A Demure Girl’s Guide to Dressing Sexy

Confession time: I’m a gigantic prude. All right, maybe “prude” isn’t the right word. Let me put it to you this way: I enjoy a tantalizing movie sex scene as much as the next girl, but I’m not a big fan of talking dirty, I tense up a bit from all the nakiditity in the gym locker room, and I just don’t get porn.

I also dress relatively demurely. I would much rather be swathed in figure-flattering but flesh-obscuring duds than showing the world my skin. By the end of the summer I am just DYING for some cool days so that I can cover up my parts with a nice long-sleeved sweater, a scarf, and some boots.

HOWEVER! I love feeling and looking sexy as much as you daring dressers. I may not be comfortable in a bandage dress or a bikini, but I still want to turn heads. So I’ve figured out how to keep it hot within my own comfort zone. Here are a few simple ways to dress alluringly without sacrificing modesty and comfort.

1. Chunky high heels

I adore high heels, but don’t own a single pair of stilettos. I can’t walk in them, for starters, and truly believe that the right chunky heel can convey the same sensuality as a sky-high, skinny one. The trick is to pick a pair that features some other detailing to offset the potential dowd of the thick heel. A pattern like snakeskin or leopard print adds a dash of va-va-voom, or you can try something that evokes the sexy secretary like these spectators:

Meeeeeow! Am I right?

Both of these pairs feature 3-inch heels, and to get the full, leg-elongating, super-feminine, delightfully sexy effect, I’d recommend a chunky heel that hovers around that height. Anything lower than about 2.5 inches and you the risk of looking downright frumpy.

OK, OK, I’ll admit that this tip is more about physical comfort than modesty. But it’s still an important addition to my sexy-demure arsenal.

Now, speaking of Joan Holloway ….

2. Sexy Secretary

This look is all the rage now, what with everyone going mad for Mad Men, so why not cash in? I adore the retro sensibility of an outfit like this one, and feel fabulously frisky in it without sacrificing my comfort. Wearing that lacy cami on its own would make me feel exposed, but my angora cardigan provides plenty of coverage while adding texture and sass to the ensemble. A figure-hugging high-waisted skirt and my chunky-heeled spectators, a pile of pearls and some sheer black thigh-highs make me fully, modestly clothed yet still emitting come-hither vibes. I’m ready to take a memo … IN BED.

3. Microfishnets

Regulation fishnets feature loosely woven fibers and lots of exposed leg. Although they come in a multitude of gauges from superloose to slightly tighter, most are fairly revealing … not to mention breezy. But microfishnets include a layer of sheer black nylon beneath fine gauge netting – so you get a subtler texture, more coverage, and darker coloring with all the boudoir appeal of the real deal.

Layering nylons or solid tights beneath regular fishnets can work, too, but I prefer the instant gratification of a twofer. This Hue version rocks, the ones I’m wearing above are from Target (though I’m pretty sure they’re sold out by now), and many other brands offer micro or faux fishnets. Even if you wear them with a fairly conservative outfit, a pair of microfishnets will instantly amp up your sex appeal.

4. Deep V-neck and Statement Necklace

This tank sweater is one of my favorite pieces of clothing, as I mentioned yesterday. I don’t quite know why, but it gives me just a hint of cleavage, and I am deeply grateful for that delicious illusion. But it is also one of the lowest cut garments that I own, making it just barely passable for work wear. One dropped paper clip, and the whole office gets a free glimpse of the girls.

But even when I wear this tank for more casual, social occasions, I often feel a bit naked. So I slap on a giant, eye-catching necklace or necklace pile. The jewelry draws attention to my decolletage, but also creates a barrier between the world and my rack. It becomes equal parts, “Oooooh, boobs!” and “Oooooh, sparkly!” At least, that’s how I see it. Although a silky scarf could work, too, I prefer the necklace route because it shows SOME skin without feeling too revealing.

5. Miniskirts and Tights

I wear my miniskirts during the spring and summer all bare-legged, oh yes indeed I do. But lemme tell ya, I fret CONSTANTLY over the possibility of flashing my panties. Come fall, I become positively gleeful that I can finally sport short skirts with modesty-preserving tights. And I do so with absurd frequency until it gets warm again.

These two outfits are decidedly different: The left look is sleek and dressy, while the right look is super casual. But I felt fantastically sexy in both ensembles simply due to leg exposure. Yes, even wearing a sweatshirt and fuzzy vest I felt slinky and sensual solely because the world could see my gorgeous gams. (Inside my tights, that is.)

Obviously this is a look with limited application, but it’s still a good one to keep in your back pocket for those cold days that call for a little self-generated hotness.

I can be a lot more daring when the occasion arises, and do show plenty of skin when the weather gets hot. But my natural coyness drives me to convey my sensuality subtly. These are my mainstays, but I’m always looking for more ways to dress sexy on the sly. Any other suggestions? Let’s hear ’em.

Fishnets and cowboys image by lyrabellacqua.

  • kittyscreations

    So many excellent suggestions! I feel ya on lovin’ to wear clothes that cover things, too. In the summer, I am constantly dreaming of the days when I can wear long sleeves again.

  • Michael McGraw Photography

    I approve all of the above looks.

  • Gillian

    I love those ideas, as I am also a prude.

    That, and I don’t get porn either. I.JUST.DON’T.

  • ~AmyZ

    Can we talk about your FABULOUS brown boots?!?!?! (in the miniskirt casual look) I would love a pair just like them, but as I already have something similar in khaki, I am having a hard time justifying the purchase.

  • Sal

    AmyZ: Hahaha, thanks lady! Those are by Earth, of all companies, and I’ve had ’em for at least 3 years … comfy as all get out, they are. Not to be a major enabler, but it’s boot sale season so maybe now is the time to get a brown pair. 😉

  • Kira Fashion

    I do love the tights!!!
    I do love the tights!!!
    I do love the tights!!!

    You are fantastic :)

  • kristine

    ALWAYS forget about the skirts-and-tights until it’s practically spring and tights aren’t as necessary…sigh…but I love those microfishnets!

  • Christina Lee

    LOVE your heels (especially the spectator ones)- I don’t own a pair of stilettos either!

  • WendyB

    Have I been unaware of that tattoo until now? *puzzled*

  • Sal

    WendyB: It’s definitely been out and about before! Had that one for about 6 years.

    The new one on my foot is yet to debut, tho. (I know, I’m such a tease.)

  • K.Line

    OK, those snakey shoes at the top are fantastic. Have I seen them before? Who are they by?

  • Sal

    K.Line: They’ve made a few outfit appearances! They’re by Vince Camuto, and I totally bought them because I saw Cal‘s pair and couldn’t contain my jealousy.

  • Sharon Rose

    Hi there-thanks to seeing how gorgeous you look in mini skirts, I’m definitely going to wear my denim and leather ones (all recent purchases!) You’ve given me the inspiration to go short again, thanks!

  • Budget Babe

    I feel sexiest in jeans and a v-neck tee. I also agree that baring a lot of flesh is not necessarily the best way to look hot.

    p.s. love your pencil skirt look, i’m working on a “mad men style for less” post myself!

  • lopi

    I used to be a skinny heel girl when I started wearing heels in my teens, but now it’s chunky all the way! Comfier and cuter!
    And I think you already know that “demurely sexy secretary” is my dream look. You totally nailed that look with that amazingly chic cream-and-black combo. Coco would certainly approve.

  • lisa

    I’m a prude too! Whenever I go clubbing with friends I have to make a lot of effort to hoochify my Audrey Hepburn/Blair Waldorf-ish sensibilities a bit so I don’t feel too weird amongst all the girls in stilettos and body-con dresses. I love your tip re. the low neckline and the statement necklace; sometimes I’ll do that or wear a deep V and drop earrings.

  • dapper kid

    I am most definitely a fan of micro fishnets during the daytime…it always manages to look borderline inappropriate otherwise, but then again I might just be old fashioned (or a prude…they seem to have the same meaning nowadays). And I agree on the heel front, they can work just as well as stilettos, which I sometimes wince at when I see women teetering and on the verge of falling! But yes understated sexy wins me over any day.

  • Danz

    Great list – I agree with all of it!
    I also can’t deal with stilettos – I look more like I’m walking a tight rope than being sexy when I wear them. Chunky heels are much more comfortable and I can walk in them!
    I rarely wear miniskirts, but if I do, they MUST be worn with tights. I feel way too self-conscious otherwise.

  • April

    I think boots of any kind are pretty damn sexy! And my male friend whose motto is “miniskirt, tights, boots, I LIKE” would probably agree. =)

  • Allison

    Sweet Sal – I’ve already told you that I’m convinced if I lived closer that we would TOTALLY hang out. But now, after reading this post, I think I’m possibly convinced that we were connected in a past life. I could have written every word of that myself. I swear I’m not creepy – I do have a lot of “girl love” for you.

  • chic

    I am with you on the shoe idea, a chunky heel or a kitten heel can be just as sexy as stilettos. And I love the two pairs you showed us, so great! S.

  • Summer

    Great idea!
    Those information are true,coz my sister agree with you Sal.=)
    Besides you don’t have to show your skin just for you to say that you are sexy..;D
    A lot of way for a girl to look sexy,by boots,shirts,skirts and as what you’ve said those tights.;D
    I like your post friend..
    Keep on writing..;D

  • Beth

    Sal, YOU are the cutiest lady ever!

  • Casey

    Love all these suggestions! 😉 Although I have to admit I’m more of a stiletto girl… but lately I’ve been gravitating towards chunkier heels because they’re so much more comfortable. hehe!

    Another tried-and-true look on my “sexy dressing” list is a slightly unbutton cardigan. Nothing too daring–just the top three or so buttons. Paired with a long, dangling chain or pearl necklace and it’s pure dynamite I tell ya! 😉

  • enc

    I love this post, but it’s a bit racy for me! 😉

    I’ve never dressed “sexy” in my life. I couldn’t even begin to conjure up a “sexy” look, so if I ever looked “sexy,” it was pure accident!

  • budget chic

    Those black lacey stocking are cool!

  • Courtney

    Yay! I love these suggestions! My favorite (and my husband’s!) is definitely shorter skirt + high heel boots. Skirts always feel so sexy. I love a simple cashmere sweater too. Something about the texture :) Hubby is also a big fan of sky-high heels with jeans. I love that I don’t have to tramp up to be sexy!

  • a cat of impossible colour

    I love these suggestions – I’m a prude too! I think it’s quite a good way to be. :)

  • Nadine

    Another great post – thank you so much.

  • Nina (femme rationale)

    i’m a prude, too…believe it or not. once in awhile i’ll show skin but i never feel comfortable. and man oh man you will never find me nekkid in the gym…or anywhere public.

  • Heather

    Hi Sal!
    I just wanted to let you know that I find this post really inspiring and I’ve gone back to re-read it twice. Excellent advice for those of us who never caught on to showing lots of skin and flaunting everything…. Thanks for writing it!

  • parlez-vous-kiwi

    My favourite look above is actually the red scarf ensemble. I go for funky :-)

  • The Raisin Girl

    I love tights. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on tights last week. I haven't owned any in a long time because I went through this jeans-every-day stage for awhile. But I was so happy to pull on a pair of tights again.

    The only thing is, I'm incredibly clumsy, so tights never last long for me. I can't buy super-thin ones for summer–I hate going bare-legged any time of year–because those get runs seemingly before I even get them home. And even super-thick only have very short lifespans, generally.

    If I do go bare-legged, I like to wear a pair of close-fitting shorts, or even cut-off leggings, under my skirt. Keeps me bare below the mid-thigh, but there's no fear of my panties showing to the world if a breeze comes by.

  • Elizabeth.

    I'm not a prude, I love porn, and my vocabulary is filthier than that toilet in Trainspotting, but I agree with everything here – what you COULD be seeing is much, much sexier that what's actually on show. ie, a hint of cleavage, to get the men wanting more, rather than showing it all off at once, or a flash of thigh.

    I have to disagree on one point though – fishnets are warm! Those little holes actually trap warm air, so there's not much difference really. Although, I AM in temperate south-eastern Australia, while you're in sub-zero temperatures Minnesota..

  • Jordan

    Being a “demure” (my new favorite word!) girl at 18 is TRYING! I’d like to think I’m worth more than flashing the goods all day, and this is such an affirmative article. It feels good knowing that I’m not alone with all my dresses-with-tights and no-stilettos fashion preferences. : )