Wearing Sheer In Real Life
Why on earth is “the naked dress” a trend and what are the rest of us supposed to do?
Skin is everywhere…on social media and in headlines at least. The red carpet at the Vanity Fair Oscars party was scantily clad. Ecomm sites are offering skimpy straps and sheer layers on every page of new arrivals. What gives? I am definitely not walking around naked. If you do, I salute you and your confidence! But for a lot of us, it’s just not something we will ever feel comfortable with. Or even if we feel fine about our bodies, still don’t feel like baring that much.
Trends are trends though and it can be fun to figure out why they are percolating and place them within the context of actually getting dressed. So today, see through clothes, and how to make them….clothes.
At first I thought this was just going to be about finding sheer things and making them work. But as I started trying to create imaginary outfits, I realized, this is actually a story about layering. To wear sheer clothing, you need the right base layers, tops, shirt dresses, etc etc etc. It became a bigger beast than expected. Below a breakdown of what I mean. The best of the categories, and how to put them all together.
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That dress you bought that you didn’t realize was going to be sheer but now you never wear it
It’s happened to the best of us. I recently bought a polka dot Comme des Garcons slipdress on The RealReal only to have it be totally see through upon arrival. The current trend research would say, just put on a cute boy short and let those thighs shine through. But I honestly just cannot. When I tried it on, my husband happened to walk by and say “you’re not wearing that outside are you?” So yea, not a great first comment on a new purchase.
These accidentally sheer pieces end up being a great place to start experimenting with the trend. Because by nature they aren’t (usually) extremely transparent and you can play with layering in a way that reveals just slightly more than you are used to.
The dress above, for example, I’m pairing with a mini half slip procured from Amazon. I wear it hiked up to my natural waist and a black cotton bralette with a slim strap. the bust area in this dress happens to be double layered so you just get a thin line of skin between the skirt and the bra and then a hint of leg above the knee.
I intentionally didn’t wear a full slip dress with this because there are already two skinny straps at the top. Adding a third made it look messy. If it had a different neckline though, I might have gone for a slip dress.
Below, another use of a half slip, in creamy ivory paired back to a ‘way too sheer to ever wear confidently’ white poplin skirt. I like that it peeks out a little, but you don’t need to let show if you don’t want to. *Note on ordering cheap poly Amazon slips though* I also bought one in stark white and….not good. Stick with the black and/or ivory. The ivory is softer under white garments and you can’t tell as drastically how …ehh hem… cheap they are.
Excuse me, your slip is showing
One part of this trend, that can literally be drawn in a straight line back to Prada Fall 2022, is the intentional sheer slip layer. I love this idea - first attempted in my group texts by Leandra late last year…and finally, the rest of us catching up.
Just take any short skirt or dress I already have and let a slip hang out of the bottom? So simple! I ordered this Kye intimates sheer slip because I liked the square neckline, skinny straps and the sheer material itself. It was way too long (to the floor!) when it came so I hemmed it about eight inches. But cool if you were going an evening route! *Editor’s note, it somehow sold out in the week since I ordered it, so if you love it, sign up for the waitlist. Here are two others…also on preorder, but maybe this is an experiment in waitlists to see which becomes reality first.
And working backwards. Four easy pieces to put on top, in extremely different categories of dressiness. But so you get the idea for shapes. A baggy sweater-vest-dress. A shirt dress - which actually! shirt dresses often look like you forgot your pants, so the sheer layer improves this category all together tenfold!!!! A t-shirt dress (the dress version of our favorite Cos t-shirt from last summer), and a mini party dress. Can you start pairing these in your head and see what I mean?
The unexpected side effect of this category, in my limited experience of testing it out, has been that I don’t constantly touch the back of my thighs when walking down the street, a short skirt tick of mine. It creates a sensation of length that makes me relax. So not no to this!
True beauty is on the inside :)
A potentially more conservative way to play with all this gauze is to keep the sheer layer closer to the body. Instead of it being the top layer with slips underneath, or a frisky skirt, try a colorful gauzy undershirt. You could layer it under an (opaque) slipdress for a 90s-ish look. Or just let it peek out of your jean shirt as a way to jazz up your Canadian tuxedo for dinner in the neighborhood. Also great under a suit (with black camisole layer) for a slightly edgy corporate look, something I have recommended to a client who was going to Miami for a work trip. :)
The thing about wearing sheer clothing, when you in fact want to keep covered, is that its going to be a bit of a proportional puzzle that you just have to try a bit til you find the Ravensburger click. So maybe just ditch the riddles and go for sheer pieces that come with their opaque buddies attached.
I am trying this out with a Tory Burch look from her spring show. I don’t mean to fawn, but I really loved it. I really liked not having to worry about all the different layers. At the end of the day, its just a single skirt. And it was also not so so sheer that I was stressed about people giving me glances. Definitely a fun alternate to the summer dress. Some details and other ideas below.
Part of what makes trying new ideas so hard is that you need a lot of styling elements in your closet. The things that are not super fun to buy but act as the glue when trying to incorporate exciting new purchases into your repertoire. For example, I met a friend for lunch last week and she had on a sheer Dries Van Noten shirtdress worn open over a white ribbed tank and jeans. So cute! But she couldn’t figure out how to wear it dressed up. If she just had a black slip dress in her closet, she could have layered the two, thrown on a black sandal and been done. Below, the things you won’t enjoy buying but will make it all work in the long run.
The basic, boring list.
The best black slipdress is this one from Tibi. The fabric weight is divine. The skininess of the straps…so good. Its expensive. But you will have this for years. I’ve had mine at least ten.
The second best slipdress is a tie. This one from Organic by John Patrick. Love the rawness of it and the price for a high quality fabric. And finally, this one from Theory. A great run-of-the-mill classic.
The best camisoles are from Hanro. Here is the simplest style in black and white. And I personally love the lace trim versions.
The best half slips are from Amazon, because the price can’t be beat and you really don’t see them. (Plus barely anyone even makes a half slip anymore!) But If you’d like it to peek out from your dress, this one from Skin is gorgeous! And if you are more the “seamless" type (I don’t blame you!) then this one.
In conclusion. This might not be a trend for everyone. BUT, hope you found some ways that made you think twice about brushing off a crazy fad. Because when you break it down, there kind of is something for (almost) everyone and ways to choose pieces that won’t die in one season. Signing off with a couple other sheer pieces I love that didn’t quite fit our official categories but are so great, I just wanted to share.
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I want to give a shout out to Doen's no-lace slips. Lots of options in basic colors and there is a brown! They feel great on. I've had some shrinking so they need careful washing!
I'm not opposed to sheer, but I like to wear classic pieces. I find these too trendy for my closet. Thank you for your article though. It's nice to see what's out there for ideas.