11 Secrets To Pulling Off Sheer Dresses Like Ciara


At the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night, host-slash-emcee Ciara made no fewer than seven costume changes, changing from a liquid silver Philipp Plein gown to a caped Michael Costello look to a sheer Naeem Khan dress embellished in silver. And while sheer looks have become the daring modus operandi for red carpet stars like Kim Kardashian (and, lately, the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kendall chief among them), Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna, Ciara was among the first to trademark the so-called “naked dress,” wearing sheer looks front-row at Givenchy and Valentino and on the red carpet at the BBMAs, the American Music Awards, and the BET Awards. She works with stylists Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn to assemble her looks, and they’ve revealed a behind-the-scenes look at the 11 secrets for pulling off sheer dresses like Ciara. “Ciara’s style is this really interesting mix of masculine and feminine,” Haenn says. “She could wear a Dietrich-inspired suit and still be the sexiest woman in the room. For her, sheer looks enable us to play with different shapes, layers, embellishment, and masculine vs. feminine concepts without compromising her natural elegance.” We might not all be so lucky (though the stylists also shout out Diane Kruger, Zoë Kravitz, Kendall Jenner, and Gwen Stefani as women who have pulled off sheer), but these tips offer a starting point for just how to go about showing some skin and staying chic.


“Dressing her in something sheer always feels effortless and easy because she is so comfortable in her own skin,” Zangardi says. “She also has the confidence and stature to pull it off. We say it all the time: it always comes down to how you wear things and how good you feel in them.”

Ciara in Givenchy couture at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, New York, August 2013. Photo by Getty Images.


Accessorize minimally, Haenn says: “Since the look is making such a statement, the jewelry should balance rather than compete for the attention. Either that or one simple statement piece, like a chic, modern cuff or choker.”

Ciara at the Givenchy Fall 2016 show in Paris, France, March 2016. Photo by Getty Images.


How much sheer is enough? When is it too much? “The right amount of sheer is when something is still left to the imagination: your legs, arms, or torso,” Haenn offers. “Also, if you’re going for sheer, opt for more fabric in general. Don’t go sheer and short, for instance. Too much is when it begins looking like lingerie or a nighty.”

Ciara in H&M at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala in New York, New York, May 2016. Photo by Getty Images.


“This is the perfect example of going for more fabric when wearing something sheer,” Haenn explains. “Ci is fully covered up yet the sheerness of the fabric says otherwise. The stunning beading of the dress wouldn’t be seen quite the same way if it wasn’t sheer.”

Ciara in Reem Acra at the 2015 American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California, November 2015. Photo by Getty Images.


“The strategic cutouts and slit balance the heaviness of the fabric beautifully. It’s like a futuristic 90s inspired creation: simple yet statement,” Zangardi says of why Ciara’s first BBMA look works.

Ciara in Philipp Plein at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 2016. Photo by Getty Images.


When go sheer? “It’s always good to push the envelope sartorially and nothing makes a bold statement like a sheer dress,” Zangardi says. “But you must consider the occasion. For red carpet, events that feel a little more rock ’n’ roll are right: the Grammys, Billboard Awards, VMAs. For real life, a dressed up party or more fashion-focused event, like an opening or cocktail party, works.”

Ciara in Alexandre Vauthier at the Daily Front Row Fashion Los Angeles Awards dinner in Los Angeles, California, March 2016. Photo by Getty Images.


“With sheer dresses, what goes underneath is as important (if not more so) as the dress itself. Choose beautiful basic undergarments that look elegant and intentional,” Zangardi says.

Ciara at the Givenchy Spring 2016 show in New York, New York, September 2015. Photo by Getty Images.


“If the dress does not call for a bra, opt for Top Stik or another discreet garment tape to make sure everything stays where it should,” Haenn adds.

Ciara in Wes Gordon at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, California, June 2015. Photo by Getty Images.


“A secret trick we use is lining for just those specific places that you don’t want to be sheer,” Haenn says. “Finding the perfect color to match your skin is key.”

Ciara in Givenchy at the release party for CR Fashion Book No. 5 in Paris, France, September 2014. Photo by Getty Images.


“Go for classic, simple basics in solid fabrics,” Zangari recommends for undergarments. “Also, opt for more coverage than usual since your dress is barely there.” He recommends Commando in Nude, because the brand offers a range of skin tones.

Ciara in J. Mendel at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, California, November 2013. Photo by Getty Images.


“Last but not least, posture!” Haenn advises. “You’d be surprised what a difference it makes, especially in something sheer.”

Ciara in Naeem Khan at the Billboard Music Awards in Los Angeles, Nevada, May 2016. Photo by Getty Images.