Perhaps it’s time to institute a rule for sheer dresses: That they should cover no less than 50 percent of their wearer’s body, perhaps? A hard-and-fast number would have aided Beyonce at last night’s Met Ball, where a surprisingly sheer Givenchy sheer dress landed her on many worst- dressed lists in an example of risk-taking gone awry.
When sheer dresses are done right, they become instant classics, like Halle Berry’s 2002 Elie Saab Oscars dress. When they’re done wrong — oh so wrong — they’re mocked on the Internet for years, as in the case of Rose McGowan’s 1998 MTV Video Music Awards Dress that left very little to the imagination. Beyonce’s black-and-sheer beaded dress with a purple ombre train falls in between.
Sheer dresses are a calculated risk on the red carpet. They’re sure to get you noticed, but maybe for all of the wrong reasons — and sometimes, that’s okay, too. Think about Cher’s 1988 Bob Mackie Oscar gown, which exposed even more than Beyonce’s Givenchy: It may have been on worst-dressed lists, but it was unforgettable — and it was the gown she wore to accept her Oscar, for “Moonstruck.”
Berry’s Oscar, too, was acceped in her famous burgundy Elie Saab dress, but that was widely praised, both for its gutsiness, and perhaps because its overall coverage was balanced out by a full, opaque skirt. Same goes for Jennifer Lopez’s famous 2000 Versace Grammy dress, with its see-through jungle print and plunging neckline, offset by a long hem and sleeves.
Beyonce’s dress, admittedly, isn’t much skimpier than these — but its cluster of unflattering beading, which seems to resemble an abstraction of the human skeletal system, combined with the sheerness of the dress and the ombre skirt’s unfortunate resemblance of a Muppet’s pelt, altogether creates one seriously unflattering gown.
Other celebrities at Monday night’s Met Ball wore sheer dresses too, but to lesser effect. Marion Cotillard’s strapless, gridded Christian Dior dress also featured an black-and-purple ombre sheer skirt, but with much more coverage on top. Rooney Mara, also in Givenchy, wore a sheer, beaded black dress with a train, but with a one-shoulder, belted opaque bodice. Renee Zellweger opted for sheer black sleeves on her sweetheart-neckline gown, and Heidi Klum’s blue mini was covered by a sheer blue lace overlay (see all of these dresses in our Met Ball gallery, above).
But for all who put Beyonce on the worst-dressed list for her sheer gown and her Cher moment, they’d do better to replace her with another guest at the Met Ball who one-upped her: Fashion’s former enfant terrible, Marc Jacobs, wore a see-through black lace tunic, accessorized with pilgrim-buckle shoes, white boxer briefs, and a smirk.