The Sheer Clothing Trend Is About Showing as Much (or as Little) Skin as You Want

The key is learning how to layer.

Dua Lipa in a sheer lace dress


The internet, and especially TikTok, has a way of prioritizing style trends that look like more of a uniform than a passing fashion trend (after all, what’s coquette without a bow in your hair and a pair of sticker-adorned Air Pods). These days, so-called "aesthetics" dominate the apps offering a way of dressing rather than a styling trend or fun, new piece that can be incorporated into your existing wardrobe.

That said, there's one overarching theme that transcends categorization in 2023: sheer dressing. The beauty of this trend is that it's all about playing up transparent pieces with your personal style in mind—rather than overhauling your closet altogether. Plus, it's surprisingly versatile.

Olivia Rodrigo in a sheer dress

Getty Images

Many of today's fads are so niche that they can almost only be described as a “-core,” aligning their hyper-specificity to just one look (hello, mermaidcore, blokecore, and rom-comcore). The sheer trend, however, is pretty ambiguous. You can wear it however you want as long as what you’re wearing is somewhat see-through.

Case in point: Channeling a Grecian statue with delicate chiffon is an option, as is a more day-time appropriate printed mesh or see-through lace top with a tank underneath. Since the sheer trend works off more of an idea than a specific piece, silhouette, or style, it's actually not a hard one to try, despite its intimidating name.

So, whether you're a dark bimbo lover, a balletcore type, or somewhere in between, read on for inspiration about how you can make the sheer trend work for you.

The Trend

Transparent clothing has been around for ages. During the mid-century, people wore dresses that featured sheer cap sleeves, and as the ‘80s rolled around, the sheer trend became a bit more boudoir-leaning. Figures like Madonna in her Like a Virgin era opted for see-through lace tops and tights in lieu of opaque clothing.

Kate Moss in a sheer slip dress

Getty Images

It also has roots in the '90s. Kate Moss wore a metallic sheer dress to an Elite Model Agency party in London, and her outfit quickly cemented itself as a moment in fashion history. That simple sleeveless dress—with nothing save for a pair of underwear—has graced mood boards and fashion galleries ever since. Y2K fashion icons like Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Paris Hilton also put their own spin on sheer wearing opaque styles with dashes of sheer fabric around the waist or in a skirt detail.

Nowadays, the sheer trend still has a "naked" quality to it, but the options are endless. It can offer more (or less) coverage than Kate Moss's iconic slip dress depending on how you style it. The key to doing sheer in 2023 is wearing it however you want. We’ve seen everything from Rihanna's baby bump making a splash at the Oscars to Olivia Rodrigo going with a subdued version with visible boy shorts at the Grammys.

Why We Love It

While TikTok trends can run the risk of pigeonholing your personal style in a specific aesthetic or vibe, the sheer trend is a breath of fresh air as we continue to dress however feels right for our personalities. It doesn't call for any one specific piece of clothing, but is rather an invitation to pair pieces together in which we feel most like ourselves.

While the ultra crop top, mini skirt, and cut-out styles that have dominated fashion lately necessitate showing some skin, the sheer trend can be layered for as much or as little coverage as you desire. It's a natural progression if you think about it: Fashion is moving away from 2022's bold shows of legs and hip cut outs galore to a trend where *technically* you're wearing garments from head to toe but there's still a sense of sensuality.

How to Get in on the Sheer Trend

The trick to nailing any trend is wearing your clothes with pride and confidence: so you’ll want to choose pieces that you feel comfortable in.

For those who aren't wanting to go full-on sheer, a mesh or lace long-sleeve top paired with your favorite skirt or pants does the trick (you can look to Zoe Saldana at the 2023 Oscars for inspo). You can also opt for pieces that are partially sheer, like Lady Gaga's dress at the 2023 Oscars.

Lady Gaga sheer Oscars dress


If you are more willing to push boundaries with your style, you can follow the countless celebs who walked red carpets this year (like Hunter Schafer at the 25th Annual Costume Designers Guild Award or Ashley Graham at the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscars After Party) and opt for a bodysuit or two-piece bra and high-rise panty set as your foundation. Then, pair your underwear with a sheer dress, or have fun with it by mixing and matching sheer skirts with sheer wrap tops.

Finally, if you don’t want to completely uproot your current wardrobe, you can opt for sheer accessories like tights layered under your favorite mini dress, sheer scarves for a night out (hello, Gwyneth Paltrow at the 1999 Oscars), or sheer shrugs worn over a cotton camisole for a sleazy ballerina look. Just think of it as a creative challenge. No matter what you're personal style is, there's a way to embrace the subtle sensuality of a sheer moment.

Related Stories