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Street Style Guide: How to style saucy trompe l’oeil in 2023

It's the most daring trend of the moment. Are you brave enough to try it?

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 29: Tiffany Hsu wearing a brown, white, orange top and long brown maxi skirt outside the Chloe show during Paris Fashion Week S/S 2023 on September 29, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Raimonda Kulikauskiene/Getty Images)
Clare Pennington
Style Writer
10 June 2023
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Don’t panic, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, it’s just that graphic prints have gotten a lot more… well, graphic. Brave souls wearing clothes printed with realistic nude forms have been spotted marching up and down the streets with pride, and if you’re feeling plucky enough, it’s time to get on board. Trompe l’oeil is the artistic technique responsible for dresses that’ll have onlookers running to Specsavers. Read on for everything you need to know. 

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PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 30: Renia Jaz wearing a black leather cropped jacket, a white and beige body print pattern top, a blue denim long ground touching maxi skirt, a blue denim handbag, black leather pointed shoes with red ballon imitation on the heel© Getty
Renia Jaz outside the Loewe show in Paris.

What is trompe l’oeil?

Trompe l’oeil is a French phrase that means to deceive the eye. It’s essentially an optical illusion, tricking the viewer. It gives the appearance of a super realistic three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. One of the most famous examples in Art is Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell Del Caso, an 1874 painting featuring a young boy literally bursting out of the painted frame. You can also see the technique successfully used in theatre sets and interior design. 

Elsa Schiaparelli ushered trompe l’oeil onto the fashion stage with her surrealist designs, while famously naughty Jean Paul Gaultier adorned his creations with the prints of naked bodies. After all, there’s nothing more scandalous than parading around in your birthday suit, but if it’s just a print (however realistic), what exactly are the rules? Saucy trompe l’oeil drags the morality row around nudity into an unsettling grey area, while toying with the consumption of female nudity in popular society, and the commodity of our bodies. Also it’s a little shocking, and that’s always fun isn’t it?

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PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 06: A guest wears diamonds earrings, a beige and purple body print pattern long sleeves / long tube dress, silver and gold with diamonds Love bracelets from Cartier, a black shiny leather crocodile print pattern handbag, pumps heels s© Getty
Flashing 'flesh' in Paris

How to style (very) graphic prints

Firstly, it’s worth noting that this is a divisive trend, and it’s not for everyone. If you prefer to keep things under wraps, go forth with our blessing. But if you want to raise some eyebrows, leave your jacket at home and strut with confidence to Sainsburys. Our only tip: don’t wear it to the family reunion.

The 5 best saucy trompe l’oeil prints to buy

Finesse - Xavier Body Print Dress
Finesse - Xavier Body Print Dress
Nasty Gal - Body Print Short Sleeve Mesh Midi Dress
Nasty Gal - Body Print Short Sleeve Mesh Midi Dress
Sinead Gorey - Pink Stud-Belt Long Sleeve T-Shirt
Sinead Gorey - Pink Stud-Belt Long Sleeve T-Shirt

Top, £120, Sinead Gorey @ Ssense

Syndical Chamber - Fluor Dress
Syndical Chamber - Fluor Dress
Boohoo - body print slinky maxi dress
Boohoo - body print slinky maxi dress

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