A wardrobe malfunction is accidental exposure of intimate parts. It is different from indecent exposure or flashing, as the latter ones imply a deliberate exposure. There has been a long history of such incidents, though the term itself was coined in the mid-2000s and has become one of the most common fashion faux pas. 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.
The American Dialect Society defines it as "an unanticipated exposure of bodily parts." 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. 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. 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." One source defines it as, accidental and indecent exposure of body parts by a fault in someone's clothing (especially that of a performer) or by an error made while changing this costume.
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...." The term wardrobe malfunction appeared in numerous stories in major US consumer and business publications, newspapers, and major TV and radio broadcasts. Journalist Eric Alterman described the incident as "the most famous 'wardrobe malfunction' since Lady Godiva."
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). The term has been translated into other languages to describe similar incidents, including garderobedefect (Dutch), incident de garde-robe (French), disfunzione del guardaroba or incidente del guardaroba (Italian), and mal funcionamiento del guardarropa (Spanish).
In DJing for Dummies, John Steventon describes a range of wardrobe malfunctions from a revelation of buttock cleavage to visible panty lines. Bikinis also present celebrity wardrobe malfunction opportunities to the paparazzi in the form of wedgies or bikini-top malfunctions. 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." In Cheer!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders, Kate Torgovnick warns of wardrobe malfunctions while cheerleading.
An early reported instance of wardrobe malfunction occurred on The Price Is Right in 1977 involving contestant Yolanda Bowersley, though such incidents were not called by that name at the time. In the 1950s actress Jayne Mansfield was notorious for repeated "accidental" exposure of her breasts. In April 1967, the Los Angeles Times wrote, "She confuses publicity and notoriety with stardom and celebrity and the result is very distasteful to the public."
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- Elaine's inadvertently exposed nipple in her photo Christmas card forms a plotline in the Seinfeld episode "The Pick", 1992.
- Puente, Maria (February 4, 2004). "Will 'wardrobe malfunction' live on?". USA Today. Retrieved April 22, 2008.
- Word of the Year, American Dialect Society, 2005
- Top HollyWORDIEs of 2007, The Global Language Monitor
- Toby Macdonald, "Parley Hollywood: Keira invents new languages," Sunday Mail
- "Electrosmog enters the dictionary," BBC
- "Dictionary suffers a wardrobe malfunction," The Mercury, 2008-08-15
- Wardrobe malfunction, AllWords.com
- "Apologetic Jackson says costume reveal went awry". CNN. February 2, 2004. Retrieved April 22, 2008.
- Rich Eisen, Total Access, page 36, Macmillan, 2007, ISBN 0-312-36978-6
- Eric Alterman, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, page 186, Penguin USA, 2008, ISBN 0-670-01860-0
- Wayne Glowka, 2004 Words of the Year Nominations, American Dialect Society
- John Steventon, DJing for Dummies, page 352, For Dummies, 2007, ISBN 0-470-03275-8
- Lorna Edwards, You've still got it, babe, The Age, 2006-06-03
- Maggie Daniels, Margaret J. Daniels and Carrie Loveless, Wedding Planning and Management: Consultancy for Diverse Clients, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007, ISBN 0-7506-8233-7
- Kate Torgovnick, Cheer!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders, page 41, Simon & Schuster, 2008, ISBN 1-4165-3596-9