How to wear sheer styles without baring too much

  • Friday, September 27, 2013 12:39pm
  • Life

An unexpected flash of skin under a sheer fabric can be sexy and sophisticated on a date, at a party, even in the office.

But with anything much more than a sliver, it’s easy to cross the too-much-of-a-good-thing line. And there’s no taking it back.

Just ask Tom Mora, women’s design director at J. Crew, who’s created sheer beach cover-ups that are stylish and elegant enough to be worn as tops and dresses. But, he said, wearer beware: “You should wear a slip, or a cami and brief. They are great pieces but their real intent is for a swimsuit to be underneath. I don’t want to go into a restaurant and see someone in a completely sheer top.”

At least there, you can look down at your plate. What about the office when sheer fabrics do what they are supposed to do and draw the eye to a particular place?

Remember what your mom said: “Eye contact,” said Audrey Slater, fashion director at Redbook magazine.

“This trend is definitely peaking this year, she said, “but it’s not a trend for everyone, anytime and everywhere.”

For the past few seasons, designers have been crafting strategic sheer panels into their collections, with Vera Wang carving out bodices and Marchesa putting sheer blouses under corsets.

J. Crew has made regular offerings of chiffon and cotton voile, and Ann Taylor reinterprets the menswear-inspired button-shirt using lace and georgette.

It’s not just a warm-weather look, either, with retailers planning peek-a-boo styles for fall, too.

The collective eye has adjusted and embraced these looks as more delicate alternatives to bare skin, and as a feminine touch to more structured silhouettes.

But maybe some women have gotten a little too comfortable, which could make the people around them uncomfortable.

Lisa Axelson, creative director at Ann Taylor, said she loves the look of a gown with a fully sheer or lace back, but it’s a special-occasion look — a really special occasion.

For daily life, she’d recommend an elongated pencil skirt that hits below the knee with a sheer blouse that has a matching camisole. Navy would be a lovely color.

For an evening event, she likes a black lace blouse with a full-coverage black bra under it and black trousers.

There always has to be balance to the outfit, and that’s never more clear than with something sheer, Axelson said. If there’s sheerness to the top, the bottom should be modest, while a sheer hemline is best complemented by a demure top.

Mora suggests having a boyfriend blazer or slouchy cardigan handy, also for contrast — or the unexpected meeting you might be called into.

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