Updated on July 25, 2022 by Sarina
If you don’t mind revealing more than anyone else would dare, what you are looking for are see-through fabrics. These fabrics have an ethreal, elegant charm about them which the opposite kind, the opaque fabrics, ‘clearly’ do not.
What are see-through fabrics called in Fabric-land?
You will hear about see-through fabrics under many labels – Transparent, translucent, sheer, clear, diaphanous. But the real name that is universally agreed is Sheer. Sheer is a textile that is see-through – either entirely or partially (Ultra-sheer or semi-sheer)
A sheer fabric that can “bare” the skin has long been a favourite of all fashion designers. Other than the use in making tops and blouses and gowns, and bridal wear, sheers are also used in millinery, to make petticoats, and as interfacing and backing and to create trimmings.
Some of these fabrics are see through because they have holes in them as part of their structure. Some fabrics are made of thin very fine fabrics so as to be transparent. Some of these materials may not be completely see through if they are in dark colors. You may have to choose a light color for transparency.
List of See-through Materials
Tulle is a soft sheer net fabric. It is usually available as an inexpensive version in polyester fibers. But originally it was made of silk fibers – it has a very cloudlike transparency which makes it ideal for making overlays on wedding gowns, veils, trains etc.
Netting is a firmer net fabric compared to tulle made of polyester acrylic or nylon. Chiffon net is a fine net fabric.
This is a see-through stretchy fabric used in making lingerie, sleeves, accent for sportswear, and as overlays.
Lace is a decorative fabric made with a leno/open weave. The open spaces in the fabric make it see through.
This is a sheer, mesh fabric with an open weave
Sheer tricot is a transparent tricot knit. It is used for
lingerie and edge finishes.
Nothing to elaborate on the transparency of this.
Muslin is a very soft spun cotton fabric. Not all muslins are see through but some fine ones are even called woven air because of the way they look and feel.
Mousseline De Soie
Silk muslin is a similar fine sheer fabric made of spun silk fibers. Silk muslin is widely used in bridal sewing.
A fine sheer fabric made of rayon or polyester fibers
Gauze is a loosely woven fabric which is very light and sheer. It is available in cotton but can also be made of natural silk yarn.
This is a crisp cotton fabric made in a loose plain weave. Read more about organdy here.
Silk organza is a crisp lustrous and transparent fabric. You can also get the same effect in polyester and rayon fibers. Read more about organza here.
Open weave fabrics
Eyelet fabric, & other perforated materials. Fishnets or athletic mesh and some crotchet like knits.These have small holes made in them which makes them transparent.
Lightweight fabrics which are semi sheer
Chiffon is very drapey and thin. Georgette is another sheer lightweight crepe fabric. Fine cotton lawn, voile and Handkerchief linen are natural fabrics which can be sheer depending on how they are used. Polyester voile is a cheaper version of a thin fabric which is used to make semi-sheer curtains
These semi-sheer will be more transparent if made with silk fibers than with synthetic fibers. For eg. Silk chiffon is more transparent than polyester chiffon.
Tips on using see through fabrics for clothes
One thing which bothers me is that all my seam finishes and wonky cut edges are all visible outside. You will have to use nice looking seams like a french seam with these materials.
Use self fabric as lining/undelining. If that is not possible use skin colored fabric
Many of the tips given in this post on sewing thin sheer fabrics work very effectively.