Julia Fox, the breakout star of Uncut Gems who also briefly appeared in the role of Kanye West’s girlfriend, has recently been taking to the streets dressed in barely-there looks that could only be described as extremely high-difficulty.
There’s undeniable humor in this provocation, as though Fox is taking slouchy, just-running-errands outfits to their conceptual apotheosis, and daring the audience to question their ideas about which garments are appropriate for which context. The paparazzi moment also indicates just how much things have changed. If Britney Spears went shopping in her panties in 2007, she likely would have been thrown in the stocks, medieval-style.
And Fox has been on a hot streak when it comes to avant-garde daywear: with the kind of unshakeable confidence that’s perhaps only bestowed upon lifelong New Yorkers, the actress has lately been spotted in a white Hanes tank top fashioned into a top and miniskirt, gothic black thigh-high boots and perilously tailored bandeau tops.
Since becoming a star on the main stage, Fox has occasionally had to conform to more conventional looks as dictated by her styling team. “They were like, ‘Oh, they’re a little too editorial,’” Fox told The Cut of her outfit choices. “‘It’s too sexy. It’s too provocative. It’s too out there.’ I was just like, Okay, I guess I just have to be more Hollywood and more bland. But fuck that narrative if I want to pop out and wear crazy shit—which is what I want to wear.”
When it comes to telegraphing overt sex appeal, celebrities throughout the ages have continually pushed sartorial boundaries, challenging outdated ideas about how it’s acceptable for women to dress in public.
Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress, which was infamously worn by Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala earlier this month, shocked the crowd with its translucency when the blonde bombshell donned it in 1962.
Later, a young Princess Diana was mortified when her skirt, backlit by the sun, revealed the outline of her long legs in a photograph taken while she was still working—pre-marriage to Charles—as a nursery teacher’s assistant. As she grew into her role as a public figure, Diana embraced the power of a strategic flash of skin, most famously waring a black cocktail dress by Christina Stambolian for an event the night Charles confessed his infidelity on national television—and promptly vaporized his presence from the next day’s front pages. (The much-derided Diana: the Musical plays this moment with all the camp intensity it deserves.)
Fox is an entirely different kind of It Girl, one who owes more of a debt to fearless innovators like Lady Gaga, Lil’ Kim and her exposed boob and seashell pasty at the 1999 MTV VMAs and Rose McGowan’s ridiculously iconic beaded Maja Naked Dress.
“You could see everything,” Fox told The Cut of her pre-Gems style. “That was the type of shit I was on.”
During her brief relationship with West, Fox said that she happily put her fashion decisions in his hands; West is famous for taking deep interest in dressing his paramours. “Ye had an entire hotel suite full of clothes,” Fox gushed to Interview. “It was every girl’s dream come true. It felt like a real Cinderella moment.”
The two appeared in a flurry of coordinating outfits: Rick Owens leather, Schiaparelli denim and thong-bearing Balenciaga were all expertly deployed, and you could see that even though West was ostensibly driving, the aesthetics were deeply in keeping with Fox’s downtown, gritty-meets-high-end taste.
West ultimately grew to hate it when Kim Kardashian dressed provocatively, and you can’t tell Julia Fox to cover up, so when Fox and West parted ways, she seemed to joyfully revert to her favored, nearly-nude state.
It seems that anti-comfort paired with effortlessness is the recipe for Fox’s magnetism. In April, Fox went for a walk in a floaty, cream-colored slip dress by Jade Copper and accessorized with a quilted black purse and sky-high leather platform boots. Anyone else would probably have broken an ankle, but Fox floated down the streets of the New York as easily as if she was taking a twilight stroll on the beach.
In a time when famous people are exasperatingly desperate to convince the masses they’re just like us, Fox throws her extreme beauty and sartorial expertise in our faces. “You could never be me,” her dominatrix glamour seems to say, and she’s all the more intriguing for it.