The Sheer Possibility

Spring 2021 Couture Trend

We’re used to being a little bit more covered up these days (keep wearing those masks, people!), but as we move further into the Fall 2021 runway season, we are seeing many designers embrace the revelatory possibilities of sheer fabric.

The arrival of the sheer trend several years ago forcefully raised questions about femininity, modesty, sexuality, and shame: why are women expected to cover up, and should they be? Is the female body inherently sexual? Is the female body shameful? What is the connection between body, sexuality, and femininity? Should a garment conceal, or enhance? What does it mean to conceal, or to reveal? While the more puritanically-minded may have bristled, the use of sheer fabrics and these questions it raises gave designers ample room to explore, build, and destroy.

This season sees many designers move away from the fun and flirty applications of sheer we often see and toward experimentations that are more elevated, sculptural, and elegant. We have entered a sheer realm of decadent evening gowns and structural couture abstractions.

Iris Van Herpen and Ziad Nakad ruffle their feathers to create sheer looks that recall birds of paradise. Maison Anastasia Mathiotte and Antonio Grimaldi use it to show that freeing the nipple can be quite classy. Rahul Mishra creates elaborate sheer structures that pay tribute to the splendor of the natural world. Dior and Chanel beautifully use sheer to further the narrative of classic Parisian sensibility.

Iris Van Herpen
Juana Martin
Ziad Nakad