Style + Beauty

Dress Like a Model Without ‘Sheer’ Terror


This spring, make room in your closet for sheer clothing.

From Jason Wu’s smoky black gown to Carolina Herrera’s tangerine dress with strategically placed florals, the trend from fashion designers is clear: sheer is here to stay.

And transparent couture isn’t just for the runway.

"For spring, [sheer] becomes a daytime fabric, pieced with opaque fabrics or as a top layered over more opaque garments,” says Sharon Graubard at Stylesight, a company that analyzes fashion trends. 

“Sheer fabrications are a feminine and flirty trend this spring,” says Sofia Wacksman, Vice President of Trend for Kohl’s. “Pair a solid sheer top with a like-colored cami to intensify the color, or try a nude color cami under a sheer print for coverage that won’t distract from the pattern. You can also try the reverse — a printed or contrast color under a solid top for a fresh take.”

But while thin, barely-there fabrics can be eye-catching, they may not be friendly for women worried about ovexposure. No problem.

“Sheer is for everyone,” insists Graubard. “A woman who is not comfortable showing her midriff can still wear sheer sleeves, illusion necklines, insets at the shoulder or a button-up shirt over a tank top. Spring apparel will have sheer trims. Just a wide border of sheer at a skirt hem, or sheer insets on a pleated skirt, suggests lingerie and has a sexy, but not overexposed effect.”

And while celebrities are no strangers to baring a little (or too much) on the red carpet, stylist Bobette Cohn, who has worked with clients like actress Tilda Swinson and model Molly Sims, insists that sheer shows no signs of fading away.

“Sheer is here to stay,” says Cohn. “I like to work with sheer fabrics because it creates mystery and texture, which gives a silhouette a modern romanticism. Sheer layers create texture and interest beyond design. Take a simple dress. If you had a layer of sheer fabric over it, the dress becomes something special and unique.”

While sheer shows more, it can also be a tasteful way of emphasizing your best features, says Cecelia Myers, co-founder of personal shopping service CakeStyle.

“Sheer fabrics are an ideal way to enhance your figure for nighttime looks," Myers explains. "A blouse with sheer sleeves is a great way to show your arms even if they aren’t like Michelle Obama’s,” says Myers. “One of my favorite looks is a lace skirt where the liner stops just a few inches before the hem. It allows your legs to be a bit more visible without trying too hard. If you’re worried about it being too revealing, pair some opaque tights with the skirt.”

Still seeking some inspiration? Here are some pointers from New York City-based stylist Sara Cooper, who believes transparent couture is a lot more versatile than you might think:

In Your 20s: "There are a ton of options out there from your basic American Apparel to Urban Outfitters featuring lots of netted back and sheer tops and dresses. These look adorable layered over a bold colored bandeau bra top or tank. If you're baring some skin on top, you don't need to reveal too much on the bottom. Pair with boyfriend denim shorts or a flowy, festival skirt."

In Your 30s: "You should be a bit more mindful of how to rock this trend. A cutout dress is a great way to show off a little skin without feeling over-exposed. I love dresses with mesh inserts around the hips, sides of abdomen or on the back. They can be extremely flattering, slimming and show off an area that you're proud of."

In Your 40s: "Backless sweaters or sheer button down blouses are your go-tos. These types of tops can be layered over a tank top. You can also add some denim to rock the trend in an age-appropriate and sophisticated way. A sheer sleeve is another way to wear this trend a bit more conservatively than your daughters."