01-27). Von Beruf i-Tüpfelchen. Ein Gespräch mit Davorka über ihr Dasein als Starlet (German). jetzt.de. Süddeutsche Zeitung. Retrieved on 2008-09-08. (Google translation)