Lovely reader Holly e-mailed me this question:
I am obsessed with sheer blouses. Your post about “Dressing Our Imaginary Selves” made me realize that sheer blouses are my thing. I am drawn to them, but I don’t know how to wear them. I would love advice on how to wear them professionally and somewhat modestly (I’m fine with a tank underneath, but no bra or navel-showage please!). Do you tuck them? Leave them flowy? Wear with pants? Skirts? Under a sweater or blazer? What do I do with them? I especially love white and cream-colored sheer blouses, and find them harder to style than colored sheers.
Above you see me in my single sheer item, so I just barely feel qualified to comment! I’ll give my input – based on my observations and work with clients – and then turn to you readers for more tips and suggestions.
The visible bra isn’t terribly taboo in France and other parts of Europe, I’m told, and here in the U.S. we’re warming up to the idea. Gradually. But in a professional or office environment? No chance. A sheer blouse should be worn with an opaque underlayer, even if the sheer blouse is just peeking out from under a blazer or jacket. A bralette or half tank is not enough, as you want to cover your torso and navel, too. For sheer tops worn alone, my eye prefers a tank or cami with straps wide enough to cover your bra straps since a big tangle of skinny straps occurs otherwise. Tucking the tank into your skirt or pants works well if both pieces are the same or similar in color, as this creates a column of color and allows the blouse to shine.
In terms of tank/underlayer color, you’ll likely be able to eyeball your best options. Although nude camis and tanks are often recommended for blouses that are accidentally sheer, in the case of a blouse that has intentional sheerness as part of its design, you might opt for contrast instead. But it doesn’t always work well.
The safest bet is to utilize a tank that is the same color as the blouse. Black tank, black sheer blouse, great pairing. White tank and white sheer blouse can look very chic and artistic, too, though you want to do this only when it’s pretty clear that the blouse’s sheerness is intentional. Using a white tank for everything won’t work well, as you can see in the white tank/turquoise blouse example above: The white looks blocky and unintentional, creating more contrast than is ideal for the pairing. A matching tank or a tank in a complementary shade of blue would’ve worked better. Layering a sheer color over another color can be a great way to create gorgeous, rich looks. Harmonious contrast can be created with similar colors or shades that play well together, as well as layering a solid sheer over a pattern.
As you can see, most of these examples show sheer tops being worn untucked and their underlayers untucked as well. But the white-on-white example shows how length discrepancies can make the untucked look seem a bit odd. When untucked, you ideally want your tank and blouse to be the same length, or your tank and skirt/pants to be the same color to create the column referenced above. Since tucking your blouse into a skirt often creates great proportions, tucking when wearing with a skirt will work well for many. But it’s really down to personal preference, as is your choice to go with a skirt or trousers.
Sheers can certainly be layered under sweaters or blazers, but their sheerness will be mostly masked. If you want just a tiny hint of sheerness at the collar and cuffs, this is a great option. To showcase more, do your sheer/tank combo on its own.
Now, if you work in a law office, conservative corporate environment, or other workplace that has fairly strict and modest dress codes, sheers are a risk. They can certainly be done tastefully, but are still a little more revealing than opaques by their very nature. If you aren’t sure how sheers will fly at your office, ask your HR rep or boss before wearing. Better safe than sorry.
And that’s all I’ve got! You fans of sheers: What else would you add? How do you wear and layer your sheers? Do they work at your workplace? Anyone sporting the visible bra look? How do you deal with length discrepancies? Let us know!
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