What Is a Wardrobe Malfunction?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2019
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During an infamous halftime show performance at 2004's Super Bowl XXXVIII, singer Janet Jackson's breast was inadvertently exposed on live television as a result of a wardrobe malfunction. Fellow performer Justin Timberlake was supposed to tear away a rigged portion of Jackson's blouse to reveal the frilly lingerie underneath, but the entire costume came off instead. Although Jackson's breast was partially concealed by a metallic piece of body jewelry, the ensuing controversy over the unintentional exposure put the term "wardrobe malfunction" on the cultural front burner.

A wardrobe malfunction is simply a failure of a costume to perform as intended. This could be anything from a stuck zipper to a complete disintegration at the seams. The malfunction doesn't necessary mean indecent exposure is imminent, but many of the more infamous malfunctions do involve models, actors or other performers accidentally exposing more than they originally intended to their audiences. A singer's form-fitting dress may rip at the seams during a dance routine, for example, or a model may experience a problem after a quick costume change.


Although anyone could experience a wardrobe malfunction at any time, it is often more common in the entertainment industry. Stage costumes are often designed to tear away from the performer's body for quick costume changes. Some performers such as Britney Spears may also want to strip out of one costume on stage to reveal a more provocative one. Since these costumes may be held together with only a few strips of Velcro or some weak stitching, the potential for a revealing problem is naturally much higher. In the case of Janet Jackson's performance, some critics have speculated that she may have engineered her own wardrobe malfunction as a publicity stunt.

Following Jackson's Super Bowl controversy, many performers have taken proactive steps to guard against similar incidents. While tear-away costumes still remain in regular use during concerts and live television sketch shows, performers may also wear flesh-colored stockings or patches to protect against accidental exposure. Costume designers may also use secondary methods such as snaps or toupee tape to reduce the chances of their public clients suffering an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction in front of the cameras.


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Post 1

The official story may well be that the 2004 performance involved a wardrobe malfunction. The official version may be that only a portion of Miss J's goody was revealed. But that ain't the way I saw it. He pulls cloth away. She just stands there, goody revealed. She doesn't try to cover herself. She doesn't duck or run for cover. He stands there gawking. He doesn't try to cover her. He doesn't act like he's surprised. That ain't the way a folks normally acts when a lady's suddenly inadvertently exposed unless she previously planned to be suddenly exposed. That's *my* version.

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