Confused about dresses and the required infrastructure.
July 9, 2010 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Me and my girlfriend would like to find out how to deal with transparent dresses - do people still wear petticoats?

So, I'm on vacation with my girlfriend in a hot and humid place, and she suddenly figures she would like to wear a dress instead of her usual jeans-and-t-shirt uniform. We spend some time browsing local shops and find a bunch of nice dresses, but all the ones we like (thin fabric, light) have the common flaw of being way too transparent in the nether parts, providing a clear outline of underwear and anatomical details that seems a bit more than is warranted for the general public.

So, how does one deal with this? Some less-than-discreet observation this afternoon revealed that some people seem to wear petticoats, though it's always hard to figure out whether they come integrated with the dress or are actually a separate item. Some people seem to wear leggings or pants under this kind of dress, which we don't consider an option.

So, my question probably is - how does one usually deal with such transparent dresses? Are they intended to be this revealing? Do people under the age of a hundred actually buy dresses and then go separate places to obtain petticoats?

Location is southern France, if that is any help.
posted by themel to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
She should wear a slip. They're separate from the dress, and they're very thin (so it doesn't add a lot of heat or volume) but are opaque enough to solve the problem.

I'm 25 and I wear slips. They make me feel classy.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:57 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a dude, but wouldn't she just want to wear a slip?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2010

You'll have more success with this if you get your vocabulary straight. You don't mean a petticoat. You mean a slip, which is an undergarment meant to make dresses less transparent and also help them hang better.

Some women let it all hang out. I prefer the nude underwear, nude bra option (buying underwear that's so close to your skin color that you can't really tell what's going on.) A seamless bra is preferable in this situation.
posted by purpleclover at 10:59 AM on July 9, 2010

Your girlfriend is not alone.

This is what slips are for (not petticoats!). Half-slips for skirts; a full slip that is like a stripped-down dress for dresses. The color should be close to her skin tone for maximum invisibility, not the color of the dress or white or black. You may have trouble finding one nowadays - check a department store.

Otherwise, wear cute underwear and smile.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:59 AM on July 9, 2010

How about a camisol up top and boy shorts instead of bikini or thong underwear. The only other thing I can think of is a slip but I tend to associate that with old ladies. Not sure if that would make her even more hot.
posted by mokeydraws at 11:00 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the answer is slip, though in my experience the only people I've known who wear them are my mom, grandma, and people who are into cosplay or period clothing. But I don't hang out with particularly fancy people.

My answer to this would be undergarments the same color as her skin and a brazen attitude.
posted by phunniemee at 11:01 AM on July 9, 2010

A half-slip. If it's super hot and humid, a nylon slip isn't going to be all that pleasant. You might be able to find a cotton one but it will cling to the skirt a bit more. Her other option is skin-toned full coverage undergarments.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:06 AM on July 9, 2010

I like cotton slips, since I live in a warm and humid climate. If you can't find cotton slips locally, there's always the Vermont Country Store. Cotton batiste is much cooler than cotton knit, but both are cooler than nylon and other synthetics.
posted by Ery at 11:16 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Oops, sorry, the mail-order link I posted isn't going to be very appealing to someone in France, given the cost of shipping.)
posted by Ery at 11:18 AM on July 9, 2010

Underwear that matches your skin tone as closely as possible, with as little bulky elastic/seams as you can find. Having survived 10 miserably hot and humid summers in Baltimore, I can testify that every extra layer, no matter how thin, will make you hotter and stickier.

(For the same reason, clothing with linings, although generally of better quality than unlined pants and skirts etc, was maladaptive.)
posted by Quietgal at 11:24 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

As a young person, I feel almost morally opposed to slips. I mostly wear cotton shorts, like Soffes, or spandex underneath. Wearing shorts or spandex has the added benefit of not accidentally flashing somebody when sitting or bending over.
posted by pecknpah at 11:27 AM on July 9, 2010

As a young person, I feel almost morally opposed to slips. I mostly wear cotton shorts, like Soffes, or spandex underneath. Wearing shorts or spandex has the added benefit of not accidentally flashing somebody when sitting or bending over.

Young people today. I took a look at that site. They look like shorts you'd wear to the gym. If she wants to look like she just got back from the gym and threw on a pretty dress over her gym clothes, then I guess that's okay.

As for wearing boy shorts - it's still underwear. I mean, techically I guess a slip is underwear too, but it provides more coverage. It just looks "right".

I think the reason younger people associate slips with "old" people is because most dresses these days don't require them. I can't think of the last time I've had to wear one. The dresses I do have that are made of flimisier material come with their own liners.
posted by Evangeline at 11:34 AM on July 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

I am neither fancy nor a grandma. I wear slips under skirts/dresses all the time and I don't feel like they add so much weight as to be uncomfortable in the heat of summer. I wear them for a lot of reasons: so I don't have to worry what color/type of undergarments I have clean when choosing my outfit for the day; to cover panty lines; and to smooth things out without having to wear those awful shaper garments. So many casual skirts and dresses are made of clingy jersey type materials that really show every line, dimple, and bump.

Finding dress slips (as opposed to half slips) in the US is maddeningly difficult though. I guess people don't wear them much anymore, but I would if I could find them.
posted by misskaz at 11:35 AM on July 9, 2010

So many casual skirts and dresses are made of clingy jersey type materials that really show every line, dimple, and bump.

And this is a really good reason to invest in a slip as well.
posted by Evangeline at 11:38 AM on July 9, 2010

I think shorts or spandex would look weird under a transparent dress. And spandex would be hot! Bend at the knees and won't flash anyone.

In a casual environment (like vacationing) I would go with the nude, full-coverage underwear. In a more formal environment (nice restaurant, work), I would go with a slip.
posted by jeoc at 11:39 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I too wear slips. I have a bunch of unlined skirts. I am not a fancy person. And I don't see the point of boy shorts or whatever. I don't want everyone to see the outline of my thighs all the way up. And nor do they.
posted by gaspode at 11:40 AM on July 9, 2010

As a now-American (in her 30s) who was an English little girl, I still wear half-slips and call them petticoats (but I think I'm outdated -- I don't remember seeing things labeled petticoats in M&S last month when I went to look, realizing I'd forgotten to pack one. Of course, I can't remember what they did call them!). A lot of higher-quality dresses will come with built-in slips, so your observations may well have included that. To be honest, my reaction to dresses that come without them is that they expect the wearer to be okay with being a little slutty.

One tricky thing about wearing a petticoat/half-slip is that with very thin dresses you can see where it stops at the waist -- and to me that looks weird, so then I go for the "I'm young enough to get away with the nude-underwear-and-my-silhouette-and-panty-lines-are-visible look" excuse, rather than wearing a full slip which, for me, raises new complications of straps that show, etc. In other words, I decide I'm okay with being a little slutty. (Yes, I realize how judgmental that sounds -- but these days 9 times out of 10 I actually go that route; slips have definitely become more useful to me as winter-wear to prevent static cling between skirts and tights than as summertime modesty shields.)

After all, my mother is still horrified if my legs are visible, even if "visible" means "vaguely silhouetted if I stand directly in front of car headlights," but no one else has ever seemed to notice or care (but then again, who would actually say anything to my face?).

And as a last random thought, you can get petticoats that look like skirts but are are actually shorts -- my sister introduced me to these and they are the last word in awesome, if one decides one is into this sort of garment at all.
posted by obliquicity at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2010

Well, the point of the shorts is that they make it harder to see absolutely every curve and line in that region. I don't think the OP meant that the dresses are, you know, actually transparent, just pretty see through. You shouldn't actually be able to see the shorts; if that's the case, then yeah, get a slip. But if you're worried about wanting to cover up the outline, then shorts are a good way to go. YMMV, of course.
posted by pecknpah at 11:50 AM on July 9, 2010

I either wear slips, or nude boy-short/hipster type underwear (the kind that are like perfectly fitted skintight spandex shorts that barely cover my bum, making sure they're tight enough to lie smoothly but loose enough not to give me a muffintop).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:00 PM on July 9, 2010

As an added bonus, slips can be really, really sexy.

Of course it helps to hold a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other while you're wearing it. It also helps to be Elizabeth Taylor.
posted by Evangeline at 12:06 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Or Grace Kelly, in "Rear Window."
posted by Carol Anne at 12:09 PM on July 9, 2010

I have several lightweight summer dresses that consist of two gauzy layers: the external shell (usually an intricate pattern), and a sleeveless interior layer a bit shorter than the outer shell, that is sewn to the exterior layer at the shoulders only. This built-in slip, plus some near-skin-tone undies, make the dress both cool and unrevealing.

You can whip up your own sleeveless, scoop-necked slip with one or two layers of cotton gauze (much cooler than nylon) pretty easily if you have access to a sewing machine or a friend you can trade favours with. You can make just one in a skin tone that could be used with all kinds of lightweight dresses, or you could make several in skintone so you always have a clean one, or make several in a matching or complementary colour to each main dress that could be tacked in at the shoulders. The complementary ones could be even longer than the main dress for a nice colour contrast.

A cotton gauze half slip for skirts would be even easier to make, as it's just a slightly flared tube.

And if you don't want to sew, try Googling "gauze slip" or "gauze chemise".
posted by maudlin at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2010

For maximum comfort with congruent coverage, I'd recommend a combination of cotton-blend camisole with tap pants. Depending upon your girlfriend's complexion, either beige or pale pink tend to be most invisible under gauzy dresses.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:57 PM on July 9, 2010

I wear shifty dresses all the time in the summer and don't even own a slip. Now, I think I probably should own a slip because they are pretty damn sexy, but I don't.

I just wear nude colored underwear with no seams. The key is to avoid garish colors or seamed, elastic panties that will that will show through the dress. Yeah, the dress is still see through, but what can be glimpsed is not any worse than what I'd be wearing at the beach. Bathing suits = underwear.

As background, I grew up in Italy (where I have never seen a slip outside of my mother's closet) and now live in Boston (where I have never seen a slip on anyone but an underwear model).
posted by lydhre at 1:34 PM on July 9, 2010

If I'm wearing something that's quite see-through, I like to put a handkerchief linen (also called tissue linen; it's just a very very thin soft linen) camisole or shift under it. Sometimes I'll layer two pieces of handkerchief linen together.

I don't wear poly or nylon next to my skin because, for me, they feel clammy and sticky, especially in hot or humid weather. Cotton knit tends to stick both to me and to the outer layer of fabric, making everything look rumpled and lumpy. Linen is ever so slightly crisper, so it doesn't stick so much. (Lightweight woven cotton probably has the same effect, but I only have experience with linen.)

Once upon a time I had a favorite summer dress that showed my [omg everything]. I hated to wear a slip or shift under it, because the lightness and floatiness of the dress was part of its appeal: I loved that it didn't touch me anywhere below the bustline, but just floated around me like a cloud. To solve the [omg everything] problem, I stitched some very lightweight floursack towels inside the waistline, hanging down. I didn't even stitch them together at the sides, but left them floating freely. It worked beautifully and cost about two dollars. I have since done the same with a see-through black skirt and two panels of black fabric.
posted by Elsa at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2010

I wore dresses exclusively for many years, starting when I was 16. My answer was always a silk slip.
posted by Ouisch at 3:22 PM on July 9, 2010

And in the summer, a linen or cotton muslin slip would be lovely.
posted by Ouisch at 3:23 PM on July 9, 2010

I'd go for spanx in a flesh tone or some such thing and a lined flesh-tone bra. Smooths things out, and I effing hate slips. They tend to cling, get static, show...blarrrgh.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:24 PM on July 9, 2010

What you want is something in nude, or your skin color, that hides very obvious lines, dimples, nipples, etc. Seamless is a good way to go.

Slips can definitely be sexy, and don't cling if you use, or store them in the drawer with, fabric softener sheets. They also do not need to be nylon, which is hotter and itchier than cotton.

You could also, like an old girl friend of mine, use flesh-colored round band-aids to cover up your nipples (no, I am not making that up).

Or you could shave completely bare all over, so that there is nothing to make your nether regions prominent.

A really nice sundress, with a built-in bra top and thin under liner, is always a good investment, though. I have several.
posted by misha at 7:43 PM on July 9, 2010

Wow, my mind is just blown that people find slips uncomfortable, but Spanx are just fine. I mean, don't get me wrong, I own some Spanx, but I only wear them in absolute emergency situations. Sure, they're more comfortable than an old-fashioned girdle, but they are by no means a joy to wear. And compared to the feeling of a silky slip against your skin? Jeez, no contest.
posted by Evangeline at 7:44 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just bought some nude-colored cotton bike shorts for this very reason (and also for reasons of, ahem, chafing.) A light silk or cotton slip would also help.
posted by doift at 8:49 PM on July 9, 2010

I wear a half slip. I live in Texas and it is not uncomfortably hot, and I think the people that say it's too hot to wear a slip must not be very heat-tolerant. Just don't get one of those super shiny nylon ones that stick to sweaty skin and it's fine.
posted by ishotjr at 7:50 AM on July 10, 2010

Really, Evangeline? I love spanx! Getting them on is a crazy exercise in flexibility, but once they're on, I love them! There are a few different kinds; some are softer than others and some are more intensely "shaping".

I wore them under my wedding dress and have loved them ever since.

Slips aren't uncomfortable physically--they're just nervewracking because they're always doing crazy things and possibly showing people my butt.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2010

Oh I think Spanx are great at what they do, but yeah, I really don't feel so comfortable in them. Part of it may just be the way I look in them before I put my clothes on - makes me feel decidedly unpretty. Also, that extra fat has to somewhere, and it usually goes right over the waistband! I might have a better opinion of them if I were skinnier.
posted by Evangeline at 1:12 PM on July 10, 2010

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