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Last Updated on December 2, 2022
See-through dresses are one of the most alluring and sought-after types of dresses out there. The whole selling point of a see-through dress is that they allow the viewer a glimpse of the undergarments or the body beneath the dress, either putting the intimate clothing on display or making it appear as if you are wearing none!
But, many times that poses a problem for the wearer.
What kind of lingerie is appropriate or will look nice under a see-through dress?
If I don’t want my underwear to show, what are my options?
Or, what can I wear if I want a little shapewear to help smooth my curves?
I have been where you are, worrying about all of these questions and more. So I tell you, worry no more. I got you covered! I have done the most extensive research ever and gone far and wide looking for the best alternatives that you can wear under a sheer dress no matter the occasion or style.
I’ve included several major retailers and brands that are guaranteed to offer the best and cutest garments to wear under a see-through dress. Read on to find out what’s the best option for you!
What qualifies as a see-through dress?
Basically, a semi-see-through or fully sheer dress is any type of dress made of lace, mesh, or sheer fabric that allows the viewer to see either the body or the undergarments under it. Certain types of fabrics are naturally sheer and thus more apt to be used as cloth for see-through dresses. Some of those include chiffon, georgette, gauze, mesh, web, netting, fine-denier knits, or transparent latexes (such as raincoats).
Quick summary of top things to do and avoid when wearing a sheer dress:
What to do
- Find the right level of exposure that feels comfortable for you.
- Wear the right size of lingerie (band and cup size are super important in bras!).
- Find the right hue of shapewear that makes it look nude next to your skin tone.
- Always check how underwear looks under the sheer fabric, even if it’s the same color as the dress. Most colors will look darker under sheer fabric.
- Be aware of how exposed your backside will be if you wear a thong (take a picture of how your derriere actually looks, this always helps avoid surprises).
- Use the necessary accessories so you feel secure and comfortable and there’s no slippage or wardrobe malfunction.
What not to do
- Do not pair lacey lingerie with a lace see-through dress: it will look messy.
- Do not wear nude lingerie that is not the right skin tone.
- Do not go braless if you are wearing a big mesh or lace dress (your nips might poke through the net or end up in weird, painful halfway through positions).
- Do not wear your bra over the dress, it just looks tacky.
See-through dresses are historically alluring and intrinsically romantic, they are sought after by tons of women not only because of how feminine and sexy they are but also because of their sheer sex appeal (pun intended!). However, the most common issue that many women encounter at the time of wearing one is what type of lingerie to wear under it.
Some playful and colorful underwear sets undoubtedly look best when being worn under a white dress, while other lacey bras and panties look their sexiest under a sheer sundress or lace bodycon. For semi-see-through garments, the options are literally endless. And there are also the plain undergarments, that resemble lingerie the least and are preferred by people who want their underwear to be less showy, which can be used with almost anything.
I think that, in order to clarify matters a bit, we can divide the types of lingerie into three broad categories according to how visible they are under the fabric: super lacey and decorated, a little bit lacey, and demure. Here are some of my favorite options for each category to inspire your shopping!
Lingerie that begs to be displayed front and center:
Rosa Unline by Adore Me $24.95 (This beautiful dainty set has little flowers all over)
Maidenform Women’s Love The Lift Push Up on Amazon (This black lacey bra for a full push up effect)
Patterned mesh triangle Bra by H&M $17.99
Unpadded Underwire Lace Bra by H&M $17.99
Colorful options for an added edge:
Margaritte Push Up by Adore Me $24.95 A blue set that is perfect to combine under a same-color or white sheer dress.
SheIn Women’s 3 Piece Floral Lace Lingerie Set with Garter Belts Sexy Bra and Panty on Amazon In mustard yellow.
Lace Thong Briefs by H&M $17.99
Options that might look cute for top tier peekaboo games:
The babydoll: Cheyenne Unlined by Adore Me $24.95
The lacey corset: Andra Unlined by Adore Me $24.95
The bodysuit: Amata by Adore Me $24.95
Cute lingerie that is a bit less lacey:
I am all about the ethereal beauty of a good lace dress, however, there’s something awkward about pairing a lacey bra under lace fabric. It just looks messy and you can’t appreciate either of the lace’s designs. This is why I’d rather go for lingerie that has a little detail of lace, like a fringe or a small flower decoration but is not lacey all over. This is a more subdued take that is elegant enough for a see-through party dress, but still quite sexy and just not as exposed.
My favorite: Maidenform Women’s Essential Multiway Push-Up Bra on Amazon (That detail of lace upfront is super cute)
Calvin Klein Women’s Seamless Skinny Strap Bralette Bra on Amazon (Love the nude straps, it also comes in a bunch of colors, but that pink can work really well as a nude for the right skin tone)
Calvin Klein Women’s Form Bikini on Amazon
Maidenform Women’s Love The Lift Push Up on Amazon (Just a little bit of lace decoration for an added edge)
Seamless Padded Bra by H&M $17.99 (Triangle shaped with a little fringe border)
Jessica Simpson Women’s Underwear – Seamless Hipster Briefs on Amazon (Seamless and as comfortable as can be!)
Bali Shapewear Brief on Amazon
Colorful options for an added edge:
Calvin Klein Women’s Modern Cotton Bralette at Amazon (This classic tank top style bra comes in a ton of colors!)
Calvin Klein Women’s Modern Cotton Lightly Lined Bralette on Amazon (This one is a shaped a bit more like a bra to accentuate your figure)
Calvin Klein Women’s Modern Cotton Lightly Lined Triangle Bralette on Amazon
Calvin Klein Women’s Modern Cotton Thong Panty on Amazon
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Demure Lingerie that looks understated:
When it comes to the three categories of lingerie, I actually prefer the plain understated sets because they look almost “not like lingerie” when worn under a see-through dress. Of course, for some, this might beat the whole purpose of wearing it. But if you like showing a little less, this combo is a certain classy move that is bound to look amazing in any type of slightly see-through dress, and it’s particularly great for streetwear blouse dresses.
My favorite color for this type of underwear is black, it really pops the most under any type of dress and color, just look at that yellow day dress. It’s a daydream!
Super Push Up Bra by H&M $29.99 And matching briefs!
Soft cup bandeau Bra by H&M $24.99 (this shape is great to really hold the girls in place!)
Seamless Balconette Bra by H&M $24.99
Seamless Padded Bra by H&M $12.99 (More of a triangle shape)
Sports Bralette by H&M $19.99 (that looks like a top)
Full coverage, deep plunge Push Up Jersey Bra by H&M $29.99
The sheer history of a dress
It might seem silly, but the revealing nature of certain materials like silk gauze and muslin has been objected to and desired in equal parts for being too revealing since wrap-over dresses in such fabrics became fashionable in theaters in the 18th century. By the end of the 18th century, semi-sheer muslin gowns were worn by French women, and by the start of the 19th century, neoclassical gowns made of lightweight translucent muslin had become the ultimate fashion.
At the beginning of the 20th century, public opinion was widely against any sort of sheerness though. There were bans against see-through garments that were made from either too thin a fabric, lacking proper lining, or featured broderie Anglaise with peekaboo eyelets.
It wouldn’t be until the 60s that sheer dresses would make a surprise appearance in Missoni’s 1967’s collection presented at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. And it was all a fortuitous coincidence really… As the story goes, the designer removed the models’ bras because they were the wrong color and the lights on the venue turned the fabrics see-through when the models started walking down the runway, revealing nude breasts to the surprise of the public.
After that, the see-through look was revisited by Yves Saint Laurent, Ossie Clark, and many more over the years. Turning the see-through dress into an alluring staple of high fashion and red carpet events.
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Like Kim Kardashian has repeatedly testified, lots of taping, lacing, and stitching happens below some of the most famous nude looks.
Kim’s See-through Dress for the Met Gala
I remember her saying that her 2019’s wet Met look designed by Thierry Mugler for the “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibition had an inner corset custom made by Mr. Pearl that was laced so tight that she struggled to go to the bathroom, she could hardly sit down. Imagine that!
Without going to those extremes, shapewear happens to be some of the best underwear to have under any type of dress. You just need to find the right amount of coverage and the perfect hue that looks nude next to your skin tone and voila! It will look like you are wearing nothing underneath your see-through dress. It will also look super smooth and feel a lot less jiggly thanks to the embracing power of the spandex.
There are three basic areas that shapewear covers: the bottom, the top, or the middle (which also includes onesies). Depending on the effect you want to achieve or how curvy you are, there are different pieces that will cater to different needs, from thongs to shorts.
Pro tip: You can also pick between different amounts of spandex, keeping in mind that the more % of spandex a piece has, the tighter it will feel. That being said, you should never change your size when you are picking a shapewear piece based on the amount of spandex.
Thong (For the least amount of coverage)
Felina Seamless Shapewear Thong on Amazon
Commando control Thong by Saks Fifth Avenue $38
High Compression Waist Thong by Adore Me $32.95
Cheeky (Nice medium coverage)
Cheeky Brief by Adore Me $19.95
Maidenform Women’s Shaping Lace Brief on Amazon
High waist (To keep pesky side buns tucked in)
Shaping High-Rise Brief by Saks Fifth Avenue $20
Maidenform Women’s Shapewear Firm Control High Waist Lace Brief on Amazon
Shorts (Full bottom coverage)
Sculpting short mid-thigh w/open gusset by Skims $34
Felina Body Sculpt Shaping Slip Shorts on Amazon
Higher Power Short by Spanx $38
Shaping Biker Short by Saks Fifth Avenue $39.50
Tank Tops (These actually look amazing like a tank top if they don’t match your skin tone)
Maidenform Women’s Comfort Devotion Shapewear Cami on Amazon
Rib Cotton Cropped Tank by Adore Me $24.95
Tank bralette unlined by Adore Me $29.95
Bra (The best support for your girls)
Maidenform Women’s Love The Lift Demi Strapless on Amazon
Strapless Bandeau by Adore Me $24.95
Rory Unlined by Adore Me $29.95
Maidenform Women’s Full Coverage Lightly Padded Racerback Underwire Bra on Amazon
Wearing full-body shapewear under a see-through mesh dress is super on-trend right now, in big part thanks to prominent figures like Ashley Graham and Kim Kardashian, but other famous celebrities like Priyanka Chopra and Olivia Munn, known for embracing sexy and curve-loving silhouettes, also love this style.
Bodycon dresses also benefit a lot from wearing shapewear underneath, well, any tight see-through dress will actually look ten times better, I dare say! It’s just something about how the curves smooth out and simply flow. You just need to see how that red dot dress molds to Kim’s body, looks like it’s sticking right to her skin.
Spanx Bodysuit on Amazon (Spanx is always worth the investment!)
Analise Unlined by Adore Me $54.95
Cosabella Women’s Marni Low Back Teddy Bodysuit on Amazon
Lace Push Up Bodysuit by H&M $34.99
Maidenform Body Shaper on Amazon or the Built-in Bra Version
Top models like Bella and Kendall tend to forgo undergarments a lot when wearing sheer dresses. And who can blame them, looking like they do! But, even if sheer dresses are their favorite summer dress style for red carpet events and runways, they are certainly not the only ones wearing daring see-through garments.
The truth of the matter is that some particular see-through dresses are specifically made to look like there is no undergarment being worn underneath, but that is not usually the case. Despite how the red carpet looks fool us into believing that certain breasts defy the laws of gravity, I am here to tell you that this is usually not the case (particularly so when the celebrity in question is not a young 20-something athletic youngling!).
So here are some of the magic accessories most used by, well, literally everyone. I’ve personally tried several of these and I can say, with a hand on my heart, that lifting tape really works. You go from normal breasts to perking in less than 5 seconds. It’s real magic, girls!
The key elements to buy are:
My favorite: Hollywood Fashion Secrets Tape on Amazon (lots of different nude colors!)
This is traditional boob tape that you can paste into whatever form and shape you need, as seen on the Kardashians.
Dressing tape strips by Adore Me $14.95
Hollywood Fashion Secrets Fashion Tape on Amazon
You paste these onto the fabric to secure a rebellious neckline or strap. It is perfect to make sure you show the cleavage you want to be showing, no more and no less!
Lifting tape by Adore Me $14.95
Instant perky breast in 2 seconds or less.
My favorite: Hollywood Fashion Secrets Silicone pasties on Amazon (They also come in a ton of different nude colors!)
Hollywood Fashion Secrets Petal Shaped Pasties on Amazon (One use)
Hollywood Fashion Secrets Contour Cups on Amazon (I have found that for me, these need some extra tape for me to feel them secure enough.)
Black Heart Pasties by Adore Me $4.95
These are particularly cute for black mesh dresses with a rocker or goth vibe.
The tape can solve any weird situation that your usual bra cannot. For example, a particularly capricious dress that has no back, one shoulder, a plunging front, and is all see-through except for little rectangles on top of your breasts. What can you do? Tape the bejeezus out of it! Your girls will feel and look amazing and no one will be the wiser.
Pro tip: Do not tape your breasts before you have put on a pastie of some kind, otherwise you will see stars removing the tape from your most sensitive areas. Protect your nipples and find pasties that cover them completely. Also, despite them not usually coming in sizes, they do differ in diameter. Depending on your aureola, you might need to go for one that is larger to avoid unnecessary irritation.
Since the 60s, going braless has been slowly gaining popularity, particularly among millennials, due to discomfort caused by certain types of bras, health-related issues, and for social reasons like self-acceptance and self-expression. If you are comfortable with this option and your sheer dress is perfect for a braless occasion, by all means, this is also a great possibility.
A bra for a see-through backless dress is certainly not mandatory when you can look this sexy! Some of the hottest see-through dresses however tend to have slightly more covered fronts, like the design on the left that allows for skin-colored pasties or tape.
Under dresses, Nude dresses, and Slips
Pants and Shorts
Options for Pregnant or Nursing Women
The Demure Nursing Bra
Bamboo Nursing Bra by Adore Me $39
Leakproof Nursing Bra by Adore Me $45
Luxe Sleep Bra Lined by Adore Me $34
The Lace Bra
Tallulah Lace Unlined by Adore Me $39.95
Aura Racerback by Adore Me $34
The Smoothing High Brief
Mama Smoothing Brief High Waisted by Adore Me $36
Essential Bamboo Nursing Cami by Adore Me $38
The Slip Dress
Nursing Slip Dress by Adore Me $52
Anytime Strappy Dress by Adore Me $38
Tallulah Nightie Unlined by Adore Me $44
Leakproof Nursing Pads by Adore Me $8
Maternity Support Wrap by Saks Fifth Avenue $25
Support Wrap by Saks Fifth Avenue $40
Tummy Band by Saks Fifth Avenue $70
Mother Tucker Corset by Saks Fifth Avenue $90
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