Fashion notes: Dress sheer without risking overexposure

When deciding to wear sheer, there is a difference between dressing courageously and setting out to attract attention.

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From Haider Ackermann, Erdem, Isabel Marant, to Antonio Berardi, Simone Rocha, Fendi and Louis Vuitton – this season is all about braving the sheer trend.

You heard me – lucid, permeable, transparent, transpicuous. Let’s elaborate for the sake of fashion: see-through, barely there.

Now, I hate to talk about “age-appropriate” fashion. It’s so predictable, so worked at and, admittedly, defeatist. The notoriously winding mountain of a time when dignity ought to triumph is often a hard pill to swallow. Regardless, it’s a truism (if not a cruel one) that after a certain age, certain pieces from the runway don’t translate particularly well, ending up performing precisely the opposite function to what was initially intended.

Now, before you get all hurt, I want to clarify the difference between dressing courageously and setting out to attract attention.

There are fashion risks worth taking (the right side of daring) and there are attention-grabbing games of hide and seek (think wives with secret lives). The former is the recommended route.

Sheer shouldn’t necessarily shock. The key, as it is so often, lies within its subtleties. Teasingly thin layers of translucent silk organza and chiffon executed artfully should be used to flatter, not invite stolen glances.

On paper, so far so good. The problem lies in finding the balance between “reveal and conceal”.

Most of us don’t feel particularly comfortable with transparency (this is a good thing), so rather than going sheer from head-to-toe, perhaps it’s safer to go for separates and play around with layering techniques. As with any over-the-top embellishment, sheer clothing needs to be explored with a certain amount of trepidation for daytime, especially in a conservative environment.

Look to pastels, nudes or crisp whites that won’t look so out of place during the day. Tailored cigarette trousers work beautifully when paired with a sheer chiffon blouse and slip (always try to wear a shade similar to the colour of the sheer garment or closest to your skin tone). For those who are midriff-shy, opt for a trouser with a high-waist for extra coverage.

For evening, if you opt for a sheer blouse top, try layering it on top of a coloured statement slip or bandeau top for impact and make sure to experiment with the more delicate fabrics such as lace, tulle and chiffon, as they will work best with the transparent mood.

If you feel somewhat uncomfortable baring your shoulders, a sheer sleeve can work beautifully without feeling overexposed. Same goes if you are a little out of the age range to wear anything above the knee. A sheer panel from the knee down will offer an elegant alternative to baring your legs. If cutouts are beyond the call of duty, insets or panels are a great way to dip into the trend without investing too highly.

Much to my delight, fashion seems to be on our side at the moment, having shifted over the last two seasons from an upbeat, experimental, colourful mood to something much more demure. Forget about trends. Instead, you need to find out what makes your body type look better no matter its shape or size. The less gimmicky, the better.

In short, “risky” is not a word we want to play around with in fashion, so don’t get caught up in the gimmick. Think of the sheer trend as a clever and sophisticated transition that will take us into the summer months. And by drawing on these important boundaries together, we can work on banishing the dreaded mutton-mirror moments for good.