Sheer materials are used to make a lot of things, like medicinal dressings, window curtains, and wedding veils.
There are lots of sheer fabrics available, so if you need sheer material, for whatever reason, it can be hard to choose between them!
Sheer materials are instantly recognizable as they have a translucent weave, allowing people to see through the fabric.
Some of these are more recognizable, like chiffon and lace, while others, like georgette and batiste, aren’t as well known.
We’ll cover 15 of the most popular sheer fabrics below. You’ll learn more about each material and which sheer fabrics are better for clothing in this article.
What Are Sheer Materials?
Sheer fabrics are often labeled as transparent, translucent, or see-through. These descriptions can refer to any material that’s fine enough to see through.
However, when it comes to fashion, the terms translucent, transparent, and sheer have different meanings.
Transparent fabrics let light pass through them, so you can see through the material. This includes fully transparent materials, like clear acrylic, to thin mesh that you can see through when held up to your face.
Translucent refers to if light can or cannot pass through the fabric. For instance, if you had two lampshades,
one made from leather and the other silk, the silk lampshade would let light waves pass through, but the leather one would block them.
The word ‘sheer’ is generally used to describe any see-through material. For instance, people often search for ‘sheer curtains’ that give them privacy at home, but let them see out of them simultaneously.
Sheer also has a technical significance, as it refers to a particular fabric thickness. One denier weighs the same as a single silk strand. Sheer fabrics tend to be between 3 and 15 deniers.
This indicates that sheer fabrics are very fine. These materials usually use thin threads to create a light weave. Sheer fabrics generally have semi-transparent qualities.
15 Kinds Of Sheer Material
See-through materials are made with a thin, lightweight weave that allows light through them. These include chiffon, lace, sheer silk, and tulle, though there are many more.
Sheer fabrics will all be at the least, slightly transparent. Fabrics made with cotton fibers will have a soft texture. The same rings true for silk materials, but these will also have a slight sheen.
However, no sheer fabric will be totally transparent, like glass. Completely clear material will need to be made from clear acrylic sheets.
We’ll cover 15 of the most popular sheer fabrics below, including their characteristics and some of their uses.
What Is Chiffon?
Chiffon refers to a weave that produces a fine, lightweight material. This will be made with a plain weave and will feel like raised silk.
Plain weave indicated that the threads will be woven at right angles, with the warp thread lying over the weft thread.
A chiffon weave means that all the threads will be treated with a crepe twist before the process starts. Twisting the threads clockwise is called an S-twist, while a counterclockwise twist produces a Z-twist.
The bent threads will give the material small ridges and raised areas, giving the fabric a corrugated texture.
Chiffon counts as a sheer fabric. If viewed from under a magnifying glass, the fabric will look like a loose net, indicating that a lot of light can pass through it.
As chiffon has a lightly corrugated surface, it can sparkle slightly, adding to its appeal. The twisted threads also make chiffon durable and resistant to wear and tear.
Chiffon can be costly, but this depends on where it was sourced from. Chiffon was originally produced in France and was only made from silk yarn.
Silk is very expensive, so real silk chiffon can have a high price. However, modern textiles have evolved a lot. Today, manufacturers can make chiffon from artificial fabrics, like polyester and nylon.
Chiffon has several uses, particularly in the fashion world. Chiffon can be used to create formal gowns, interesting scarves, and decorative trims.
It can drape well across the body, but its slippery nature can make it tricky to work with.
What Is Silk Organza?
Silk organza is often used to create wedding dresses and other formal wear. It can be identified from its lightweight, delicate consistency, due to the small holes amongst the threads.
Higher quality organza will have more holes within every square inch of fabric, while cheaper organza has fewer holes, adding to their weight.
Silk organza is made from a thin weave, so it counts as a sheer fabric. Similar to chiffon, silk organza glimmers and see-through.
As the name suggests, the fabric is made from silk fibers, but synthetic organza can be made from artificial materials, such as polyester, for a lower cost.
Silk organza was originally made in China, though most of its production still takes place within the country.
Organza is made by tightly twisting thin, lengthy silk fibers to make yarns. The yarn is then treated with acid to make them more rigid.
Lastly, the yarns are woven in a simple over-under design to create the material.
The yarns are more rigid which gives organza a unique consistency. This makes it ideal for creating artistic, yet stylish contours ideal for high fashion dresses and formal wear.
What Is Organdy?
Also known as Swiss Organdy, organdy was very popular during the Victorian age. It may have declined in popularity, but it’s still used for lining gowns and creating petticoats.
Organdy is normally made of cotton in a standard over-under weave. However, it uses extremely fine strands that make the cotton slightly transparent.
The main distinction between cotton and organdy is that organdy is treated to make it rigid.
The stiff finish ensures organdy is firm and inflexible to touch, which is why it’s good for interfacing when sewing.
Some designers will layer organdy pieces on top of each other to create a garment with a lot of body. Despite this, organdy isn’t used that much in modern garments.
Synthetic organza became preferable when looking for rigid, durable materials, explaining why organdy has fallen out of favor.
What Is Georgette?
Chiffon and georgette have many similar characteristics, but georgette isn’t as see-through. Georgette is classed as a crepe material, just like chiffon.
It’s custom to make it from silk fibers, although its synthetic form is available at a lower cost.
Georgette is named after the French designer who created the fabric in the 20th century. It has a light matte, rumpled surface that dyes well, so it’s available in several designs and prints.
Georgette has a wrinkled surface as it’s made with S-twist and Z-twist yarns, just like chiffon, giving the fabric its slight corrugated feel.
It drapes very well, so it is often used to make saris, women’s shirts, and dresses.
In this day and age, georgette is available in various styles. Some kinds can have spandex fibers that make stretchy georgette.
Georgette made on a jacquard loom can give the fabric an interesting design, creating jacquard georgette.
What Is Gauze?
Gauze is made with an open weave that has distinct holes amongst the strands, allowing light to pass through it easily.
Gauze is often made with a Leno weaving method. This uses filler strands in between the over-under weave design.
There are many different types of gauze, such as linen, silk, and cotton. Cotton gauze is the most common and is often used for medical purposes.
It’s usually used to dress wounds, which is why it’s included in first aid kits and medical facilities.
Cotton gauze is very strong and porous, making it ideal to use in medical tasks. Gauze can have a rough texture that feels coarse, but it will be mostly transparent when you hold it against your eyes.
Gauze can be made from silk, though it isn’t commonly found today. Silk gauze is very fine and light, having traditional applications within China and other locations around the globe.
What Is Lace?
Lace is made from several fragile threads that make interesting patterns. Machine-made lace can be made from both synthetic and cotton fibers,
but lace was originally made from silk threads. Some lace was even made from silver threads.
Lace is a popular choice for decorative clothing and home decor. Most people understand what lace looks like, as it’s normally used in net curtains, tablecloths, lingerie, and hems on dresses.
Lace normally has holes between the threads, so it counts as semi-transparent, though this depends
on the desired pattern and how thin the threads are. Some common lace patterns are geometric shapes and flowers.
Lace can cost a lot, even when it contains synthetic fibers, as it needs complicated production methods. It was first made in the 1500s,
but it took a lot of time to make and could only be made by skilled individuals. This made lace a rare and valuable item. Many governments introduced taxes on it throughout history as it was so coveted.
The two most popular types of lace are needle and bobbin lace, though today’s manufacturers produce other varieties through chemical processes.
To this day, hand-made lace is more prevalent than machine-made lace, as it can handle complicated patterns and designs.
What Is Batiste?
Batiste is specifically made from cotton in a standard over-under weave. Batiste is very distinguishable compared to semi-transparent cotton,
as its threads are treated with caustic alkali. This produces mercerized cotton that gives the fabric a slight sheen.
Batiste isn’t used that much today, though you can spot it used in lingerie, handkerchiefs, and some high-end bedding.
It’s classed as a slightly sheer fabric, though it may have decorative edges attached when it’s used for modern garments.
Batiste was first made with linen before cotton became popular all over the world. Batiste looks like cambric and its stiffness and thickness lie in between organdy and cotton lawn.
What Is Cotton Lawn?
Cotton lawn is made from combed cotton strands in a plain weave. It has a large thread count that produces a sleek, translucent material.
As it is slightly transparent, cotton lawn dresses will often have layers underneath for privacy.
Cotton lawn can be opaque or translucent depending on the weaving method. Cotton knits, for example, are smooth and dense, which is why t-shirts tend to be made from them.
Whereas plain weave cotton lawn is made from fine strands which can look as fine and delicate as silk.
Lots of cotton varieties can be translucent or sheer depending on their weave. Other than cotton lawn, these include voile, batiste, and organdy.
What Is Voile?
Voile is the French term for a veil, which explains how fine and delicate this material is.
Voile is normally made from pure cotton fibers woven in a plain weave. It needs a greater thread count to ensure it’s smooth and slightly sheer, as it’s known for.
Voile is often worn during the summer months as it’s very lightweight and breathable. It’s available in several fun designs like polka dots and florals.
Higher quality voile will be woven tighter and should have a greater thread count. If you run your fingers across the material,
the threads shouldn’t divide or split from each other. Voile isn’t as transparent as batiste, but it is sheerer compared to cotton lawn.
What Is Sheer Nylon?
Stockings were once referred to as ‘nylons’, which gives you a clue as to what the fabric looks like. Sheer nylon is normally transparent with a smooth, even surface.
Nylon is made from synthetic materials. It’s made through a complicated manufacturing method known as polymerization. This creates fine threads out of plastic.
Nylon was first created during World War Two as a silk substitute, but it’s still used today for stockings, yoga attire, and athletic wear.
If nylon is used to make form-fitting clothing, it will be blended with another material, like spandex, to give it more stretch.
Sheer nylon used to make stockings is made with extremely thin threads. These are knit together with several small loops, creating a see-through, sleek material.
What Is Sheer Silk?
Sheer silk is available in several different types, including georgette, organza, chiffon, and voile. However, these materials tend to be made with synthetic fibers today.
The words ‘sheer silk’ doesn’t cover one type of material. It means that silk could be woven in many ways to make it a sheer fabric.
For instance, silk gauze is a type of sheer silk. It’s made by using an open weave that produces a very lightweight material.
Lots of silk varieties have sheerness to them, no matter how dense or light the weave is. Sheer silk just covers any see-through weave that uses silk fibers, even those that are slightly sheer.
Sheer silk will have a higher-end, luxurious feel to it, unlike materials made from synthetic fibers. It will be more expensive, but sheer silk curtain panels and some clothing styles are widely available.
Sheer silk clothing drapes nicely, but it may need layers underneath for modesty purposes.
What Is Sheer Polyester?
Polyester is sourced from petroleum byproducts. It’s very versatile as it can resemble many types of fabric.
You can often find chiffon, organza, voile, and other materials created from polyester fibers. 60% of retail clothing is made with polyester!
Most materials get their look and texture from their weave process, not the threads used. Polyester can be woven in many ways to resemble chiffon, satin, voile, and many more fabrics.
However, the term ‘sheer polyester’ is normally used to refer to chiffon used to create curtain sheers. These are sometimes called polyester sheers, or even more simply, sheers.
These panels are transparent and generally hang between the glass window and your thicker curtains. These will normally be cream or white to avoid clashing with the decor.
Sheer polyester can be used for clothing, but it’s much more popular to use in curtains.
What Is Tulle?
Also referred to as bobbinet, tulle is a delicate, yet resilient fabric. It’s made by twisting threads into little hexagon shapes that create its net-like form.
Tulle has many uses, like making bridal veils, gowns, and ballet tutus.
Tulle was first made in France. Lacemakers created the fabric by twisting threads on several bobbins, which explains its other name, bobbinet.
In a similar way to lace, tulle uses silk fibers, which make it particularly expensive. During the 19th century, ballerinas would wear tulle tutus which made the fabric grow in popularity
Movie stars in the 1950s also made tulle grow in popularity, as they often wore full-bodied tulle dresses and skirts. As the demand grew, manufacturers started looking for a more affordable method to make it.
In the modern world, tulle can be made from an artificial blend, like nylon. These synthetic fibers mimic durable, yielding threads, while a machine generates many little hexagon-shaped holes in the fabric.
Tulle is available in fine and denser netting, with both styles being transparent. The fabric can be bought in various colors to suit ballet tutus, wedding veils, and formal gowns.
What Is Netting?
Netting refers to any fabric that is woven with knots or loops. Tulle is one kind of netting, but many other netting fabrics exist too.
Netting is an open weave material that will always have holes between the thread loops, rendering it transparent.
As the holes are so distinct, this makes netting very breathable as air can circulate through the spaces.
Netting is used in the fashion world, but it’s more common to find it used in the medical and food industries. For example, you’ll often notice fruit encased in netting bags at the grocery store.
Knitted mesh weaves are a durable, yet lightweight fabric that’s often used for laundry bags.
Thinner netting that’s coated with plastic is used all around the world to defend against mosquito and insect bites.
What Is Muslin?
Muslin is made with cotton fibers in a plain, loose weave. It’s available in a range of thicknesses. Some kinds of muslin can be thin enough to look sheer, while others are dense enough to be rough and solid.
Other muslin varieties can swap cotton fibers for a blend of viscose or silk threads. For instance, Swiss muslin is made with a see-through weave and has distinct polka-dots within the material.
Muslin was first made in India. The craftspeople developed its muslin to an amazing standard, that it became worth its weight in gold in some areas.
Unfortunately, British colonialism shut the industry down, crushing it for many decades.
Muslin is still very popular today. It’s often used to create a mock-up fashion design or sewing project before producing the real garment. This is known as ‘making a muslin’.
Things To Do With Sheer Material
Purchasing sheer clothing can make a bold fashion statement, though you can attempt making translucent garments at home to update your style.
Several ready-made garments are made out of transparent material. Whether you choose a blouse,
sari, stockings, or lingerie, sheer materials can make you look elegant and stylish, as long as they’re styled appropriately.
Chiffon and voile will let light pass through it, giving off a gentle glimmer. Organza is ideal to create an arty constructed silhouette.
Lower-end brands like Walmart to higher-end designers will all use some sheer fabric in their clothing.
If you want to try sewing with sheer fabric, you may run into a few issues at first. These tips can make your attempt go a lot more smoothly.
- First, choose a pattern that doesn’t have any noticeable features on the inside, like pleats. These will be visible under the garment.
- Place the material in between two pieces of tissue paper, as this will let you cut easier.
- Instead of fabric pins, use fabric weights to hold the fabric in place.
- Seams with a closed, finished edge can hide raw edges that may fray easily. These may be a Hong Kong or a French seam.
- Test your sewing machine before you go in on the real garment. Stitch a fabric sample first with the intended fabric, needle size, and thread. This will give you an idea of how the final project will turn out.
- Always use the correct needle and thread. For instance, silk will work better with silk thread. Different cloth weights will work better with various needle sizes too. You may need a thinner or thicker needle depending on the material’s denier, but make sure that your needle isn’t blunt.
- In most cases, shorter stitches will work better on sheer fabrics.
- Place a ‘stitch starter’, or another piece of material, at the beginning of your seam. The fabric will stop the sheer material from getting stuck as you begin sewing. This starter fabric can be removed easily when the seam is completed.
The Right Sheer Materials For Clothing
Many garments use sheer materials for an elegant drape or a bold statement. Chiffon is often used for this, though you may notice voile and tulle used less often.
Mass-produced clothing generally uses synthetic materials, like polyester or nylon, to create these materials. Despite this, you can purchase more expensive fabrics made with natural fibers, like silk, if you prefer.
The right sheer fabric for your needs will depend on your style. Those that like sharper lines and fitted clothes may prefer organza garments.
On the other hand, people who prefer flowy, loose styles may find chiffon better.
We’ll cover some types of clothing and the sheer fabric often used to make them below.
You’ll find many women’s shirts made from sheer voile or chiffon. These will be available in many prints and colors, though some will be as bold to see straight through the garment.
In most cases, blouses will hint at being sheer, but drape in a way that doesn’t reveal too much.
Mass-retailed shirts may be made from sheer polyester and may have colorful patterns printed on them. You can also find particular sheer shirts made out of muslin or netting.
Those that want to spend a little more money may prefer sheer silk shirts, though these aren’t as available at high-street stores.
Silk organza is one of the most popular materials used to make formal dresses. It’s rigid enough to hold its shape, flattering many body shapes to make an elegant silhouette.
Both formal and informal dresses are often made with chiffon and voile, though tulle is normally saved for formal gowns.
For example, flowy hot weather dresses with many layers will often be made from chiffon or georgette.
Layers of sheer material can add femininity to your outfit. You could stitch tulle, silk, or chiffon panels underneath your skirt to give it a flowy, ethereal feel.
Pants aren’t usually made from sheer fabrics. However, translucent pants can make a bold statement when worn over an opaque layer.
For instance, sheer lace pants over a solid color lining can create an interesting fashion look.
You may be able to find vintage 70s wide-leg pants made from sheer fabric. These can give off a bohemian look,
particularly those with vibrant patterns or designs. They also have an advantage as they’re more difficult to see through.
Sheer fabrics refer to any material that’s woven in a way that lets light through it. These fabrics, like tulle, chiffon, and georgette, are see-through and have many uses.
They can make formal gowns and wedding veils, but sheer fabrics are also important for medical supplies and home decor.
Modern retail clothing tends to use less expensive synthetic fibers to make sheer clothing.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you prefer, you can pay more for sheer fabrics made from natural fibers, like silk or cotton.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get your last-minute questions answered below!
What Are Sheer Materials Used For?
Sheer fabrics are often used in fashion for wedding dresses, formal wear, and lingerie.
Gowns are usually made from lightly translucent materials like chiffon and organza, while sheer stockings are made from thinner nylon.
Sheer materials have other uses too, such as making exercise wear, privacy home curtains, and medical supplies.
Can You Iron Sheer Material?
As long as the manufacturer has stated so, you can iron sheer materials. Some sheer fabrics shouldn’t be washed regularly, but they may be suitably ironed.
Check the garments label to see if any iron guidelines are written on it. Ironing sheer materials should be done very carefully.
Use a cool or slightly heated iron and apply gentle pressure. It may be worth layering a different fabric on top of the garment to ensure the sheer fabric doesn’t burn.
How Should I Wear Sheer Fabric?
Sheer fabric can look elegant, but it’s important to keep the overall theme of your outfit balanced. Sheer fabrics are translucent,
so opt for garments with sheer panels that show off your favorite areas, but cover the areas that you’re not so fond of.
Make sure you wear the right lingerie underneath too. Clear bra straps or nude strapless bras are good choices, as they will remain invisible under sheer material.