Sheer genius: Fashion dos and don’ts

Kristyn Schiavone
Tribute Content Agency

Once upon a time, “sheer” was not a desirable quality in clothing.

At the beginning of my obsession with white sundresses, somewhere around my high school years, my mom would almost always send me back upstairs to put on a slip. “I can see right through that dress!” she’d exclaim.

After some back-and-forth, I would run upstairs and put on said slip, which was designed not to be seen. It was probably flesh-colored, reaching my mid-thighs, with a very thin elastic waistband. It was, to the best of its ability, inconspicuous.

Fast-forward to today, and sheer is everywhere. It’s not just sheer fabrics, but also clothing items with cutouts or embroidered patterns. I even saw a wedding gown with a sheer bodice at Nordstrom. This was a sample, so perhaps the actual version comes with some sort of corset or lining, but the thought of paying two months’ rent for a dress that doesn’t even cover one's lady parts was nevertheless alarming.

For all the ways this trend is worn terribly, it can also be incredibly chic. I'm starting with the “don't” list, but try not to get discouraged. The payoff is that if you can master sheer and see-through, it allows you to have basics that are not-so-basic, and solid-colored closet staples that have a little bit of flair.

Don’t ...

■ Reject something just because it looks weird on the hanger. You really never know what kind of strategic placements these designers will pull out of their hats. Often you'll pull something off the rack and wonder how you can possibly wear it, only to find that the mesh panels are placed not one millimeter from where you need them to be.

■ Choose something incompatible with your regular undergarments. On the flipside, you may put on the item and discover that it is just as weird as you expected it to be. Sometimes, you’ll love it anyway, like if the fit is very flattering. In these instances, you have to work really hard not to convince yourself that you can find a bra for that. I will tell you right now that you’ll be annoyed every time you're scrounging for your low-back bra contraption mere minutes before the start of your event. At a certain point, the inconvenience isn’t worth it.

■ Purchase something see-through that is also too tight for a slip or camisole. If the item requires either of these things, but is also snug enough that you will become lumpy if you put something under it, it’s not a good choice.

■ Pretend that a bra is equivalent to a camisole. In most cases, you cannot wear a sheer item with just a bra or underwear. It does not look like part of the outfit, it looks like a bra or underwear, and you are not a pop star.

Do ...

■Embrace a laser-cut skirt with a built-in slip underneath. The laser-cut skirt is my favorite way to wear this trend. Typically, the style will be A-line and include a slip of the same color that is about half as long as the skirt. You can see the pattern for some embellishment -- a jazzier take on, say, a basic black skirt — but it's still appropriate for office wear.

■Find the perfect flesh-colored camisole. A great camisole, ideally made of stretchy cotton that’s form-fitting and not bulky, will totally change your wardrobe options. Suddenly, sheer button-down blouses become a staple. Buy this whenever you find it, because having it in the closet already takes the stress out of buying sheer or open-knit shirts.

■Consider mesh panels (sparingly, of course). The black jersey midi-dress I've worn to almost every bachelorette party this year works because of its mesh panels. Jersey is not a dressy fabric, but when you put mesh at the shoulders and neckline, as well as a mesh stripe around the torso, you’ve got something slightly edgy, more interesting and just as comfortable.