Pasties, long used as a practical accessory to conceal nipples in cold temps or sheer fabrics, has become a staple on runways and red carpets as a fashion statement itself. While there are certainly looks that require plain Jane nude pasties to achieve a nearly-naked effect — á la Ciara’s neck-breaking look at the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party — these tiny pieces of adhesive have evolved into countless variations, many of which are designed and styled to be the focal point of a look, rather than just a supporting player.
We have burlesque performers of the 1920s to thank for the sexual connotations associated with the product, as they were used to avoid going fully nude — and therefore breaking the law — during shows. Countless artists, rock stars and eccentric personalities have embraced the pasty as fashion in the decades since, but what has been the catalyst of its current proliferation within high-fashion?
Brooklyn’s own Lil’ Kim is widely credited with taking the look mainstream at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. Her purple jumpsuit complete with matching pasty was the center of every fashion conversation as the new millennium approached, inspiring the next 20 years of style for those unafraid to think outside the bra.
In more recent years, pasties have found a permanent home on high-fashion runways, with houses ranging from Gucci to Schiaparelli crafting looks that expose the chest just so as to require some form of cover-up. With celebrity stylists flocking to shows seasonally, it’s clear the see why the trend has gone on to rule red carpets since many of these collections were introduced in 2020 and 2021.
The cloth covering has advanced at every phase, with many currently meant to catch attention in metallic tones or to draw the eye with unique designs, shapes, colors and materials. While much was made of Ciara’s party look, Teyana Taylor walked that same carpet in a menswear-inspired ‘fit that involved gold, metal pasties drawing attention to an otherwise all-black look. Meanwhile, model Joan Smalls hit up the same party in a blue dress complete with gem-inspired pasties.
Gold in particular seems to be the color of choice for many of our faves, with Beyoncé, Summer Walker, Doja Cat and others highlighting their sun-kissed bosoms with golden nip coverings while rappers such as Cardi B, JT, Coi Leray and others often hit the stage in the provocative look, proving that Kim’s influence continues to be felt both in and outside of Hip-Hop.
Check out stars who’ve embraced the pasty trend below.