ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: Emily Ratajkowski and Rita Ora got plenty of attention in their naked dresses at the Met Ball - but exposing all that flesh on a red carpet isn't sexy

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All trussed up in their naked dresses at this week’s Met Ball, celebrities were dressing for work, not for sexual attraction. Their bodies are their tools on such occasions.

But I’d wager that many feel just as apprehensive stripping off for the first time in front of a new lover as most of the rest of us do.

The most photographed outfits on the red carpet were those exposing as much of the body as is possible without it actually being unclothed – Emily Ratajkowksi in nipple and breast-exposing Versace lace, Rita Ora wearing what might just about be described as a modesty beaded tabard floating down the centre of her body, Jennifer Lopez in a completely sheer Schiaparelli gown.

Model Emily Ratajkowksi wearing Versace lace at the Met Gala earlier this week

Model Emily Ratajkowksi wearing Versace lace at the Met Gala earlier this week

Model Emily Ratajkowksi wearing Versace lace at the Met Gala earlier this week

Singer Rita Ora walks the catwalk in a beaded gown at the event in New York

Singer Rita Ora walks the catwalk in a beaded gown at the event in New York

Such nudity, though, is artificial, a device to provoke digital clicks rather than to stimulate any of the feelings that most people feel when they are nude or are triggered in the viewer.

Curiously, the bareness of these women had none of the same effect as what I’d call real nudity – the rest of us without clothes.

We look at them entirely dispassionately and unemotionally. Maybe with a bit of a gasp at how ludicrous they appear – but this is different from how we generally feel about ourselves and others’ naked bodies. 

I remember clearly the mortification as an 11-year-old when my mother, never worried about anyone seeing her naked, flung open a changing room curtain in Kids In Gear in Chelsea’s King’s Road while I was trying on a pair of velvet loons. And that was only exposing my Chilprufe vest.

Jennifer Lopez in a completely sheer Schiaparelli dress

Jennifer Lopez in a completely sheer Schiaparelli dress

It was the first time I realised that I regarded my body as private. Now I have no issue with being naked – a hospital appointment, a swimming pool changing room, a sauna, my partner.

These are occasions when I regard my body as acceptable as it needs to be. But although it’s been a long time, I’d feel differently exposing it to a new person in a sexual situation. Exposure is less about how much flesh you show than the situation where it’s taking place. There’s nothing sexual or emotional about facing a phalanx of red-carpet photographers. It’s far less exposing than nudity in the bedroom.

Anna puts her man back in the spotlight

John Galliano and Kim Kardashian at this year's Met Gala in New York

John Galliano and Kim Kardashian at this year's Met Gala in New York

One designer who’s had a good week is John Galliano, thanks to his undeterred cheerleader Anna Wintour. 

Despite New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art rejecting her suggestion that he be the subject of this year’s Costume Institute Exhibition, Wintour – never one to be put off her mission – managed to keep him centre stage on this high-profile night, persuading many, including Zendaya, Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande, to wear extraordinary gowns designed by this recently vilified figure. We all need an Anna, don’t we?

Young designers left in the lurch

Contrast this to the many designers facing huge economic uncertainty after the sale of Matchesfashion to Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group for a relatively paltry £50million. Three months on, Frasers has gone into administration, leaving hundreds of thousands of pounds of unsold stock unpaid for.

Ashley, Fraser’s founder, has just increased his annual spend on his private jet and helicopter to £2.6million, presumably having more personal travel on his to-do list now he’s no longer in charge of the day-to-day running of the business.

Designers, though, are rarely owners of private jets. Though often portrayed as living a glamorous life – a whirl of shop openings, galas and celebrity friends – the reality is that fashion is a very hand-to-mouth business. Fabric, studio space and manufacturing all cost money, as does distribution. Many young designers make less than the average living wage.

In its heyday, Matchesfashion, under founding couple Tom and Ruth Chapman, was one of the great supporters of new designers and placed meaningful orders that gave them a foothold in the business. Now, the recent large orders placed by Matchesfashion have turned into a horrible albatross. While the business still sells online, any payment goes to the liquidators and will never be seen by the designers who, in some cases, will be catastrophically out of pocket.

Will the great Dames now join the club?

A friend called last week saying: ‘Now you can apply for the Garrick!’ He must be crazy. I have no interest in being a Garrick Club member, but am intrigued by the predictable hoo-ha about which women will eventually be elected now that the 193-year-old men-only rule has been dropped.

In all the controversy, there’s been very little written about the process of election to the hallowed hall, which is complex, immensely time-consuming and involves wooing signatories to support you.

I expect members of the damehood to be shoo-in if they so wish – Mary Beard, Joanna Lumley, Judi Dench – but other less well-known names will have to court male members.

Regardless, the election process is meant to be confidential so we shouldn’t be able to know who the first females to be proposed will be. But secrets of the membership to the Garrick have now become more leaky than who’s been leading the latest charge against Rishi Sunak.

21 lipsticks – and still I buy more

For the purposes of research, I just counted and found I own 21 lipsticks. But that didn’t prevent me going to Space NK on Thursday to buy an Augustinus Bader X Sofia Coppola tinted lip balm.

Obviously, I didn’t need any kind of new lipstick but when I read about the stylish Sofia deciding what the precise colour should be and how it should be more of a light stain than a matt finish, it became not just desirable but borderline essential to get hold of one.

I know there is zero possibility of this pretty coral tube making me look even a smidgin more like Coppola but that didn’t deter me.

That’s the way consumer society works, and why I edited Vogue for so long. I believe new stuff can make you feel good. Not for long, but just long enough.

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