The Unconventional Artist Redefining Nudity and Body Image
The relationship between women and their bodies is fraught with generational struggles perpetuated in part by the media. It’s a story we’ve heard time and time again, yet eating disorder survivors are still applauded for their courage and grace on pages of the very magazines that tout unrealistic beauty standards and body-size exclusivity.
U.K.-based artist Jazz Moodie creates art that challenges the notion that not all bodies are beautiful, and through her work she has created a community of empowered women. After learning to hand-embroider while studying in France, Jazz began experimenting with life drawings, embroidering them onto fabric using a Kantan needle. What began as a personal project to bolster her own self confidence has grown into a small business called Mude Threads, which she runs out of her student room at the University of Leeds. Now she sells apparel, tote bags, and cushion covers proudly displaying nakedness for all to see. By using her own body as inspiration for many of her designs, Jazz has shared how the process has helped her reconnect with her body after being oversexualized throughout her life for her petite frame and large bust. She crafts each piece with the intention to fight misogyny, celebrate the female form, and help women take back control of their bodies.
The artistic divide between naked and nude is a mere matter of connotation. The latter evokes a purposeful, poised piece of art while the former denotes sex. Jazz’s message of separating nakedness from its inherent ties to sexuality is not only important, but essential for women seeking to reclaim ownership of their bodies.
Without understanding the cultural context, Jazz’s illustrations may seem shockingly unconventional or even graphic, but her art is part of a larger message working to erase the shame associated with feminine nakedness. While some of this shame comes from a lack of representation in the media, women often project shame onto themselves—avoiding their own gaze in the mirror while slipping inconspicuously into the shower. Feelings of inadequacy about such a fundamental sense of self robs women of the ability to fully thrive. Jazz’s simple, yet elegant drawings work to help women understand that measuring their body’s worth in its inherent beauty and power, not in its status as a sexually desirable object, is the first step in regaining body confidence.
Credit: Mude Threads
Not only does Jazz encourage others to embrace their flaws, but by using herself as her own muse she exemplifies someone who is comfortable in their own skin. She invites the public to explore nudity through her art with a vulnerability and openness that is rare, yet essential to the feminist narrative. In addition to her more generic sketches, Jazz does personal nude commissions to allow other women to experience the freedom of wearing their own bodies on show.
Whether they’re wearing an anonymous figure or the embroidered version of their own naked body, customers have expressed the unimaginable confidence they’ve gained through this simple, seemingly rebellious act. Jazz's artwork has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase retail therapy. Buying an article of clothing that depicts a body like your own as beautiful and worthy of wearing as a fashion statement can be extremely healing in the process of redefining flaws as strengths.
Despite the immensely positive benefits to countless women, the negative way in which society perceives nudity is apparent in Mude Threads’ experiences with social media. Most recently, the Mude Threads business account was suspended by Instagram. The security measures social media platforms like Instagram have in place to protect their communities from explicit content can unfortunately also limit progress in the right direction. The irony that Jazz’s art was banned for the very stigma it is attempting to fight is not lost.
Jazz has persevered through this setback and continues to post her work on what used to be her personal account. With its wide reach and viral potential, social media can be an excellent platform to enact change. Jazz’s ability to continue spreading her message can exist on a much larger scale with the continued support of social media. While a large portion of mainstream media continues to perpetuate a model-thin body as the only acceptable body type, social media has become a place of representation for all. Spreading female empowerment should be encouraged, and the danger of labeling an empowered woman as sexually explicit undermines the entire message of progress. The experiences of women who have been empowered by Jazz’s art are missing from the narrative that Instagram is creating when they decide ban it as explicit content. Shaming and censorship of the female form must stop in order for progress to be made.
With the success of Mude Threads, it’s hard to imagine that Jazz has time for anything else, but the truth is, she hasn’t slowed down. She continues to make new creations and take personal commissions all while continuing her education.
The mission she champions through her work isn’t slowing down either. Body positive activism is only beginning as size diversity becomes increasingly important for brands seeking success with younger audiences. While large brands are unable to portray nudity to the masses, Jazz continues to demonstrate that artistic interpretation of the female form is not sexual, despite being told that her content is explicit. Continuing to support artists like Jazz through battles with censorship will only continue to spread awareness because size inclusivity and true female empowerment are not only beneficial to individuals, but society as a whole.
Lori Vaughn is a lifestyle blogger and freelance writer sharing real talk about beauty, personal style, and creative careers. You can find more writing from her on her website https://lorivaughn.me