Wardrobe malfunction is an accidental instance of indecent exposure of intimate parts. It is different from flashing as the latter implies a deliberate exposure. There has been a long history of such malfunction, though the term itself was coined in the 2000s.
The term was used by singer Justin Timberlake in 1 February 2004 to explain the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy, the incident during Super Bowl XXXVIII in which Janet Jackson's right breast was bared. The print version of the Urban Dictionary describes it as "an accidental or supposedly accidental failure of clothing to cover parts of the body intended to be covered, made famous by Justin Timberlake during a Super Bowl halftime when he tore off Janet Jackson's clothes. After the Super Bowl incident the term "wardrobe malfunction" appeared in 5,028 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 or 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 John Elway'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 garderobe defect (Dutch), incident de garde-robe or défaut de fonctionnement de garde-robe (French), Garderobenstörung (German), disfunzione del guardaroba or incidente del guardaroba (Italian), and malfuncionamiento del guardarropa (Spanish).
In DJing for Dummies, John Steventon describes a range of wardrobe malfunctions from a revelation of butt cleavage to visible panty lines. In some US cities, low hanging pants and whale tail flashing (thong exposed over the top of pants or skirts) are considered as wardrobe malfunctions, and are considered as a school dress code issue. Bikinis also present a celebrity wardrobe malfunction opportunities to the paparazzi in the form of wedgies or bikini-top malfunctions. Celebrity upskirts and nip slips, like that of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears or Paris Hilton have been described as deliberate wardrobe malfunction to draw public attention. 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. The first reported instance of wardrobe malfunction occurred on The Price Is Right in 1977 involving contestant Yolanda Bowsley, though such incidents were not called by that name at the time.
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