At a style show, designs submit down the catwalk one at a time, as the audience and photographers eagerly take in the designer’s aesthetic for the season. By the time the designs spin around and walk the other way, turning their backs to the onlookers, lots of individuals stop focusing on them. But canny observers will notice each fold of the bustle on a dress or how the back of a blouse is cut so, exposing the curves of shoulder blades.

[Photo: Pierre Antoine/©Paris Musées]

A new display called “Dos à la Mode” at Musée Bourdelle in Paris specifically features the rear-end of garments from numerous points in fashion history. Jean-Julien Simonot, the exhibition designer, chose to present the garments amongst huge stone sculptures of nudes, lots of made in the late 1800 s by carver Antoine Bourdelle, the museum’s namesake, to imagine the innovative methods designers have interpreted our backsides throughout the years (and to present Bourdelle’s operate in a new light). The display is a remarkable glance at how our posteriors have throughout history had simply as much meaningful potential as the rest of our bodies– if not more.

Alexandre Samson, the director of haute couture at the Fashion Museum of Paris– Musée Bourdelle’s sister museum– selected a range of attires that highlight the back in different methods. Our behinds have often inspired designers’ taste for drama. Take red carpet dress and bridal gown: from the middle of the 20 th century onward, they have actually often been designed with long trains that enable designers to play with folds of material or produce fancy embroidered patterns. One Balenciaga dress from 1961 is made of orange silk, which drapes down the back in large swaths. A popular 1984 dress by Thierry Mugler has wings on the back, like an angel.

[Photo: Pierre Antoine/©Paris Musées]

However in some methods, the subtler backs are more appealing. They are less about highlighting the designer’s expertise than highlighting the delicate intricacy of the human back. One hall of the exhibition features dresses from the 19 th and 20 th centuries that highlight “naked backs,” which curtain all the way from the neck to the bottom of a woman’s spinal column. The style calls to mind classical Greek bathrobes, however it has been popular at numerous points in history, including during the flapper period and 1950 s Hollywood. One 1997 development from Martine Sitbon features a long-sleeved black gown with three diagonal cutouts in the back. It accentuates the user’s shoulder blades, meaning the sensuality of a female’s back.

The back has actually also been a site of pathology– a truth some designers have attempted to subvert. One part of the display includes straightjackets utilized in mental healthcare facilities during the mid-20 th century, complete with complex leather ties on the back. Here, the bindings in the back are functional, not ornamental. But in the exhibition, they are put next to Jean Paul Gaultier’s corseted t-shirt from 2003, which features delicate lace patterns along with ties on the back that seem directly influenced by the straightjackets.

[Photo: courtesy Paris Musées]

Of course, some designers try to speak plainly with the backs of their clothing. The back is the flattest part of our bodies, so it is easy for designers to emblazon it with words or phrases. One piece on display screen is the green $39 Zara coat that Melania Trump used as she strolled toward Air Force One in June 2018 to go to immigrant children at the detention center. It had the words “I really don’t care, do u?” scrawled on the back, like graffiti. For weeks style critics speculated about what she implied by it, till she finally discussed that it was meant to be a jab at the “left-wing media.”

It was an ideal example of how the backs of our garments allow us to express ourselves just as much as the front. The “Dos à la Mode” display welcomes us to take a second appearance at the backs of our clothes and consider what they say about us.