Transparent clothing

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Milena Velba wearing a transparent blouse
Photo: Bernd Daktari Lorenz

Transparent clothing consists of transparent (sheer, see-through) materials such as nylon that reveal details of the body underneath. Especially in big bust photography, it is often worn to accentuate a woman's breasts.


Transparency can have different reasons, for example when the garment

  • is designed as transparent as such and is made of woven or knit fabrics like nylon, tulle, chiffon, lace, spandex, fishnet or "compact" materials like transparent latex or PVC (fully transparent);
  • is not transparent under normal conditions, but becomes transparent when exposed to intense light, such as photographer flashes or sunlight (semi-transparent);
  • is not transparent as such, but designed to become transparent when getting wet (especially bikinis);
  • is not transparent at all (e. g. cotton), but is used in certain sex game variations (such as watersports) where it becomes wet and transparent.


The nylon era

The beginning of industrially produced transparent fabrics in women's fashion is marked by the invention of nylon by DuPont in April 1930. Until then, stockings were usually made of silk, a very expensive and extremely delicate material.[1] The commercial production of nylon hosiery began in late 1939,[2] followed by the official release and sale to the general public on May 15, 1940.[3] On this date, designated by DuPont as "Nylon Day", four million pairs of stockings were sold within four days.[4][5]

The great success of nylon inspired fashion designer Rudi Gernreich to create his No Bra in 1964[6][7] — the first fully transparent bra with cups completely made of nylon, available for cup sizes A to C (see advertisement picture below). Also in 1964, the corset manufacturer Warner's commissioned him to design a flesh-coloured bodystocking in stretch nylon.[8] It was not successful at that time,[9] but it marked the birth of today's modern nylon catsuits worn by many big bust performers. In the same year, Gernreich also created a see-through chiffon shirt, even before Yves Saint Laurent introduced his transparent blouse into haute couture fashion.[10]

An advertisement for the No Bra from 1965
Ines Cudna in a modern flesh-coloured catsuit that has its origin in the 1964 bodystocking by Rudi Gernreich

Haute couture

Rudi Gernreich's No Bra was still a piece of underwear supposed to be covered by other clothes. His 1964 see-through shirt made some fashion waves, but although "some women did accept the bared breast as part of the sexual revolution" now, his daring creations generally were not worn in public.[9] It was famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who achieved this in 1968: In his spring/summer collection, together with his Shorts Smoking tuxedo, he introduced the Transparent Blouse and thus brought transparent fabrics from lingerie to outerwear haute couture fashion.[11][12] This first ever transparent blouse "aroused the wrath of moralists and the interest of sociologists" at that time,[9] but is today regarded as "a brave move" and "more about the liberation of women than their exploitation".[13]

The Transparent Blouse was followed by even more daring see-through designs like the Chiffon and Ostrich Feather Dress from Saint Laurent's autumn/winter 1968 collection.[14] It was a completely transparent dress "upon which only a band of ostrich feathers at pelvis level veiled her [the model's] nudity".[15]

Since 1968, Saint Laurent's transparent garments have been cited by many famous fashion designers like Valentino Garavani,[16] Kenzo Takada,[17] or Alexander McQueen,[18] to name but a few. Saint Laurent is generally considered the founder of the "nude look"[19] which became a common and popular fashion phenomenon in the late 1990s and 2000s.[16][18][20] Thanks to him, visible breasts are not a great sensation anymore,[13] be it in a fashion context or in public, and he paved the way for starlets like Davorka Tovilo who made it her trademark to appear in transparent haute couture clothing at public occasions.[21]

The 1968 Transparent Blouse by Yves Saint Laurent shown at his 2002 retrospective in Paris[22]
Model: Raquel Zimmermann
The 1968 Chiffon and Ostrich Feather Dress by Yves Saint Laurent
Model: Danielle Luquet de Saint-Germain
Photo: Bill Ray
A busty model wearing a transparent dress by Kenzo in 1999
Simona Gotovac wearing a transparent top by Marta Buzolić at the 2007 Wella Fashion Week in Zagreb[23]

Recent history

The innovations of Rudi Gernreich and Yves Saint Laurent had a great impact on both fashion industry and adult entertainment. Many classic lingerie manufacturers specialising in the larger cup size market like Eveden,[24] (especially with their brand Freya) have gratefully adopted the new materials for their creations. Their transparent Arabella and Zeta bras, for example, became very popular and have been worn by such well-known big bust performers as Faith, Jana Defi, Petra Mis, Miosotis and Marie-Claude Bourbonnais.

Hosiery manufacturers like Leg Avenue, founded in 1999,[25] even owe their whole existence to the invention of nylon. Today, the label offers a wide range of transparent bras, bodies and catsuits, along with costumes, swimwear and shoes. Their stretchy creations have become very widespread in big bust pictorials and have been worn by performers like Katie Price, Crissy Moran, Sara Stone, Jana Defi, Tera Patrick and Hanna Hilton.

Marie-Claude Bourbonnais wearing an Arabella bra by Freya
Photo: Chad Martel
Faith wearing a Zeta bra by Freya

Other materials


In addition to woven materials like nylon, tulle or chiffon, knit fabrics like fishnet (or fencenet with larger loops) have enjoyed changing popularity throughout the decades. While weaving is the art of interlacing yarns or fibers to create a fabric, knitting, a later art, is the creation of interlocking loops of a continuous strand to produce a fabric.[1] Like nylon, fishnet was initially reserved for legwear: Although some sources say that fishnet stockings have been first introduced around the turn of the 20th century,[5] they were already worn by French cancan dancers in the 1820s[26][27] until the dance was being outlawed as immoral and indecent and prohibited by the police in 1830.[26]

In the 1920s, fishnet stockings were mostly beige and flesh-toned[3] while black fishnets were usually worn by dancers and entertainers throughout the 1940s and 1950s. This changed when Jane Russell started to wear black fishnets in public in the early 1950s. They came out of fashion until a revival in the late 1960s when they were worn with micro-mini skirts.[3][5] In the 1980s, famous American singer Madonna re-introduced them when she started to express her sexuality through her style, making red lips, fishnets and underwear as outerwear a signature look for her.[5][28] In 2008, fishnets were once again combined with haute couture when Madonna wore them in an advertisement for fashion designer Louis Vuitton shot by famous photographer Steven Meisel.[29]

Even today, fishnet stockings are still being regarded as an erotic garmet, as shows the 2008 case of a British law firm that banned women employees from wearing fishnets at work because they are too much of a distraction for male colleagues.[30][31]

Chorus girls wearing black fishnet pantyhoses in a Live magazine report from 1941
Jane Russell wearing a black fishnet pantyhose in Montana Belle (1952)
Madonna wearing fishnets on stage in 1987
Madonna wearing fishnets again for an advertisement of Louis Vuitton in 2008
Photo: Steven Meisel

With the rise of catsuits, fishnet became also relevant as a material for breast-related clothing. Today, known hosiery manufacturers like Leg Avenue have added many fishnet designs to their lingerie collection, and niche designers like Barely Wear adapted the material for special designs like their nippleless 2681B bra. Fishnet is often used in big bust productions for obvious reasons: Big breasts stretch the normally regular loops of the fabric, creating a kind of fish-eye lens effect which emphasises the size of the breasts.

Gréta Istvándi wearing a catsuit made of finer fishnet
Photo: James Bertoni
Ewa Sonnet: The "fish-eye lens" effect
Katarina Nikita wearing a bra made of a fishnet variation that creates an emphasising perspective effect by using a seemingly horizontal and vertical pattern
Photo: George Sparks


Lace is an "ornamental fabric consisting of a decorative openwork of threads that have been twisted, looped, and intertwined to form patterns".[32] It has a long tradition in many countries[33][34][35] and was originally "designed to replace embroidery in a manner that could with ease transform dresses to follow different styles of fashion. Unlike embroidery, lace could be unsewn from one material to be replaced on another".[33] Embroidery and knit or crocheted fabrics are generally not considered lace,[32] although the latter are sometimes also included in the definition.[36]

Depending of the garments it is used in, lace can serve different purposes. In white wedding dresses, for example, it conveys innocence, whereas it takes on a sensual tone when used in lingerie, often in black and layered over other fabrics.[37] While pure lace is often used in stockings, catsuits or tops, so-called lace bras (like the popular Harlow by Felina for instance) normally use a lace layer over a lining of nylon or a similar fabric.

The flesh-toned nylon lining under the lace of the Harlow bra
Model: Jelena Jensen
Katerina Hartlova wearing a knit lace top
Embroidered nylon which is often taken for lace
Model: Xanthia Doll


Spandex (also known by the brand name Lycra) is a synthetic segmented polyurethane fiber[38] that was invented in 1958[39][40] by a team of scientists at DuPont, originally as a replacement for rubber in corsetry.[39] The new extremely elastic and quick-drying material soon found its way into into swimwear and high-profile sports clothing. With the disco fever of the 1970s, it also started to make an impact on the fashion scene, mostly in tight leggings and bodies.[39] Although the spandex fiber is never used alone, but always blended with other fibers,[39] the word also became a synonym for clothing containing spandex.[41]

Unlike nylon, spandex was not specifically designed for transparency. Fabrics with spandex only became transparent when they were very thin or stretched excessively. White swimsuits or bikinis could also become transparent when getting wet, which was usually unwanted and considered a wardrobe malfunction. It was not before the late 1990s that swimwear manufacturers like Wicked Weasel[42] or Malibu Strings took advantage of this and started to produce either transparent-when-wet or even fully transparent bikinis.

The adult industry soon picked up this trend with websites like Bikini Dare which focuses on models wearing transparent, nippleless, open bust and crotchless bikinis in public. In the 2000s, specific spandex fetish sites like Crazy Spandex Girls and Spandex porn emerged. They extended the scope of usual spandex sites to transparent outfits and featured many big bust performers like Ashley Robbins, Chantal Ferrera, Renata Daninsky, Rachel B, Terry Nova and Zuzanna Drabinova.

French swimmer Laure Manaudou wearing a spandex swimsuit slightly too thin for a public event
Candy wearing a white 312 Tri Top Satin Sheer bikini by Wicked Weasel
Photo: Bikini Dare
Renata Daninsky wearing a transparent flesh-toned spandex catsuit
Photo: Crazy Spandex Girls
Aude wearing a spandex catsuit that has become transparent by water and sunlight
Photo: Foxy Mud


The 2000s have seen a new dimension in transparent fashion: latex. Although haute couture designers like Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier had already experimented with latex in the 1980s,[43] it was finally German fashion designer Katja Ehrhardt who started a new approach to the material with her label Fräulein Ehrhardt in 2001. Her intention was to "get rubber out of the hidden fetish zone"[44] by designing clothes "rather for normal use or for the clubs".[45] She developed a very special style of her own with more references to haute couture and fashion labels than to the fetish scene.[46] This was so successful that she is today recognised as one of the leading German latex fashion designers by both the international fetish scene[47] as well as an increasing number of non-fetish publications and organisations.[48][49][50] Her creations include many transparent latex bras, bodies and tops which have been worn by known models like Ancilla Tilia, Ulorin Vex, Susan Wayland and Monique Vegas and published by photographers like Steve Diet Goedde, Peter W. Czernich and Thomas Rusch.

Since then, the idea of blending haute couture with the formerly fetish-focused latex has influenced many other couturiers as well. Young French designer Sophie, for example, created the transparent Cage Dress for her label HMSlatex in 2008[51] — a dress which was itself inspired by a creation from the autumn 2008 ready-to-wear collection by Comme des Garçons.[52]

Susan Wayland wearing the EyesWideShut body by Fräulein Ehrhardt
Photo: Norman Richter
A nylon bodysuit by Thierry Mugler that may have inspired Katja Ehrhardt
Model: Brigitta Bungard
Photo: Helmut Newton
Eden wearing the Cage Dress by HMSlatex
Photo: Maxime Avet
The dress by Comme des Garçons that inspired designer Sophie


Sometimes transparency is achieved not by wearing garments, but by using accessories like plastic wrap or clear adhesive tape. They can both be used to imitate whole garments like tops or dresses, or to immobilise, expose or even mummify a woman's body in BDSM and fetish contexts.

Milena Velba with clear adhesive tape around her breasts

Transparency in public

Transparency in public is often considered a wardrobe malfunction, especially when happening at formal occasions where breasts or other intimate body parts are not supposed to be shown. Some of the early and also current incidents of clothes becoming transparent under intense spotlights or photographer flashes may indeed have been real wardrobe malfunctions. Davorka Tovilo stated that she was shocked after seeing the tabloid photos of her fist public appearance on December 10, 2003, adding that the dress she wore would have been opaque in normal light.[21] However, on almost all following public occasions, she exposed her breasts under fully transparent tops or dresses and was given the name "Miss Transparent" by the tabloids.[21]

Like her, but mostly not to this extent, many celebrities and adult entertainers started to openly wear semi-transparent or transparent clothing in public, playing with the risk of their breasts becoming visible or even deliberately exposing them — which makes it sometimes hard to draw the line between real wardrobe malfunctions and intended exposure.

Apart from celebrities and adult models, transparent clothing has become popular in public events like the annual Fantasy Fest in Key West, Florida, USA, where women often present their breasts in sheer or fishnet tops and dresses (if they do not show them completely nude or painted).

Valerie Cormier wearing a transparent lace 312 Tri Top bikini at the 2006 Fantasy Fest
The "Redhead Lady" wearing a transparent fishnet dress at the 2007 Fantasy Fest
A busty 2007 Fantasy Fest participant wearing a semi-transparent dress with deep cleavage
A busty 2008 Fantasy Fest participant wearing a transparent fishnet top


Catherine Bell at the 1999 premiere of EDtv
Anne Hathaway at the 2003 premiere of The School of Rock
Mariah Carey on a balcony in 2005
Meagan Good at the Hyde Club 2007

Meagan Good at The Bank 2008
Traci Bingham taking out her trash in 2008
Vida Guerra at the 2008 Spike TV Video Game Awards
Kirsty Gallacher at the 2009 Glamour Women of the Year Awards

Full transparency

Rose McGowan at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards
Coco at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards
Katie Price at the 2006 Chinese New Year Party
Dress: 8211
Davorka Tovilo at the opening of a restaurant in 2006
Photo: Martin Schmitz
Clothing: Talbot Runhof

Davorka Tovilo at the 2007 German Film Ball
Clothing: Daniel Fendler
Jennique at the Shadow club in 2007
Photo: Udo Krähenfeld
Simona Gotovac at the 2007 Wella Fashion Week
Clothing: Ivančica Hrustić
Madonna at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival
Clothing: Chanel

See also

External links


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