Wardrobe malfunction

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A wardrobe malfunction is accidental exposure of a person's intimate parts due to a temporary failure of clothing to do its job. It is different from indecent exposure or flashing, as the latter are deliberate, although some "malfunctions" are alleged to have been planned. There has been a long history of such incidents, though the term itself was only coined in the mid-2000s and has become one of the most common fashion faux pas.[1] Justin Timberlake first used the term referring to the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime-show controversy, issuing a scripted apology at the 2004 Grammy Awards. The phrase "wardrobe malfunction" has since been used by the media to refer to the incident and has entered pop culture.[2]


The American Dialect Society defines "wardrobe malfunction" as "an unanticipated exposure of bodily parts".[3] Global Language Monitor, which tracks usage of words on the internet and in newspapers worldwide, identified the term as the top Hollywood contribution to English (HollyWordie) in 2004, surpassing words like girlie men, Yo! and frass.[4][5] The term was also one of the new entrants into the Chambers Dictionary in 2008, along with words like electrosmog, carbon footprint, credit crunch and social networking.[6] The dictionary defines it as "the temporary failure of an item of clothing to do its job in covering a part of the body that it would be advisable to keep covered."[7]

The term is credited as having been coined by singers Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, on February 1, 2004, to explain the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime-show controversy; the controversy is in reference to Jackson's right breast having been bared. Timberlake apologized for the incident, stating he was "sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl...."[8] The term wardrobe malfunction appeared in numerous stories in major US consumer and business publications, newspapers, and major TV and radio broadcasts.[9] Journalist Eric Alterman described the incident as "the most famous 'wardrobe malfunction' since Lady Godiva."[10]


The American Dialect Society had a number of related terms for word of the year nominations in 2004, including Janet moment ("unplanned bodily exposure at a public function"), boobgate ("scandal over Janet Jackson's exposed breast"), nipplegate (like boobgate, "but used earlier in squawk over Jackson's possible nipple ring") and wardrobe malfunction ("overexposure in a mammary way").[11] The term has been translated into other languages to describe similar incidents, including garderobedefect (Dutch),[citation needed] incident de garde-robe (French), disfunzione del guardaroba or incidente del guardaroba (Italian)[citation needed], and mal funcionamiento de vestuario (Spanish).[citation needed]

Social phenomenon[edit]

In DJing for Dummies, John Steventon describes a range of wardrobe malfunctions from a revelation of buttock cleavage to visible panty lines.[12]

Bikinis also present celebrity wardrobe malfunction opportunities to the paparazzi in the form of wedgies or bikini-top malfunctions.[13] In Wedding Planning and Management: Consultancy for Diverse Clients, Maggie Daniels warns, "With so many people involved in the wedding party, a wardrobe malfunction is guaranteed to happen."[14] In Cheer!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders, Kate Torgovnick warns of wardrobe malfunctions while cheerleading.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elaine's inadvertently exposed nipple in her photo Christmas card forms a plotline in the Seinfeld episode "The Pick", 1992.
  2. ^ Puente, Maria (February 4, 2004). "Will 'Wardrobe Malfunction' Live On?". USA Today. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  3. ^ American Dialect Society (January 7, 2005). "Word of the Year" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on February 11, 2006. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  4. ^ Top HollyWORDIEs of 2007, The Global Language Monitor
  5. ^ Toby Macdonald, "Parley Hollywood: Keira invents new languages," Sunday Mail
  6. ^ "Electrosmog enters the dictionary," BBC
  7. ^ "Dictionary suffers a wardrobe malfunction," The Mercury, 2008-08-15
  8. ^ "Apologetic Jackson says costume reveal went awry". CNN. February 2, 2004. Retrieved April 22, 2008.
  9. ^ Rich Eisen, Total Access, page 36, Macmillan, 2007, ISBN 0-312-36978-6
  10. ^ Eric Alterman, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, page 186, Penguin USA, 2008, ISBN 0-670-01860-0
  11. ^ Glowka, Wayne; American Dialect Society. "2004 Words of the Year Nominations" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on August 19, 2016. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  12. ^ John Steventon, DJing for Dummies, page 352, For Dummies, 2007, ISBN 0-470-03275-8
  13. ^ Lorna Edwards, You've still got it, babe, The Age, June 3, 2006
  14. ^ Maggie Daniels, Margaret J. Daniels and Carrie Loveless, Wedding Planning and Management: Consultancy for Diverse Clients, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007, ISBN 0-7506-8233-7
  15. ^ Kate Torgovnick, Cheer!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders, page 41, Simon & Schuster, 2008, ISBN 1-4165-3596-9