The Solution for Sheer Tops

Apr 27, 2017

Let’s be real for a second: When was the last time you bought a blouse that was completely opaque?  2005?  During the recession, fabric quality fell through the floor.  Retailers claim that sheer is the “trend” or the “style”, but it’s just a convenient excuse to use cheaper materials.  What I wouldn’t give for an end to this nonsense, but until then, all I can do is wear the right undergarments to make these slightly sheer, semi sheer, and you’re-kidding-me-what-does-this-cover work for the office.

To make a sheer blouse work appropriate, you need a camisole or tank underneath.  My tank of choice was Nordstrom’s seamless tanks with the wide strap or their seamless camisoles.  But even these weren’t a perfect solution.  I had to have each tank hemmed, or else the remaining bulk would make smooth pencil skirts decidedly lumpy.  And even with the hemming, the tanks sometimes ride up when I’m charging down the hall at a good pace.

Then, the other day, I was buying a gift for a friend’s daughter, when the solution hit me: leotards.

Think about it.  Dance leotards are perfectly smooth.  Tight enough to offer a bit of smoothing and slimming.  And they’ll never ride up.  They’re the perfect solution for several fashion woes, from sheer blouses to business suits.

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This simple nude Capezio tank ($20) is probably the place to start.  For plus-size ladies, try this tank from Discount Dance.

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How great would this Ballet Beautiful Leotard ($55) be under a business suit with a high cut jacket?  Sleek, slimming, and ladylike all at the same time.

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This Capezio Tank Leotard ($20) is the one I decided to purchase.  I like the wider strap and scoopneck.  I started with the black and was hoping for a beige or white.  Sadly, it comes in suntan (like a pair of hose on a Hooters waitress) instead,  I was hoping the color would be less offensive in person, but it wasn’t.

So what do you think, could leotards be the answer to your sheer blouse woes?  I know there are brands that offer one-piece bodysuits in similar styles, but they can be a bit pricey.  I’d rather pay $20 for the leotard.

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  1. Jen says:

    Full disclosure: I have never danced and am completely ignorant regarding leotards.

    How would you use the restroom if you wear this under suiting? Do you completely undress? There doesn’t seem to be snaps at the crotch like those horrible body suit t-shirts that everyone wore in the 90’s.

    • MH says:

      Actual dancer here, dance leotards do not have crotch snaps so using the restroom is a full disrobing ordeal if these are layered. Best recommendation is fashion leotards/bodysuits with crotch snaps.

    • Jess says:

      I suppose you could always do the swimming suit trick…….

    • Anna says:

      I actually think body suits are coming back in style, so we might be able to find smooth ones with the crotch snaps (sounds so horrible!). I feel like I’ve seen them around lately, but never considered them for layering.

    • Belle says:

      This commando one-piece has snap closures at the gusset, if restroom visits are a concern. https://api.shopstyle.com/action/apiVisitRetailer?id=625352098&pid=uid5264-432792-74

      I admit, I almost never have to use the restroom. I was blessed with camel-like abilities. They came in really handy on campaign trips and during long court appearances.

    • Dana says:

      I’ve been dancing since I was 7 and I have to say that finding a leotard that acts as a top may be difficult. It will certainly stay put but you will very likely have problems with VPL because leotards have a tendency to either squeeze, ride up or be baggy in the buttock area (the seam is also thick because it’s not meant to be under anything) . The fit for a leotard can be tricky since they have to be long enough for the fabric to stretch from your shoulders to your crotch in a way that is firm but not too constricting. If the leotard is too short, you may find yourself yanking it down during the day or having it leaving indentations and causing pain in your shoulders (that sometimes happens even if it fits you because leotards need to be supportive since it’s hard to wear a bra underneath and so it needs to hold you firmly in the chest area).

      I often wear leotards under street clothes on my way to and from class and I am almost always conscious of the VPL they create. A couple things you can do to ensure a better fit: take a close look at the sizing chart, especially the girth part. Leotards are stretchy but it’s easier for them to stretch sideways than it is up and down. Girth here refers not to your waist’s circumference but to the length of a loop that goes from your shoulder to between your legs and up to your shoulder again. If you are at all long-waisted, this is extra important to pay attention to. When in doubt size up — dance sizes run small.

      Leotards do ride up though. There’s this signature move that you see dancers doing all the time in class where they yank their leotards down to get rid of the inevitable wedgies.

      As for going to the bathroom, ideally you disrobe entirely which is easier when you are only wearing tights and a leotard (maybe a chiffon skirt or dance shorts on top) or you can do the trick of pulling the crotch of the leotard to one side (tights to the other if you’re wearing them). Better have steady hands and good muscular control though.
      If you are lucky enough to find that leotards work for creating seamless lines and layers for you, you’re in luck though. We’re living in a golden age of leotards — the fabrics, the colors, the cuts have gotten high-quality, gorgeous and amazing in the last few years.

  2. E says:

    This sounds great in theory (especially because it wouldn’t ride up!), but what happens when you’re wearing one under a blouse and need to use the restroom?

  3. Kat says:

    I stick with Forever 21’s $1.90 camis – they’re thin, yet hold everything in; are cotton; short enough to not bunch/bulk; cheap enough to replace every six months; have a nude for every shade.

  4. Chris says:

    I’ve noticed the leotard trend coming back in style in those ‘disposable’ fashion stores like Forever 21/HM. They remind me of the 80s and the few times my mother tried to put me in one. Using the bathroom is really a pain. Honestly, I’m not even a fan of the crotch snaps, though they are better than getting nekkid in the bathroom. To be fair, the last time I tried to wear one was so long ago, I’d hope the snapping is easier now than it used to be.

  5. Orla says:

    Oh I hate sheer tops and I refuse to buy them!

  6. jlp says:

    I like Uniqlo’s Airism camis. I always wear them under button down dress shirts to make the button placket lay flat instead of gapping. I don’t think they look bulky tucked into pants or skirts, but maybe I’m missing something. I like that they’re kind of sweat wicking (unlike cotton or satin) so if I get a wee bit sweaty I still feel dry and it doesn’t make it through to visible sweat on my dress shirt. I have a bunch in the “nude” (white girl) color but I think I’ll grab a black and a gray one for showing under low cut tops in summer. As an actual dancer: the leotard plan means you’d have to get completely naked in the restroom stall at work. That would be a dealbreaker for me in the workplace. Peeing between dance classes is a nightmare — you don’t want a piece of that.

  7. Kim says:

    Is this a joke? I can’t imagine having to nearly completely disrobe every time I need to go to the bathroom.

  8. Maggie says:

    Former dancer here. Although I love the idea of finding a use for the leotards I emotionally can’t quite get rid of. I second the thoughts about using the restroom.

    Also I would worry about vpl. My undergarment of preference is a thong and in my experience many leotards have fairly thick seams along the panty line. Might be ok under some of my A-line skirts, but def not under any of my pants or pencil skirts.

    • Anna says:

      The leotard I linked to above has a thong version with snaps! Just search Yummie by Heather Tomlinson bodysuit. Saw it in black and white. Not sure if it comes in nude.

  9. B says:

    Current dancer here. While leotards do solve some of the problems tanks have, they generally have thick seams. (Which makes sense, they need the power to stay put when I’m only wearing a leotard and tights and throwing my legs around in crazy positions!). I’m well aware of this issue every week when I wear a pair of leggings over my leotard to go to class, and there’s a line that’s much more visible than any pair of underwear I own. Given that women’s work skirts and pants are almost as thin as the blouses, I think the leotard vpl lines would be highly noticeable.

    • AAR says:

      Former dancer here. Echoing the comment. VPL is very real, unless there are softer styles out there with wimpy (for want of a better word) seams. Curious of the idea of the thong-style, though it also sounds like the least comfortable thing in the world.

  10. Rachel says:

    Um, is this post a very late April Fool’s joke? As much as I dislike sheer blouses, I’ll gladly take the slight added bulk of a cami over the actual inconvenience of having to undress and then redress every time I need to use the restroom. Yeesh.

    • Laura says:

      I thought the same thing. Not to mention a lot of leotards are super shiny spandex material (so not professional) or the more matte ones (in my experience from dance up until high school) faded quickly after a few washes and did not give off a very finished look (if wanting to wear under a blazer as suggested in the post). Definitely not worth it.

  11. thb says:

    Glad to see this and hear idea and hear about the Yummie thong style.

  12. Nicole says:

    So many see through shirts, I agree, quality has gone downhill. I’d worry about VPLs with the leotards, and being really tall (6′), it could be a little uncomfortable. I just recently purchased one of these in black and nude (though really, most of the time, either one works fine) for exactly this purpose: https://www.wearcommando.com/products/new-double-faced-tech-full-slip?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=googlepla&gclid=COe6–PzxNMCFdgIgQodBBgFcg. I’ve been using these slips and they are seamless under skirts and dresses because the material is thin. And, they offer a tiny bit of (welcome) support. Thanks for the post!

  13. CeeCee says:

    I’ve been wearing leotards, like this, for years. I’m surprised at the pushback you are getting here. They are indeed very slimming, I often do not need to wear a bra with them, and they look great under a blazer or with a highwaist skirt. I have several kinds- ones that unbotton at the crotch, ones that zip up the back, turtlenecks, scoop necks. They are SO flattering. I’ve turned several friends onto this.

  14. Kate says:

    I’m on Team How Do You Pee! As a former dancer, I agree they are slimming and also tend to have a very heavy thigh line.

  15. MK says:

    also wondering how that would work for the bathroom. undressing every time — way too much work! and icky in a bathroom stall at work.

  16. Lisa says:

    I have actually been meaning to write in an Ask Belle about sheer blouses! I have several lovely blouses that I can never seem to pull off because of the awkward undertank problem you’ve described.

    Body suits with button closures are what I’ll look for next.

  17. Kate says:

    I wear Spanx camis. They’re long, but in my experience stay down. They’re actually really comfortable and lightweight. Love them!

  18. --- says:

    The suntan shade you linked to would be perfect for many lighter-skinned women of color. How sad that you find its color offensive.

    • Belle says:

      I didn’t mean to offend anyone and I apologize if I did, let me clarify. I meant that in person it had a horrific orange/almost sparkliness to it. As I mentioned, much like those awful tights Hooters waitresses are required to wear, which I associate with exploitation of women. It is probably not anyone’s natural skin color, tan or otherwise. Unless your hitting the tanning booth like former Speaker Boehner.

  19. Jenna says:

    At first I was really excited about this idea to eliminate bulk that a tank leaves under a thin wrap dress. Then I realized that the panty lines would probably be even worse.

    Can someone please send Sara Blakely this tread and get her working on a solution….

  20. SC says:

    If your tucked-in camis look lumpy under skirts, try tucking them directly into your tights or hosiery. It’s not a particularly elegant solution and it’s weird at first, but it does work.

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