What Is a Slip and Why You Should Wear One

Slips have a reputation of being an outdated undergarment. But more and more these days, people are looking for slips to wear underneath sheer dresses, or to add a layer between itchy clothing and their skin. In fact, some stylish wearers make their slip part of their outfit!

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Past Uses

Vintage Slip

Honey Bottle Vintage

In the past, slips were very popular undergarments. Wearing one put a layer of material between clothing and our bodies. Partially, this was to keep body oils and perspiration from getting onto the clothes, since washing a full dress was a much bigger ordeal than the casual jeans and t-shirts of today. Slips also protected the body against coarse materials like wool. And some slips were worn for modesty. In addition, slips helped provide shape to the clothing. This was especially true of something full and stiff, like a crinoline or petticoat. A crinoline is a stiffened or hooped petticoat worn to make a long skirt stand out, and could sometimes be combined with a slip.

Because slips were commonly worn as undergarments years ago, they are popular with vintage fans. Brittany D’Erasmo, owner of Honey Bottle Vintage shares her point of view: "I believe vintage shoppers look at slips in a unique way. For them, [a vintage slip] is more about a feeling of nostalgic glamour and beauty that they are seeking, rather than functionality, and for wearing in intimate settings." Since some have lace trims and satin or silk material, they can be quite pretty to wear.

Because of their pretty materials and decorative details, underwear like a vintage slip can be worn as outerwear these days. "I’ve also seen some customers wear their slips outside of the boudoir as part of a regular outfit by layering it over a top with sleeves and adding a cute pair of boots," adds D'Erasmo. A modern version of this kind of slip can be found from luxury brands like La Perla or Natori. Both of these companies create gorgeous silk slips that can be worn as a chemise, nightgown, undergarment, or even a dress.

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Current Uses

Slip under sheer dress

Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

In current society, slips serve updated functions. From Heather Garcia, Bare Necessities merchandise manager, “A slip’s purpose is to avoid dresses clinging to the skin and to help the dress lay right. It’s also good for modesty for a sheer or thinner dress.” Wearing a slip with a clingy or lightweight material dress is the most popular reason to wear one these days. It’s also an extra layer of material for windy days. A slip that is a straighter cut, or tighter to the body than the skirt over it, can stay down and in place to keep you covered.

One way to wear a slip now is not just hidden under your outfit, but as part of it. You can wear a slip that shows, even matching the slip to your outfit. Free People carries slips of all varieties, in many colors and stunning styles. Some of their options are seamless and snug, while others have a fuller shape and decorative accents. Pairing the color and style to your outfit means you can let the slip show instead of keeping it hidden. Let a brightly colored seamless slip shine through a sheer dress. Or let a beautifully decorative edge slip peek out of the top or bottom of a mini dress. Allowing your slip to peer out of the bottom of your skirt is also a stylish way to lengthen your skirt without any sewing.

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Skin Tone and Seamless

Nubian Skin

 Nubian Skin

When worn as a barrier and undergarment, the popular option is to find something simple and seamless. Because one of the most popular reasons to wear a slip is to conceal what’s underneath, wearing one close to your skin tone is the best way to make sure it’s invisible. Skin tone undergarments blend in with your own skin for a clean look. Several brands make neutral and skin tone slips. In fact, this tone is surpassing popularity over white, ivory, and black slips. Garcia suggests the collection from Commando because they have adjustable straps and a seamless, laser-cut edge. That means you can get a great fit and a clean look. These slips also address a common complaint. Some slips tend to ride up or move around. These slips “also have a patented weighted hem that prevents the slip from creeping up,” adds Garcia. You can wear your slip without fear of it migrating up, down, or around.

There are many options for light skin tones, including several styles and lengths versions from Commando.

Finding one to match a darker skin tone for people of color has been a challenge in the past. Nubian Skin is one brand that is out to change that. This company specifically designs slips for darker skin tones, among other products like hosiery, shoes, and bras. “We think the slip is an absolute essential, which is why we decided to produce it for the Naked Collection at Nubian Skin. Given recent trends in sheer clothing, a slip that blends perfectly with your skin-tone is the ideal undergarment to wear underneath a sheer dress”, says Amy Lodder of the brand. Their slips, along with several other undergarments and shoe styles, are available in four skin tone shades of Berry, Cinnamon, Caramel & Cafe au Lait.

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Shapewear Slip

Hooked Up Shapewear

 Hooked Up Shapewear

When wearing a very snug outfit, you can slip into a slip that is skin tight. Try a tube dress style slip, or even one with a built-in bra. These skin tight styles may or may not be designed with an element of shaping, but they should fit close to the body like a second skin. Garcia notes that some dresses or outfits are too tight to wear a slip underneath. “Slips aren’t as prevalent as they used to be because dress materials are more comfortable and forgiving, and shapewear is more popular and serves a similar function. I wouldn’t bother with a slip for a body-con style dress; instead, I would opt for shapewear.”

Try a style that is meant to shape, smooth, and look totally seamless like the style here from Hooked Up Shapewear. It’s thinner than most shapewear, and has special patented hooks that attach to the back of the bra, underneath the bra band. That way there is one seamless line from the bra to the back and the slip won’t slip down.

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Slip Shorts

Thigh Society

 Thigh Society

An alternative to a skirt style slip is a slip short. While you can wear shapewear shorts underneath a dress, you may not always want the extra shaping or heavy duty material. At the same time, you may want a layer of material in between the thighs to avoid rubbing.

A slip short like the styles available from Thigh Society function as a slip because they are opaque and provide a layer between you and your clothing, and function as an anti-chafing garment. All without the pesky squeezing and pinching of shapewear.