Gather a roomful of photographers, stylists and other assorted artists, and solicit opinions about “what is fashion nude?”, you will likely end up with as many opinions as there are noses and eyes in the room.

It is one of those artistic concepts for which there is no standard accepted definition.

Exploration of “Fashion Nudes” Concepts & Shoots

This article begins an exciting collaborative partnership with Dan Hostettler and SexyWomenPhotography.
Each month, we will explore a different topic around the styling of fashion nude photography:

  •  working with models new and experienced;
  • body styling;
  • fashion nude on location;
  • incorporating animals into a fashion nude styling concept
  • …and much more.

We will also take a look at the hottest fashion trends as shown by the twice-yearly Fashion Weeks from around the world and see how these trends can be transformed into fashion nude (that is, if the designers haven’t done it already). Please join us each month as we present delightful and sexy women in a variety of fashion nude settings.

Fashion & Nudity: Creating A Lifestyle That Sells

Nudity in fashion advertising is not new. The acknowledged creator of the trend was Helmut Newton , who began to introduce nudity as a fashion editorial element in the 1960’s for mainstream publications like Vogue.

If we accept that fashion editorial photography is about creating a mood or lifestyle rather than selling garments, then the concept of fashion nude begins to make sense. In fact, if nudity in fashion is about lifestyle, we could argue that practitioners like Alfred Cheney Johnston , famous for his evocative nude portraits of the Ziegfeld Follies girls of the 1920’s was an early indication of the power of nude images in a fashion context. That many of his images were not available for public viewing until many years after their creation means that Johnston was far ahead of his time. He knew a good thing when he saw it (or imagined it).

alfred cheney johnston photography - Google Image Repository ScreenshotZiegfeld Follies girls by alfred cheney Johnston - Google Image Repository Screenshot

As societal norms began to relax, photographers like Newton and others began to blur the lines between “straight” fashion photography and art with very powerful images designed to provoke emotion. In her 2011 article, “Nudity & Power in Fashion Editorials, Bianca Murillo summed it up nicely:

“Sexuality and nudity works to add power to fashion images in that the nature of the industry is ultimately one of seduction. This nature of seduction results in fashion coming second …. [These] images are successful because studies have shown that women find nude and sensual images of women more sensual that those of men. ( This duality of the nature of the industry and what captures attention is what renders nudity in fashion images powerful.

Fashion photographers such as Helmut Newton and Steven Meisel, among others, break away from norms in fashion photography in terms of sexuality, nudity, casting and general style. It is this break from the mainstream aesthetic, an upset of the rhythm, which attracts attention. At the point of an alternate aesthetic that challenges normative conceptions, fashion comes secondary to the sex and seductive nature of the image. This concept works as a result of women being drawn to natural, raw images and finding sensuality in these images. These breaks from normative aesthetics and values ultimately empower the image, its components and its effects.” (Source: )

In other words, sex sells. And especially, sex sells fashion.

The First Shoot: Keeping Things “Simple”

There are an infinite number of fashion nude styling techniques, and they are constantly evolving as does the fashion industry itself. In this Introduction to Fashion Nude – Part 1, we purposefully kept the styling concepts simple in order to demonstrate the principle that very often creating a powerful and elegant fashion nude image can be rendered as simply as strategically rearranging the garments.

And by “simple” we mean precisely that: simple wardrobe, simple styling, simple sets, and simple lighting. We did this to focus attention on the model, rather than trying to “tell a story” as is common in fashion editorial photography.

Series 1: “Willa And The Summer Pants”

Willa Summer Pants - V1 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Summer Pants - V1 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Summer Pants - V1 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Summer Pants - V1 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1

Fashion Styling Variant 1: In the first series, our model Willa presents plain white linen summery pants with a drawstring tie at the waist. The pants are rolled up as if she was walking along a beach. The complementary attire is a silk scarf wrapped around her neck and breasts, and tied in the back.
Accents are provided by a chain around her waist and a wire-and-bead cuff bracelet.

Simple in styling, extremely comfortable and very flexible. These are images you might see for casual summer wear.

Fashion Styling Variant 2: Next, by simply converting the scarf top to a collar, we have transformed the set into a fashion nude concept, similar to what you might see on European beaches where toplessness is the norm rather than the exception. Again, we are portraying the comfort and casualness of the wardrobe (although in a very generic setting). In a more contextual approach, we might have shot this series on a beach in true editorial style.

Willa Summer Pants - V2 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Summer Pants - V2 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1
Willa Summer Pants - V2 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Summer Pants - V2 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Summer Pants - V2 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Summer Pants - V2 - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1

Extending the concept to more of an art nude style, Willa has removed the pants and is wearing only the scarf / collar for wardrobe. We have left the chain around her waist as a decorative item. The poses she is presenting work well both fully nude as shown, as well as fully clothed in classic fashion editorial style.

Series 2: “Willa And The Pearls”

Willa And Pearls - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa And Pearls - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1
Willa And Pearls - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa And Pearls - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa And Pearls - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1

Fashion Styling: For the next set, our stylist has chosen a more eclectic combination of simple white shorts with an antique lace jacket from the 1920’s as the complement. A string of pearls adds a bit of decorative spice. Because the lace jacket is sheer, we can choose to present it as non-nude fashion or fashion nude, depending on the amount of reveal chosen by lighting, pose, or positioning of the garment on the model.

The pearls also provide Willa with a compositional element that she can work with to create her own unique geometries.

Series 3: “Willa And The Demure Look”

Willa Demure Look - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1
Willa Demure Look - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1Willa Demure Look - Fashion Nude Photography - Part 1

Fashion Styling: Willa styled our third variation herself. Leaving the lace jacket and pearls in place, she removed the shorts and put on a simple silk robe with a distinctive polka dot design. This combination gave her the ability to project a demure look, similar to what you might find in an upscale sleepwear catalog. As she progressively reveals more of herself, she is able to become more flirty and present the beautiful long legs she is noted for.

Finally, with the robe fully open, Willa presents her glorious figure in a classic art pose – but with the garments and accessories as essential elements of the composition. In this series, then, we have taken our model from a rather standard catalog look through to a full-on fashion nude presentation.

Get Involved In Styling!

Why, you might ask, is the photographer so involved in the styling when there is a stylist on board as part of the production team? The answer is quite simple: you, the photographer, are essentially the “mission commander,” even if your client is on the set to provide a measure of direction.

It is your creativity that drives your reputation; to produce good fashion nude material, you should be comfortable working with your stylist in all aspects of the production, rather than simply putting the whole burden upon the stylist.


  • The production team for this series was:
  • Allen Moore: lead photographer
  • Willa Prescott: model
  • Heather Marie Filipski: hair, makeup and wardrobe stylist
  • Charles Schirra: key grip

I hope you have enjoyed exploring some of the basics of fashion nude editorial photography.

Next month, in Part 2, we will build upon this foundation and look at some more advanced introductory fashion nude styling and photography concepts.

Please do join us.