Just like with everything else that dares break the rules of conservatism and that is easily defined by ambiguous terms like right or wrong, sheer clothing had its own share of drawbacks throughout its controversial existence. During the past six years, the see-through clothing trend managed to evolve form a seasonal accent into a year-round trend, meeting a fabulous ascent during the spring and summer of 2012.

This season the sheer clothing dominance met new heights, with runways all over the world caving in to the alluring aesthetic that highlights femininity as a fashion weapon for the spring and summer of 2013. Still perceived as on off-limit trend by some, the see-trough garments can quickly cross the delicate line between seductive and sexual, but at the same time they can be turned into memorable statements.

Learn how the sheer clothing evolved for spring 2013, what exactly changed and how to make this sensual trend work for you by reading on after the break.

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See-through clothing for spring 2013

Nearly impossible to avoid, see-through clothing filled the runways with fresh and exciting takes on the trend, thus offering even more tantalizing alternatives to go sheer for spring and summer. From subtle to pure sexual, from classy to sassy and from subdued to obtrusive, this trend leaves plenty for the imagination, while still pointing towards your best features in a totally unexpected way.


Sheer clothing at Blumarine S/S ’13

How to sport the trend without baring it all

Sporting the sheer clothing trend doesn’t imply baring all, allowing you to still feel comfortable and establish a reasonable limit for how far would you actually go.

  • The safest way to embrace the trend remains highlighting your assets through sheer elements subtly injected in your clothing (sleeves, trouser legs, midriff)
  • If you don’t feel comfortable with total transparency, opt for translucent or delicately embellished fabrics instead
  • Keep your overall look clean and choose a minimum of accessories
  • To achieve a sophisticated feel, select neutral colors and relaxed lines for your garments


Sheer clothing at Gianfranco Ferre  S/S ’13, Felder Felder S/S ’13 and Blumarine S/S ’13

  • If you opt for a see-through top, layer it on top of statement lingerie, another sheer undergarment or wear it underneath a blazer
  • Rather than going sheer from head-to-toe, balance the see through pieces with opaque ones (sheer tops with opaque bottoms and vice versa)
  • Embrace color in order to slightly distract from the sheerness
  • Choose delicate fabrics like lace, tulle, chiffon to complement the see through elements


Sheer clothing at Alberta Ferretti S/S ’13, Francesco Scognamiglio S/S ’13 and Temperley London S/S ’13

Day versus night

Just like sequins, feathers and obvious cut-outs, see-through clothing isn’t really envisioned for office hours, however it can carry you throughout the day with little efforts. As the sheer fabrics send a strong message for feminine dressing, they also leave little to the imagination at times – so finding the perfect balance, the perfect environment and the right ways of incorporating transparency in your looks might prove to be challenging. For night, the scenario is likely more fitting, allowing you to switch the little black dress for something more modern that accents the outer layer without calling attention to what’s underneath.


Sheer clothing at Gabriele Colangelo S/S ’13 and Francesco Scognamiglio S/S ’13

Sexual sheer: pushing the boundaries for spring

Some women are born to do justice to the unconventional, while others build the confidence and the strength progressively, across years and years of experimenting with the trends. If you’re past the subtle sheer stage and your body begs for more on the revealing side, dare make a statement but remember to keep it sophisticated. From sheer blouses worn without bras or bra-lets, to see-through dresses complemented by matching pieces of lingerie, the sexualised sheer implies taking a risk and being fearless.


Sheer clothing at Anteprima S/S ’13

For summer embrace lightweight fabrics, subtle lace accents and lots of white to complement the sheerness. Highlighting your femininity by using heels and wedges, alongside floral crowns, hats and delicate jewelry. Play with the lengths and layers, but keep your beauty look as close to natural as possible.  For an alternative to the delicate see-trough clothing, check the transparent / clear plastic trend.


Sheer clothing at Blugirl S/S ’13 and Moschino S/S ’13

How to wear sheer

As a statement look the question really isn’t whether to wear sheer clothing or not, it’s how to wear it. Some will argue with that and it’s likely that such people will be imaging the breast-baring, sheer fashion of the catwalks – but remember that it doesn’t have to be worn that way. Thus the question arises as to how you want to wear it. And here’s the number one tip for doing just that:

Sheer fashion is about showing something off. Sometimes it’s a sheer fabric layered over a nice cloth, but more often then not sheer is about showing off skin. Like all things in fashion, that means when you’re wearing sheer don’t do it to shock but to flatter – wear sheer to show off a great asset.

If you’ve got great arms that could mean sheer sleeves. A great midriff? There’s sheer for that. From plunging necklines to backless dresses there’s a sheer interpretation of it, thus no reason not to be wearing the statement this year as long as you have something worth showing off. Once you’ve decided what to hide and what to reveal, you can theme your pieces accordingly.

Sheer / see through clothing styling inspiration

What follows is a list of links to photo shoots, catwalks and street style photos designed to give you ideas for how to style the sheer clothing trend for yourself. The most recent examples of the look are at the top of the list.

Sheer fashion: the evolution

What follows is Fashionising.com’s coverage of the past interpretations of the see through clothing trend:

In a short few years sheer clothing has transformed itself from a seasonal accent into an ever green fashion trend. It started off as a statement that, with its chest-baring qualities, was only to be found on the catwalks. No more. Now chests are bared, shoulders highlighted and legs made to look longer. In fact, from the sexual to the subtle, sheer elements now can be found highlighting and accenting every desirable part of a woman’s figure.

Sheer clothing trend: S/S 2012

When sheer fashion first made its current trend debut on the catwalk some 5 years ago, it was considered something of a frivolity. After all, it was effectively see through clothing that various designers were highlighting their interpretation of. Given just what the sheer accent revealed – catwalks being what they are few designers shied away from creating see through tops and stylists were keen for them to shown accordingly – few women were willing to invest in the look. In fact, most baulked at it and continue to with varying degrees of conservatism. But gradually sheer clothing defied the odds, moving from the catwalks to the street, from a seasonal statement to an all-year-round trend.

That change meant that in spring 2012 sheer elements were used to highlight many a different part of a woman’s figure, and were interpreted in every which way, from the sensual to the sexual.

Sexual sheer: how sheer can you go?

The sexual interpretation of sheer is considered the statement to make when it comes to this trend, and there’s a lot of reasons for that. First and foremost, it’s not shy. Statement fashion is about confidence, and you need confidence (not to mention the right features) to wear sexualised sheer. The second reason is far less tangible: there are those people who still turn their noses up at sheer clothing. People who says it’s improper. Immoral. Vulgar. And whenever something is labelled as immodest or immoral, there’s a queue of the young (and young at heart) vying to be a part of it.

There are elements of sheer clothing that’ll feel immediately familiar: the see through tops and the see through skirts. Deciding which to wear (though you wouldn’t be the first to wear both at the same time) first comes down to what you want to show off, and then becomes a question of your personal style – you’ll find chiffon worked across every personal taste, from the elegant to the alternative.

In spring 2012 we looked to Haider Ackermann for minimalist dresses that worked in sheer tops with opaque bottoms, Alexander Wang for a sporty interpretation where the designs hid the chest, and Anne Demeulemeester for some of the strongest instances of summer layering of sheers. In all the basic premise was the same, but the choice of style remained yours to decide.

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Sheer tops in black and white from John Galliano and Anne Demeulemeester.

It was the same story for sheer skirts and dresses and, to a lesser degree, sheer pants. We saw a lot of silhouettes and ideas, from grunge to glamourous, that evolved from past seasons. But the most hyped entry into the 2012 sheer trend was the sheer maxi dress, which was truly in abundance.

They’re were at all ends of the fashion spectrum: from the studs of Felder Felder to the glamour of Christian Dior.

sheer dresses
Sheer dresses from Felder Felder and John Galliano.

Even more so were they on the street as daywear, which – in 2013 – is not so much the case. Last year a sheer long skirt was edgy, now they’re better kept for night time.

What felt freshest in 2012 and continues to feel fresh in 2013 is the layering of sheer. While lace clothing stood apart as a separate trend last year, this year its dominance wanes and it’s subsumed by the sheer trend. Some designers have noted this and their creations have been things of beauty. For inspiration last season we looked to Valentino, where wholly sheer ensembles beautifully layered black lace and sheer chiffon.

valentino chiffon lace dress
Black lace and chiffon dress from Valentino.

Given spring / summer 2012 opened us up to new levels of sheerness, there were very few things limiting the way the trend was interpreted. Even colour made its mark.

colored chiffon dresses
Coloured chiffon dresses from John Galliano and Valentino.

How to tone down the sexual.

You’ll note that a lot of the above examples of sheer clothing show off more skin than most would be comfortable with. I say most because the truth is that liberal society has moved far enough along that there are women who are already wearing them as you see on the catwalk: last year we spotted the outright, the layered and the slight.

Not everyone will dare go there, however. In fact, most won’t. Or won’t unless there’s a way to tone down the overall look. Which is where the layering of sheer with other trends comes in. That can be the layering of opaque pieces over sheer ones, blazers over sheer tops are ever popular, or the layering underneath (thus requiring an investment in statement lingerie). For some examples you can look to the above inspiration gallery. Also look to other seasonal trends, especially the embellished clothing trend which provides a perfect counterbalance without the need to layer.

Subtle sheer

Like with the sexualised interpretations of sheer, a lot of the subtle interpretations work with summer layering, the density of the layering removing the revealing elements of sheer. In spring 2012 we saw examples like Mulberry, who offered up a chiffon maxi skirt so weighty that its sheer layers became opaque. Like a sheer that borders on opaque, however, that’s an obvious interpretation of the trend. More interesting is where sheer has been worked through as a detail as opposed to a statement.

mulberry sheer maxi skirt
Mulberry sheer maxi skirt.

On the spring 2012 runway we saw various subtle interpretations of sheer. At the subtlest end of the spectrum Cacharel showed how well a sheer panel can work, chiffon forming part of the shoulder and working down the side before disappearing into a pocket. Stepping it up a notch was the more elaborate panelling of Kevork Kiledjian. A true-spark was to be found on the catwalk of Roberto Cavalli, however, where the inside of pleats were made sheer.

chiffon dress / skirt with pleats
Chiffon panelling from Cacharel and Roberto Cavalli.

The dominant interpretation of subtle sheer in spring / summer 2012 came via the sleeves and shoulders. While there were a variety of interpretations, this sub-element of the trend saw sheer imagined through the many vintage fashion revivals apparent in all of 2012’s trends. Hence we saw chiffon sleeves made unforgettable during the season 5 premiere of Mad Men, and then saw them classically interpreted by the likes of Christian Dior and given a modern interpretation by the likes of Alexander Wang and Iceberg.

chiffon dress / skirt with pleats
Chiffon neckline and sheer sleeves from Dior and Iceberg.

Sheer fashion in autumn / fall 2011

sheer clothing fall
3 interpretations of sheer clothing for autumn 2011 from ADAM (L), Louis Vuitton (M) and Emilio de la Morena (R)

Sheer fashion in spring / summer 2011

sheer clothing spring
3 interpretations of sheer clothing for summer 2011 from Jaime Lee (M) and Alice McCall (L,R)

  • Sheer was all about soft, light colours for spring / summer 2011, particularly white
  • Summer clothing is often light enough, so to avoid fully sheer clothing we were looking to clever designs such as Alice McCall’s half hatching, white summer dress where the squares between the hatching were sheer. It’s pictured above
  • Black sheer pieces largely remained the domain of maxi dresses for summer
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