Fashion & Beauty / In the Cut

Sheer Delight

What's the point of putting on clothes that you can see right through?

Christopher Kane A/W10 Illustrations by Zoe Taylor

What's the point of putting on clothes that you can see right through?

It's some indication of how far we've come that designers can bring us non-essential, gauzy layers with little virtue of warmth or wearability. It's like the moment ancient man finally had enough time to put down his flint and work out the very first alphabet.

Lightly draped chiffon is as impractical and romantic as you can get. Victorians softened their steel-reinforced physiques by adorning bonnets, bodices and embonpoints with it; flappers toned down the Garconne look by wrapping it around their bare shoulders.

Designers this season though took transparency to rather saucier heights. Dolce & Gabbana created entire chiffon outfits that sat atop leopard print and lace, recreating the semblance if not the solidity of clothing.

Antonio Berardi added it in panels to slickly tailored black dresses, giving sheer blouses pussy-bows in direct homage to the smoldering sirens created in the late Seventies by Yves Saint Laurent and Helmut Newton.

Thanks to them, sheer no longer means saccharine or sweet. From full-length transparent dresses at Issey Miyake to structural detailing in Christopher Kane's autumn 2009 collection, chiffon is now a fabric of substance. Especially at Lanvin and Comme Des Garcons, where tulle is often layered and bunched to such an extent that it becomes completely opaque.

Sheer: the ultimate fashion paradox.


Harriet Walker is a fashion writer at The Independent

Zoë Taylor has appeared in Le Gun, Bare Bones, Ambit and Dazed & Confused. She is currently working on her third graphic novella and an exhibition