The Case for Wearing Lingerie as Outerwear

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This surge in sheer clothing coincides with a cultural push for bodily freedom, says Victoria-based designer Elyse Mathes. “There are fewer places to hide in sheer materials,” she explains. “So in a sense, the body is freer as it is more exposed.”

Mathes’s brand, Elyse On Mars, creates mesh pieces that are meant to be worn as both inner or outerwear, with the goal of normalizing size-inclusive sheer dressing. “After many years of [battling with] self-image, body shaming, disordered eating and a completely skewed perception of how a body should look, I’ve found sheer materials really liberate the human form and allow me to feature such a variety of body types.”

Because lingerie has been historically associated with women, it’s long been over-sexualized. The very moniker “unmentionables” implies that it’s a dirty secret we shouldn’t openly acknowledge. But today, undergarment outfits are as ubiquitous as the little black dress. Along with bodily freedom, the demystification of sheer clothing goes hand in hand with a new era of ruleless gender expression.

Case in point: the growing market for men’s lingerie. What was once a non-existent subsect of fashion now has shoppable options from big brands like Victoria’s Secret and Savage X Fenty. And for his Spring 2023 collection, Tom Ford sent models down the runway in his and hers lacy underwear sets. Ultimately, the unisex-ification of undergarment fashion is allowing lingerie to be more accessible. Mathes hopes it will make women’s bodies less taboo, too.

“Nipples have become such an unnecessary line in the sand for what is deemed appropriate or inappropriate,” she says. “And I would love to see the surge of sheer fashion disrupt the taboo associations around them.” Already, it seems the trend is doing just that.





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