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Absorbing spring fashion trends is hard when you’re a pragmatist, doubly hard when the dominant trend in question feels…advanced. In 2022, the provocative look du jour was the teeny-tiny micro-miniskirt; in 2023, it’s sheer clothing that ranges from slightly see-through to transparent on the verge of oversharing.
Translucent items are now arriving in stores after appearing in a haze of gauzy skirts and semi-sheer tops across the spring 2o23 runways. While sheer pieces are revealing by default, incorporating a flash of transparency into an outfit doesn’t require a PhD in styling. In fact, as shown in collections from Tibi to Tory Burch to Bottega Veneta, semi-sheer pieces are a tool for intriguing, but not overly complicated, spring layering. Some transparent pieces can even work for work (office dress-code permitting).
At Tibi, creative director and founder Amy Smilovic designed a spring 2023 collection with transparent flourishes ranging from a translucent white pencil skirt pulled over a white button-down dress and slinky T-shirts half-tucked into a laid-back, oversized suit. In an email, Smilovic described sheer tops as a short-cut to making longtime favorites feel interesting and current. “I’m always thinking about ways to wear what I already have in my closet—what is one simple thing that I can do that can make my favorite relaxed suit or sleek trouser skirt feel new. Updated. More in the moment.”
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“The texture [of a sheer top] adds depth to pieces I already own, it’s the perfect layering piece,” she explains. “It’s the ultimate balancer to a big full pant or a midi skirt that on its own could feel more conservative.”
From her runway to real life, wearing sheer clothing in a way that’s both realistic and creative starts with considering the color palette. “Sometimes a color that is too bold or saturated can feel a little basic when mixed with neutrals like black or white. A bit of transparency gives just a hint of the color—a bit subtle, but definitely there,” Smilovic says.
The designer often repeats the formula of a bright, white tank top under another sheer layer, “[N]ot for the sake of modesty, though that’s a thing—but rather because it creates interesting new geometric lines,” she explains. For more adventurous layering, Smilovic is drawn toward colorful bras from CUUP and Love Stories, wearing a bright green bra under a mint sheer top, for example. “It’s a statement, but you definitely don’t feel so ‘extra.’ Just style with lots of ease,” she says.
Contrasting shapes are just as important as different colors and textures; the wispy, ethereal vibe of a semi-transparent top will feel too vacation-adjacent under an equally billowing sweater or a loose pant. Instead, “sheer fabrics are best accompanied by structured design elements,” stylist and editor Lizzy Rosenberg tells me. “For example, take Bottega Veneta’s long cowlneck dress this season: When paired back to an oversized structured suiting blazer, it transforms the look from wear to work, to happy hour cocktails with colleagues.”
Bottega’s dress highlights one of the ways a “sheer wardrobe moment” can still serve a utilitarian purpose, Rosenberg adds. She points to Akris as a prime example, where modestly-cut midi dresses arrive with the addition of sheer fabrics layered on top. The stylist says these pieces are quarterly performance-review appropriate with a silk slip added underneath. Then, transitional weather layering merges with playful experimentation in the form of Prada’s spring outerwear, with coats converted from nylon into sheer silk. “Because the jacket is the star wardrobe piece here, I’d style very simply with jeans or a tapered trouser, loafers or ballet flats, and a crisp white tee,” the stylist suggests.
Wearing sheer clothing is a balancing act—one that even practical dressers can embrace with a just-right, juxtaposing layer. With the following 12 sheer and semi-sheer layering pieces below, oversharing isn’t a concern.
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Halie LeSavage is the fashion commerce editor at Harper’s BAZAAR. Her style reporting covers everything from reviewing the best designer products to profiling emerging brands and designers. Previously, she was the founding retail writer at Morning Brew and a fashion associate at Glamour.