The Fearless Ways Women — Including Kristen Stewart — Are Standing Up To Stupid Dress Codes

As we learned this week, there are many ways to say no to clothes.

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Kristen Stewart, pictured here on the Cannes red carpet

Photo, Andreas Rentz/Getty Images.

When you take time to consider the nit-picky requirements of dress codes, it seems crazy how much fuss is made over an inch of skirt, or two inches of heel. Or, oh man, a bra strap. And with the ever-increasing mainstreaming of fed-up women’s voices, it seems crazier still.

Which is probably why, in an effort to cast off all the scrutiny, some women have started removing their clothes entirely. Take Kristen Stewart, who doffed her black Louboutins in the middle of walking the red carpet in Cannes on Monday night. The actor’s bare feet were widely interpreted as a middle finger to the film festival’s notoriously strict heels-only policy for women, an unwritten rule that first courted controversy back in 2015, when a group of flat-wearing women were turned away from a screening of Carol over their shoes. At the time, Stewart (then sporting sneakers in protest), said, “Things have to change immediately.” And, for her part, while attending a photo call to promote the film 355, French actor Marion Cotillard managed to show solidarity with shoes on — a pair of lace-up Nicholas Kirkwood combat boots. Flats.

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But the rising impulse to buck the arbitrary standards of dress isn’t only contained to the rarified world of Hollywood. This week, Letitia Chai, a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., stripped down to her skivvies during a thesis presentation in response to earlier comments from her professor that her shorts were “too short.”

Chai told the Cornell Sun that, after the dry run of her talk, the professor asked her what her mother would think of her outfit. “What would my mom think?” Chai replied. “My mom is a feminist, gender, sexuality studies professor. She has dedicated her life to the empowerment of people in all gender identities. So, I think my mother would [be] fine with my shorts.”

Chai gave her 15-minute address wearing nearly nothing, streamed the whole thing on Facebook Live, and invited other students to dress (or, erm, undress) along with her. It remains to be seen whether Chai’s shorts-obsessed prof or the heels-obsessed Cannes organizers will rethink their attitudes about what’s considered appropriate attire, but there is one community whose style of dress has gotten an unlikely — and high-profile — boost this week: nudists.