Doing underwear as outerwear is easier to pull of than you’d think!
By Chantal Brocca
When underwear as outerwear hits the runway for X consecutive seasons, you have to wonder: has the world gone cray cray over lingerie? Is it that we are so bored with wearing underwear inside our pants we gave them their own starring role on the ready-to-wear runway? Or perhaps we’re all broke and so turn to cutting down our cost-per-wear so we don’t have to give up those sweet, short lived moments of retail therapy when our brains get hijacked by waves of designer endorphins?
I mean, I would get it – I’m the first one to ask what’s the point of buying a deliciously voguish $300 embroidered slip dress if a) my boyfriend barely sees it before he rips it off in T-1 seconds, and b) if literally NO ONE is going to notice my new wardrobe killer?
It’s just basic economics: I’d like a satisfactory return on my lingerie investment, thank you very much.
Whatever the cause, my lingerie loving bone is literally SCREAMING: never has the world of lingerie encompassed so much. It has now permanently moved beyond our bedrooms, allowing it to take different forms and evolve in a flurry of romantic applique embellishments, in flounces and frills that now adorn hemlines and sleeves, and in panels and panels of our new favorite signifier of chic, ‘the sheer.’
This inherently feminine style has certainly moved past its provocative beginnings, when wearing a corset over your jeans offended thy delicate sensibilities, branching out into endless expressions and variations of what lingerie, sensuality and femininity have come to mean. But it definitely took us time to get it classy (mentally blocking out underwear as outerwear’s WTF moment during the early 2000s, as you should too).
Thankfully, we are way past pulling the sides of our neon pink G-string visibly out from the depths of our jeans. Mothers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief: we’ve understood that bringing sexy to the forefront requires some semblance of refinement; of style. And brands have responded with gusto, developing creative concepts that begin with lingerie but end with the modern woman in mind, producing something different, beautiful, and most importantly, wearable.
Yet some still ask: how does one wear lingerie out-of-doors? Especially when temperatures are lower than a Saudi Shiekha’s hemline?
My top tips for wearing underwear as outerwear
- Warm up with a fine Merino knit sweater or thick cotton/bamboo tee worn under a cami top or slip dress
- Keep legs cozy by adding a pair of knee high boots to a kaftan or slip dress
- Don’t be afraid to cover up with a velvet blazer or cashmere cardi
- Wearing a cami or slip dress? Make sure it’s plain, with no transparency or lace, otherwise it’s a bit too ‘ooh la la’ for wearing outside
- Chunky heeled ankle boots keep feet from freezing and look awesome with a slip dress
- It’s all about accessories. Transform a slip into a dress by wearing a choker and earrings, carrying a delicate bag, or even a hat.
- Be careful with your footwear. A pair of satin stilettos is off the menu – save that for the boudior, dear. Instead, wear with chunky heeled boots, platforms or a mannish shoe.
Oh, and BTW, underwear as outerwear has gone green. If you’re having a hard time navigating through the endless array of RTW featuring the trend of the century, here’s five sustainable luxury brands that got it oh-so-right.
The best brands for underwear as outerwear
Can’t go bralette over top to your corporate job? Besides the fact that you really, probably shouldn’t, Minan Wong has your work life wardrobe covered, allowing the modern go-getter to strut confidently in looks that are chic, professional, and undeniably stylish.
Her line is exquisitely feminine, deriving inspiration from delicate floral patterns and nature, but not only: designer Mimi Wong has been sustainable from the start, rolling out of FIT with an award winning jacket made from a recycled IKEA carpet, before going on to base her company in NYC. Her designs are produced locally in the US for fair wages, utilizing a mix of eco-friendly fabrics such as Tencel, Cupro, recycled PET, organic cotton and local domestic USA ponte.
And she understood one thing: underwear as outerwear doesn’t have to engulf everything: there is grace in combining clean, classic cuts with little sections of ‘oomph.’ She takes the pencil skirt and adds what you normally find adorning delicate night dresses, or gives a twist to comfortable silhouettes, allowing a layer of lace to peek through slits typically reserved for slips.
Needless to say, we like like like!
Sophistication’s the name and art’s the game; art lovers this is for you: gorgeous hand drawn prints that drape you into a silky feeling of pure elegance. Meng Zhang’s vision is to inspire by bringing psychedelic bursts of colors and shapes to unique oriental prints, allowing each and every piece to tell a story that defines her world of modern luxury living. This vibrant mosaic is then printed in Italy and handcrafted locally in the UK using only natural fabrics for an ultimate eco-relaxation experience in kaftans, robes, kimonos and naturally, pjs.
Ok so yes, they do state their designs are primarily for lounging around at home or to rock at a pyjama party (don’t mind if I do) but like I said earlier, some things are just TOO gorgeous to keep confined behind four walls.
And besides, I always say the kimono is like the modern matinee dress: technically, it’s not really pyjamas and so we could totally get away with wearing it over anything, anytime (please feel free to make that palazzo pants) – let alone when runways are littered with pyjamas and heels. Do. It.
You know we love this brand. For those of you who missed it, this baby produces handmade, hand dyed, hand printed, hand everything luxury silk pieces at affordable prices, designed and crafted by local women in Bali.
If bohemian grunge is more your vibe, then you’ve come to the right place. Grab a sheer striped buttoned down and throw it over a bralette or silk cami. Spice up that silk slip dress with a pair of chunky boots (vegan Doc Martens, perhaps?) and a vintage velvet blazer – nay, wear it over a long sleeve sheer lace body and pull up your hair in a messy vintage ‘do. Add a brooch and choker. Too much? No! Not enough! But you get the drift: timeless cuts also mean endless styling possibilities.
Oh, and excuse me madam, but have you tried to team their peach silk buttoned shirts with lace trimmed pyjama pants and loafers? Or an oversized bedazzled jeans jacket?
Right, ok, I’ll stop now.
As the name implies, these cool printed robes, kaftans and kimonos fit the bill when it comes to street styling. Loungewear and beachwear becomes effortlessly breezy casual wear for when the idea of putting together an outfit makes you pull a can’t even. The best part? Besides being handmade locally in Britain using only 100% cràªpe de chine silk (if you’ve ever rubbed that on your face – it is damn fine), Holland Street’s whole process follows a minimal waste principle, applying innovative manufacturing methods in order to enact its sustainable vision.
And the prints! Collections are inspired from the world around us: from celebrated Japanese artists to dominant fashion figures throughout history, embellishing with unique combinations pairing geometry with florals. Literally perfect for every day of the year. For winter, just pair up with skinny jeans or tights and over the knee boots; for summer, these are basically dresses you can style up or down with heels or sandals.
Never underestimate the power of retro – there’s something alluringly mysterious about fashion before our time, inciting some sort of blind nostalgia for things we never actually had the chance to experience (enter an insatiable appetite for vintage). Which is probably why Reformation’s designs (made from dead end stock fabrics) feel like they’ve got so much character; every piece wows in its construction – simple yet effective – that you really don’t need much else.
The easiest way to wear their slinky slip dresses and cute cami tops? The plunging necklines, back lines and monochrome palettes make them perfect for layering over anything from a tee and heels to a long sleeved sweater and boots , providing a clean cut contrast to something a little more provocative. Sick of always seeing that satin sheen? You’re in luck: the latest collection is basically an homage to velvet.
This eco-minded company makes lingerie too beautiful to confine to the bedroom. For example, their slinky Bed Jackets can sit beautifully with jeans or a pencil skirt (we love the Orla Silk design), and their bias-cut Sophia camisole in sweet cerise can have a neo-grunge effect under an old cardigan paired with ripped jeans, or be quite elegant with palazzo pants and a velvet blazer.
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