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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

How we talk about undressedness

Near-naked, scantily clad, birthday suit

When do you reckon each of these terms came into circulation?

  • near-naked
  • scantily clad
  • birthday suit

Turns out that 'near-naked' (the blue line) has been used in Australian newspapers since the 1850s. 'Scantily clad' (red) didn't gain much currency until the late 1800s, but it overtook 'near-naked' in the first half of the 20th century. 'Birthday suit' (green) is the newcomer. It didn't really take off until the 1920s, and it's mostly never been more popular than either 'near-naked' or 'scantily clad'. But for two years during World War II, this term for the naked body was used more than either of the other terms for wearing very little.

We know this because of a neat tool that interacts with Trove.

Interact with the live graph to see the original articles where each term appeared.

Related information

Bare

Degrees of undress

Previous exhibition, 2015

Bare: Degrees of undress celebrates the candid, contrived, natural, sexy, ironic, beautiful, and fascinating in Australian portraiture that shows a bit of skin. 

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency