"It's a new kind of dressing," says San Francisco designer Jessica McClintock, owner of the Gunne Sax label and a leader of the sheer movement. "When women dress up," she says, "they want to put on something feminine and romantic. And chiffon is perfect."
The look isn't just for the cocktail party crowd either. Young fashion trendoids in Los Angeles are beginning to take to the streets in voyeur's delight, sheer tops and tulle tutus worn over halter bras, miniskirts and dresses and tights. The gauzy getups began turning up (and turning heads) last year in Europe when big-name designers, including Italians Giorgio Armani and Salvatore Ferragamo, featured them in their spring collections. Ralph Lauren picked up on the style in his collection, showing billowing chiffon skirts topped with cashmere pullovers.
More mainstream adaptations soon followed. L.A.-based designer Marika Contompasis—Oprah
Winfrey is one of her celeb clients—sold out her entire cruise collection, which included bustiers with sheer tops ($80) and multi-layered cotton tulle skirts ($200 to $230). New York's Gordon Henderson was equally successful with his antique floral crepe de chine skirts ($50), jackets ($57) and T-shirts ($42), all of which were snapped up by Saks, Blooming-dale's and Bergdorf Goodman. "Layering is really important again, and comfort is a big factor," says Henderson. "Sheers are so light and fluid, they fit easily under a sweater or jacket."
The style is so revealing that most fashion experts agree that women with something to hide should approach the see-through look as spectators only. But for the svelte and the sleek, the advice is simple: Flaunt it.
Miniskirts are still the max, and poufs continue to proliferate, but the most transparently provocative fashion offerings on both coasts right now are flowing, see-through confections made from layers of chiffon, organza, tulle and lace.