Sheer Sleeves

To some, a transparent layer of fabric covering your arms may not seem like a groundbreaking concept, but at Who What Wear, we commend sheer sleeves as the ultimate winter-to-spring transitional detail! The flimsy layer of fabric allows you to bare a hint of skin without going sleeveless and shivering in still-chilly temps. Thanks to our sisters in sartorial sensibility (Alexa Chung and Jessica Stam, to name two!), we've collected a handful of sublime examples to get you up to speed on sheer sleeves.

Just call them sheer geniuses: Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci and Valentino's Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri all incorporated the trend as part of their S/S 12 collections. Though both labels showed covered-up ensembles-Givenchy in diaphanous white, Valentino in black-sheer sleeves bestowed each outfit with a subtle sex appeal. Givenchy's sharply tailored look, the Sleeveless Peplum Top ($1990) layered over the Sheer Chiffon Blouse ($1625) and paired with Slim Zip Pants ($1480), oozes crisp elegance. We love how the skintight pants and a flash of skin beneath white chiffon sleeves offset the top's rippling, larger-than-life ruffles. Valentino, on the other hand, aimed for a more relaxed silhouette and an edgier vibe; a black top with slightly exaggerated sheer sleeves tucked into high-waisted pants is a nonchalant way to wear the trend.

Sheer sleeves have slinked off the catwalk and into the closets of several esteemed stylephiles, and we were particularly in awe of Joan Smalls' Tom Ford Black Guipure Lace Long Sleeve 3D Lace Dress (price upon request, 310.270.9440) from his Fall 11 collection. The model's head-turning black number, which she wore to a Museum of Modern Art film benefit in New York last November, is all the more intriguing because of its semi-opaque long sleeves. Yet another top tastemaker took the sheer plunge: Alexa Chung donned Marc Jacobs' versatile L/S Ruffle Bib Blouse With Satin Cuff And Collar ($995, 323.653.0100) from Fall 11 underneath Proenza Schouler's dress at the Miu Miu S/S 12 show in Paris last fall. She astutely allowed the shirt's most captivating details-billowy translucent sleeves and gathered ruffles at the neckline-to peek through, and accessorized with Louis Vuitton bow heels and a studded Valentino clutch. We are also fans of Julia Restoin-Roitfeld's flirty blouse-and-skirt pairing, a look we suspect will soon become our standard going-out uniform. Last fall in New York, the model showed up dressed to sheer perfection at a party celebrating Interview's October cover. Restoin-Roitfeld is a fine display of understated allure in a flimsy button-down and body-hugging mini.

While Smalls, Chung, and Restoin-Roitfeld favoured achromatic colours like black and white, we found two fashionable ladies who embraced the sheer trend in more vibrant shades. For example, Jessica Stam's head-to-toe Christian Dior ensemble from the Pre-Fall 11 collection features a charming green plaid check, though sadly, her silk chiffon Pleated Abby Blouse ($1950) and Glamis Pleated Skirt ($2600) are no longer available. The model, who attended Dior and The Weinstein Company's opening of Picturing Marilyn in New York last November, grounded her colourful attire with the label's croc print, suede, and calfskin Duchesse Low Boots ($1400, 800.929.DIOR) and New Lock Grande Pochette Promenade clutch ($2100, 800.929.DIOR) in Faded Python. At Milan Fashion Week S/S 12, we spotted yet another vision in sheer sleeves: this risk-taking dresser paired a multi-patterned frock with a pair of burgundy and gold brocade ankle boots for a richly hued, sheer-sleeved delight!

Now that you're savvy about this suggestively sheer trend, we know you'll want to emulate this look at home. As usual, we have quite a few suggestions up our sleeve! If you're after Smalls' dressy look, we suggest two elegant options, Tadashi Shoji's Balloon Sleeve Lace Sheath Dress ($408) or Rachel Zoe's Andrews Blouson Sleeve Dress ($450). However, if you wish to try sheer-sleeved separates, we scrounged up a vast selection of monochrome blouses a la Chung and Restoin-Roitfeld. For crisp, white shirts ideal for layering, check out Brunello Cucinelli's Sheer Silk Blouse ($1195), as well as wallet-friendly picks like Free People's Long Sleeve Best Of Both Worlds Sheer Buttondown ($118) and Pepe Jeans' Ruffle Front Sheer Blouse ($107). For blouses in a darker spectrum, Zac Posen's luxurious Ruffle Blouse ($790) is great for pairing with sleek jeans or mini skirts. But we also adore Chelsea Flower's Bell Sleeve Blouse ($244) and Love Sam's Jeweled Neck Bell Sleeve Top ($242), both of which feature gauzy balloon sleeves for dramatic flair!

Should your personal aesthetic veer towards the brightly-coloured ensembles on Stam and our street style inspiration, we've got you covered. Raoul's Sheer Silk Striped Blouse ($260) and Diane von Furstenberg's Printed Chiffon Caftan Blouse ($285) mimic Stam's delicate patterned green top, while ASOS' Midi Shirt Dress ($81) in Floral Print and Pepe Jeans' Ruffle Front Dress ($143) are clones of our nameless fashionista's red frock. Trust us, with these chic alternatives, the results will be sheer magic!-Tiffany Tse

Photo of Alexa Chung, courtesy of Splash News; photo of Jessica Stam, courtesy of Getty Images; Street style photo, courtesy of Imax Tree; photo of Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency; Givenchy S/S 12 photo, courtesy of Givenchy; Valentino S/S 12 photo, courtesy of Valentino.

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