See-through materials are something that you may not have had a chance to use if you are relatively new to dress-making. But, these translucent materials are interesting to work with because they can add new dimensions and features to pieces of clothing. They have their place where opaque options simply won’t do. So, what are some of the best see-through fabrics, what are they made from, and how can we use them in our work?
What are some of the most common see-through fabric types?
There are lots of different materials that we can class as see-through in some form. One of the most popular is organza, which has a nice drape and feel. This can provide coverage while showing off skin or layers beneath the garment. Voile is similar, but has a different look and feel because of the use of cotton. Chiffon is also common as an added layer to a skirt of other garments where you don’t want anything too heavy. On the heavier end of the scale, there are the more structured tulle nets from nylon and polyester. Of course, we can’t forget about lacework and its role as a decorative see-through element of all kinds of items of clothing. Naturally, there are designers hat experiment with all kinds of effects and materials, such as clear PVC and perforated leather.
Transparent, translucent, or sheer?
There are different terms used to describe the properties of materials. The problem with the world see-through is that it is a bit too broad and covers too many types. We aren’t talking about transparent materials here, like some fully see-through PVC coats or other items from fashion shows. Instead, we mean a soft loose weave where you can see the body, undergarments, or other layers through the material. The term sheer applies to the same fabrics and is a more common term in the fashion world. Designers and dress-makers don’t call organza translucent but instead refer to the sheer material used when something opaque isn’t suitable.
Are see-through fabrics synthetic?
Not necessarily. You might look at some of the materials on dresses and costumes and think that there is an artificial quality to them. This could be because of their structure, feel, or their bright colors. However, there is such variation in see-through fabrics that not all materials are synthetic. Some are made with nylon or rayon for durability, but you can also get some natural weaves to create softer materials for a different feel. A loose cotton or silk works brilliantly in the right situation. But, there are also polyester versions of these materials.
How are see-through fabrics created?
The majority of the time, the effect of translucency comes from the weave of the fabric. It is loose enough that there are gaps and you can see beyond the material to what’s beneath. With some forms of material like netting and organza. There is a uniform look and weave across the whole piece of material and it lays over the skin or another piece of material.
But, there are other forms of fabric where there are more deliberate gaps made where you can see through the denser sections to bare areas of fabric or skin beneath. Macrame and lacework are good examples of this. You can get intricate patterns with opaque sections and then gaps between.
There are also manufacturers and designers that will work with perforated materials. This basically means punching holes into a denser material, such as leather or PVC. This can have an interesting effect in high-end fashion but isn’t so common with standard dress-making. With that said, there is nothing to stop you from working with cut-outs and creating something unique.
You can find translucent or sheer fabrics in different deniers.
This is a term you may have seen if you buy stockings. The lower the number the thinner the material and the more skin you can see through the fabric. For example, you might have stockings that are 15 denier and a standard level of translucency. Friends may prefer the deeper tones of a 30 denier material. But, there are also 100 denier options that are basically opaque and 3 denier that looks like you aren’t wearing anything.
Common uses for see-through materials in dress-making.
A good piece of organza works well as a lightweight material on areas that can show a little skin. For example. You might choose to make the sleeves of a summer garment from organza to make them breathable. Netting and tule, which is more structured, is great for adding volume to dress where the layers aren’t going to be in contact with the skin. A big net ruffle with a contrasting material showing underneath can be striking for kids’ clothes and gowns. Organza and voile also have their place in undergarments and lingerie where you want to hint at what lies beneath. Depending on the denier, you can leave a little or a lot to the imagination.
Also, don’t be afraid to bring lacework into your designs. Lacework is an undervalued craft and designers can make some stunningly intricate pieces. Lace doesn’t just mean putting a net curtain up at the window to stop people staring into your home. Lace trims, especially in pure white against a colorful material, can add some vintage style and femininity to garments. You can use as little or as much as you want to enhance your pieces.
Don’t be afraid to use see-through materials in your own work.
The piece of see-through material in the right place can have a massive impact – whether that means partially obscuring the face of a bride, showing some skin through lingerie, adding volume to a gown, or gaining privacy from the neighbors. Just make sure that it is the right type of material for the job and test out the translucency against your skin or other materials before you commit to using it. Put it against the skin of your model or recipient to see how it looks and look into alternative weaves and deniers if needed.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.