What Is a Gossamer Dress?

Barely there gossamer is a breeze to wear.

Photo: Donna Ward/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Ultra-thin, light fabrics are the ultimate summer-friendly fashion statement for keeping your look stylish and functional. The thinnest of the thin is gossamer, a fabric so sheer and airy it gets its name from the threads spun in a spider's web. No need to get close to creepy crawlies to rock the gossamer look. Casual summer dresses in this beachy fabric are sexy right off the rack.

The Gossamer Glossary

If you're looking for a dress in an authentic gossamer, you might run into a bit of trouble at the boutique. In fashion, the term "gossamer" is used more as a descriptor than a noun. Any super-sheer, ultra-thin fabric can use the gossamer moniker. If you're ordering a dress online that claims to be gossamer fabric, you're likely ordering a dress made from a gauze-like thread with a loose, open weave that makes the fabric sheer and airy. High-quality gossamer like you might see in wedding dresses is usually very fine silk, but casual dresses might be cotton or any number of synthetic fibers such as nylon or polyester blends.

Gossamer Dress Styles

Gossamer dresses run the gamut from princess-ready formal wear to beach-appropriate casual wear. If you're planning your big wedding day, you've probably tried on a gown or two with layers of sheer gossamer silk that create a full but lightweight skirt and train. The same layered skirt is a romantic style for summer cocktail dresses. For the ultimate sheer gossamer experience, loose-fitting shifts or slinky sheath dresses leave you feeling as if you're wearing barely anything, while keeping your style fashion-forward and totally versatile.

When to Wear

You probably won't see racks lined with gossamer dresses when the colder weather hits. Breezy gossamer is best worn to welcome the warmer spring and summer weather, so stock up on styles when beach season hits. Gossamer is wonderfully romantic, so be an ethereal vision in a short gossamer dress if you're invited to a summer garden party or outdoor cocktail party. The thinness of gossamer makes it a front-runner if you are headed for a day at the beach, but don't feel like strutting around in your bikini all day. A loose gossamer shift dress is a casual cover-up that gives you an easy transition from sand to surf.

Tips for Going Gossamer

If you only remember one lesson about gossamer, it should be that it is sheer. If the light hits you right, or if you get your gossamer dress even a little bit wet, you'll be showing off all the goods unless you've got lots of gossamer layers going on. Do several mirror checks, ask a friend to give you a once-over in natural light, and ditch the dark undies for something nude. The other option is to embrace the see-through aspect, and layer a bright cami or neon bathing suit underneath your gossamer dress to intentionally show it off. Gossamer is also particularly finicky when it comes to washing. Follow those instructions on the tag, and if it insists on dry cleaning only, accept it -- you might end up with gossamer shreds instead of a gossamer dress if you aren't careful.

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"Fabric Art Workshop: Exploring Techniques and Materials for Fabric Artists and Quilters"; Susan Stein; 2007 "Classic and Modern Fabrics: The Complete Illustrated Sourcebook"; Janet Wilson; 2010

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