The Unstoppable Rise of the Sheer Wedding Dress

Camille Charrière wore a Harris Reed lace dress with a La Perla thong to her wedding reception in Paris. Bucking...
Camille Charrière wore a Harris Reed lace dress with a La Perla thong to her wedding reception in Paris. Bucking conventions, more and more brides are opting to wear sheer designs. Photo: Pierre Ange Carlotti

When Tish Weinstock wed Tom Guinness in the fall of 2022, she did so in three different dresses in three slightly differing degrees of sheerness. The first? A John Galliano for Dior slip with its corset lining removed, in which she cosplayed as Baz Luhrmann’s Juliet for her Halloween-themed welcome night. The second? Her “Miss Havisham meetsCorpse Bride” wedding gown, where her bare skin peeked through antique Normandy lace. Her third and final look? A see-through John Galliano gown from his fall 2009 collection, Iced Maidens, with which Weinstock wore long hair extensions to add a little modesty, while Galliano’s intricate and carefully-placed beading covered part of her thong. “Although it was totally transparent, I didn’t really feel naked,” she says. “I felt like a beautiful gothic mermaid.”

A year earlier in November 2021, Ivy Getty wore her own translucent Maison Margiela bridal dress for her San Francisco wedding reception. Getty, who is fascinated with fairies and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, asked Galliano to use the whimsical aesthetic, as well as his own 1996 couture collection, as a starting point. “I always had this iridescent sheer idea,” she tells Vogue. The two worked tirelessly to develop a teddy that matched her exact skin tone, which gave the illusion of Getty being naked underneath. “I love lace, but I feel like that’s very expected for a bride—I wanted to go more of a more unique route,” says Getty.

Tish Weinstock embraced the translucent nature of her 2009 John Galliano gown from his Iced Maidens collection.

Chris Lensz

A month later, Camille Charrière put on a lace dress by British-American designer Harris Reed for her wedding at Maxim’s in Paris with her lingerie visible underneath. “One big question was what underwear to wear—this was a real headache,” Charrière previously told Vogue. “I settled in the end for a lace panty by La Perla, because that’s exactly what one wants to be wearing to enter married life.”

Great-aunts, get ready to clutch your pearls: the latest wedding trend is the sheer, or even naked, bridal dress. 

Sure, the sheer trend has been popular among celebrities for quite some time. Who can forget Rihanna’s Adam Selman gown made of 230,000 Swarovski crystals to the 2014 CFDA Awards? (The superstar even said to Vogue in 2016 that her only regret in life was wearing nude underwear as part of the look rather than a bedazzled thong.) More recently, Zoë Kravitz wore a slinky silver mesh Saint Laurent dress to the 2021 Met Gala, whereas Ciara wore a netted halter to the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party with a black G-string peeking out. Yet, weddings—often conservative affairs steeped in tradition—have largely been immune from the controversial style.

Until now. Sheer wedding dresses have been popping up in the collections of established designers, such as Vera Wang, who included several in her 2023 Haute Wedding collection. Emerging talents known for their skin-baring designs have also turned their eye to bridal: This February, former LVMH Prize Winner Nensi Dojaka launched a lingerie-inspired bridal capsule with MyTheresa. (“I think a wedding dress deserves finesse and delicacy and hence, sensuality,” she told British Vogue.) Meanwhile, in May, Sally LaPointe launched a wedding collection that included feathered translucent trousers. And those are just examples of designer collections: real brides everywhere have also been opting for white dresses, often from ready-to-wear lines, that offer varying degrees of sultriness. In fact, in their annual 2023 report, Zola named unconventional wedding dresses—including sheer ones—as a top trend.

So why are naked and sheer wedding dresses now making their way down the aisles as well as the red carpets and runways?

“I wanted to have such a special piece that would stand out from anything I’d ever seen before,” Ivy Getty said of her reception dress.

Photo: Jose Villa

Part of it is a trickle-down effect, according to wedding stylist Cynthia Cook Smith. As naked and sheer dresses have reached a zenith of buzz in the ready-to-wear or couture shows, they’ve piqued the interest of many fashion-forward women, including those getting ready to put a ring on their finger. “It’s an indicator of brides who are more avant-garde, and have more bravado, and are willing now to go towards more with an eye of fashion,” she says. “It allows their character to come through if they are a little bit on the edgier side and don’t want to play it safe.”

Playing it safe, by the way, is something brides are increasingly not interested in. Visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram have opened the floodgates to an almost infinite scroll of wedding images simultaneous inspiration and saturation. But while everyone wants pictures to put on their mood board, they want to make sure their own pictures look unique. (“Individuality is a trend across the board in weddings,” stylist Carrie Goldberg previously told Vogue.) A naked dress is somewhat of a daring novelty; a social media shock-and-awe. Take Getty’s reasoning: “I wanted to have such a special piece that would stand out from anything I’d ever seen before.”

Plus, sheer doesn’t necessarily mean sexy. It’s a quality of fabric often employed by designers to show off intricacies in their design: embroidery, ruffles, or beading are all easier to admire when there’s negative space. Wedding gowns, especially couture pieces, often take months to make and the help of a number of talented seamstresses. This is a way to let their work shine—both for the bride and her guests in person, and when the pictures are later shared online. “Sheerness allows for contrast and tactile qualities coming through,” says Cook Smith. “With Instagram, so many of the photos people are attracted to are because of the contrast where you see the details. When there’s white-on-white, it can look flat.”

A design from Nensi Dojaka’s bridal collection with MyTheresa.

Courtesy of Mytheresa

As weddings become less conventional in general—Zola reports that old-fashioned traditions like bridal garters and bouquet tosses are steadily being renounced by modern couples—more brides are willing to take a fashion risk. Especially since weddings are increasingly multi-event, or multi-day affairs: A bride may wear something more risqué to her reception after wearing a conservative look during her church ceremony, knowing that her wedding photos don’t all depend on one single look. (Weinstock, Getty, and Charrière for example, all opted for their most daring looks during the evening portions of their affairs.) “Sheerness is quite breathtaking and timeless, but allows the bride to not be trapped in the sense of what we think is traditional,” says Cook Smith. Weinstock echoes a similar style sentiment: “I’ve never really felt comfortable in corsets, minidresses or body con. So for me, the sheerness of fabric and the fluidity of a bias cut gives a sense of femininity.”

Weddings, after all, are meant to be the most joyous and unique day of one’s life. So why not wear what you feel like, rather than what you feel like you should? It might be time to update that classic wedding saying: Something old, something new, something borrowed—and something barely there.