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Reality Check: Making Sense Of All The See-Through Dresses

Welcome to Reality Check: a new regular franchise from the ELLE fashion editors that asks: how well do the season's biggest trends really work in the wild? This week, we’re pondering the practicality of the unstoppable naked dress.


We may now be living in the age of the ultra-fast Tiktok 'core' (clean girl today, mob wife tomorrow), but there’s one trend that has transcended the whims of the lightning-speed style zeitgeist.

It seems there is no stopping the reign of the naked dress. Of course, the sheer situation isn’t new in tinseltown: Jennifer Lopez’s gossamer Versace gown at the 2000 Grammys was the reason Google added its image search function, while Miley Cyrus’ Margiela mini at this year’s ceremony sent searches for ‘sheer dresses’ soaring.

But while the sheer dress trend might not be new to the red carpets, its assimilation into our wardrobes is still fledgling. Last year, the runways set the idea in motion, with designers from Nensi Dojaka to Jacquemus and The Attico turning out 20-denier takes on the Little Black Dress. If you’re going for major after-dark impact, this is the way to do it. At the other end of the spectrum, Miu Miu’s subverted librarians dipped a toe into the trend via nerdy cardigans and gauzy co-ords, while at Matches' Raey, boyish, boxy silhouettes are cut from skin-baring silk and dressed down for daytime.

Sheer dresses (plus tops, skirts and even socks) have now saturated both the designer collections and the high street – but prevalence doesn’t always equal popularity, and the biggest trends of the season don't automatically travel from the rails to our wardrobes. We might all love a fashion fantasy, but wearability is ultimately key – so how are we really going to embrace the new season of sheer?

There’s no denying that clingfilming yourself in a translucent bodystocking is a major look, but being realistic, occasions where this feels appropriate are few and far between. (That growing list of wedding invites doesn’t exactly call for a collection of near-naked outfits.)

Luckily, there are some smart styling hacks that’ll allow you to master the look without baring it all. Here, see your very practical guide to the season's most impractical trend.

Strategically Sheer

The biggest dilemma concerning our current predilection for see-through clothes is: what do you wear underneath? Thankfully, some of the best sheer pieces are thoughtfully crafted to eliminate the underwear conundrum. With precisely placed panels of fabric, there’s no need to venture into the realm of strapless, plunging or (shudder) stick-on modesty providers.

Nineties Minimalism

Pairing the sexy with the sexless is an age-old styling trick, essentially balancing everything out and making your outfit entirely acceptable for pretty much any occasion, (as long as your in-laws and boss aren’t invited).

As patron saint of naked dressing Kate Moss has long exemplified, a pair of certified unsexy pants is all you need to pair with a minimal-coverage slip dress. A full, high-waisted brief is the entry level option (Skims makes the best) while a seamless Nineties-style thong is the full-throttle alternative. Best worn from dusk to dawn (never the other way around).

A Lesson In Layers

The ultimate flex is to master the art of layering your sheer garments to create a conceal-and-reveal effect that doesn't leave you feeling overexposed. Style a sheer skirt over tiny shorts and sheer tights, or make Good American's gauzy midi work over a black bodysuit. For something more subversive, Raey’s gauzy tulle dress is designed to be worn atop tailored trousers, while a bookish cardigan and tights will really tone down the nakedness of Miu Miu's midi.

And if you're keen to try the trend, but all this still feels intimidating, make a trusty black blazer your comfort blanket – I bet you'll have shrugged it off by 11pm.

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