Sheer Brilliance: Transparent Garments this Spring

Last spring, FashionBeans’ Jacob Kamara wrote this article on transparent items popping up across high fashion menswear. Now one year on, after one volcano eruption, one oil spill, one world cup, one binning of a cat, thirty-three rescued Chilean miners, one royal engagement, and most importantly, one recovered Kerry Katona, spring will soon be upon us once again, which means it is time for us to take a look at where this transparent trend is today and what it brings in the near future.

As Jacob’s article discussed, transparency was once dominated by the female side of the industry, but by this time last year the trend had managed to seep its way through the seams of the almighty menswear, sitting comfortably in the areas of high fashion – too afraid to work its way down to the scowling eyes of the high street. But 2011 is a year for new starts, new possibilities, new challenges, and new resolutions that you have clearly all kept; hold the presses, because high-street transparency has arrived. The SS11 runways back in September saw a surge of ‘sheer’ items, a fabric made up of low-density materials that achieve a light-weight, translucent effect, and as always, with the shimmering springtime sun just around the corner, the high-street puppies have begun to follow the lead of the top runway dogs.

Sheer in High-End Fashion

First off, let’s take a step back to September to look at the use of sheer on the SS11 catwalks and see how the ‘transparent’ trend has changed amongst the top designers since last year.

Costume National

Ennio Capasa, the face behind Italian fashion house Costume National, sprinkled the catwalks with light, simple tones of greys, beiges and creams, whilst front-lining the sheer army with his models gliding down the catwalk in his light, drapey, translucent materials – perfect for the Italian summer heat. His combination of soft tailoring and soft colours is ideal for the upcoming warmer months.

Men's Sheer Trend At Costume National

Burberry Prorsum

Christopher Bailey brought a darker range of tones to the catwalk, gracing us with his usual combination of camels, navies and heavy-weight materials, which he layered up with translucent knits and sheer fabrics.

Men's Sheer Trend At Burberry Prorsum

Louis Vuitton

Paul Helbers’ use of sheer amongst the Louis Vuitton SS11 collection incorporates the trend into their usual high-end style. Vibrant patterns, waist belts, and layering with heavy-weight items are all essential in creating this Spring/Summer style.

Men's Sheer Trend At Louis Vuitton

Sheer on the High-Street

As previously mentioned, the transparent (or rather, ‘translucent’, depending on how scientific you want to get about the matter) sheer fabrics have begun to pop up across high-street stores the past couple of weeks, and will certainly continue to do so as we begin the transition into spring. Most notably, Topman seems to have grasped the sheer brilliance (har har) of the trend the most, showing off translucent materials in their SS11 shows, which have recently become a feature on the homepage of their site.

Topman Have Embraced The Sheer Trend For Men This Year

Current Sheer Pieces
  • Blue Sheer Shoulder T-Shirt
  • White Mesh Back Zip T-Shirt
  • burberry prorsum Mesh T-shirt
  • Christopher Shannon Panelled Sweatshirt
  • ASOS BLACK Mesh Knitted Vest
  • ASOS Mesh Hooded Knitted Tank
  • HE by Mango Military Sheer Shirt
  • ASOS Notch Neck Knitted Double Pocket Jumper
  • ASOS Drawstring Knitted Snood Jumper
  • ASOS Lightweight Scoop Neck Knitted Hoodie
  • kolor Men's Long Sleeved Cashmere Mix Polo
  • Rick Owens Anthem Men's Aysmmetric Wrap Tank Vest
  • Rick Owens Men's Knife Blazer
  • Dries Van Noten Netro Men's Navy Jumper
  • Dries Van Noten Netro Men's Grey Jumper
  • Rick Owens Big Scarf
How to Wear

As you can see from my product picks and collection features, sheer is more prominent in the high-end category than in the high-street stores – for now. But we can use this to our advantage; getting ahead of the pack, before sheer hits the high-street stores with more force, will certainly make you stand out from the crowd providing you tailor it to your own style (no one likes a trend-whore). However, wearing a see-through top is a rather risky move, so if you are going to do it – do it properly.

Coming from Britain, along with a large portion of the FashionBeans audience, spring isn’t exactly a time of blazing heat and sun tans for us, which means that showing your abs (or lack of) through a transparent top down your local high-street is only going to make you look like… well a bit of an idiot really. However, the light-weight material is perfect for those awkward temperatures we go through during spring (not quite freezing winter, but not quite sunny summer), if layered under other items. So for those of you who are slowly becoming a fan of the see-through wardrobe, here are a few cheeky tips to help you along your way, without making you look as though you have walked straight out of a seedy club:


The great thing about sheer items is that they come in so many shapes and sizes, meaning that they can be layered under, over, or within an outfit. This is key for the colder months of springtime; pair with spring classics such as trenches, pea-coats, soft tailoring, or even knits. The more translucent the material is means the more revealing it is going to be, so wear tank tops or patterned t-shirts underneath sheer tops and shirts to create unusual layering – avoid flashing your abs at all costs! As the warmer months appear, or if you go abroad, sheer materials will be perfect for those warm, humid nights and on the beach, where it will be more acceptable to be wearing nothing underneath!


A lot of the sheer items coming out appear to be patterned, with a mix of opaque and translucent materials. Floral prints and garish patterns are a feature of a lot of SS11 collections this year, and will perhaps allow for a less ‘flashy’ effect (if you’ll pardon the pun). If patterns aren’t your thing, keep colours light, neutral or muted – the key colours of the season!

Waist Belts

Another item that is a key feature in the SS11 collections is the waist belt, which works perfectly in keeping the light-weight sheer material in place, gathering it around the front for a great layered look. Check out this great article on waist belts for more tips on how to make this look work.

LookBook Inspiration

Men's Sheer Trend Look Book

So what are your thoughts? Is the ‘sheer’ garment simply too outlandish for your tastes, or are you ready to embrace the translucent catwalk craze into your spring wardrobe? If not, I suppose there’s always next year…