Style Notes: Mesh Tops

My mesh and tulle obsession continues to escalate as I’ve realized there are so many more ways to style mesh tops in outfits besides just a fitted black mesh or lace option under a cami slip dress or over a bralette!

I love a good layered look but personally hate feeling too ensconced in fabric, and the more airy feel and slimmer silhouette of mesh tops is a lot easier to work with, both because it feels less stuffy with thicker clothing and doesn’t fight with slinkier fabrics.

With so many variations of color, print, and cut, mesh tops can be worked into a lot of styles! Today I wanted to share some inspo from my Pinterest board (you can also find the sources of all the collage images there), a few outfits I’ve put together as I’ve started playing more with mesh, and reviews of my recently purchased pieces.

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Styling Inspiration

Y2K Brights

Futuristic bright colors in sporty cuts go excellently with the casual side of the era’s optimistic more is more aesthetic. Psychedelic patterns and y2k motifs like smiley faces and butterflies and a color palette of neons, pastels, and other clear/clean (not muddy/muted) colors will bring a mesh top toward this style. To me (and I’m sure a lot of other folks) a lot of the more sedate y2k style can often feel like “it’s just clothes?”, so if you’re interested in mixing in some of that look, a mesh element can make a variety of t-shirt or knitwear based outfits feel more ~fashion~, especially if paired with a bold accessory like slim or rectangular sunglasses or some layered casual necklaces.

Unabashedly girly

These outfits from Anna Sui Spring 2020 RTW are a really fun example of mixing more vintage romantic style pieces with bright mesh/netting tops can create a playful look. I think in these particular ones, the color coordination and luxurious fabrics (and fabric volume on the ruffles) keep it from going into “my toddler dressed me”, and the half-up relatively natural texture hairstyles add some polish without potentially getting too stuffy the way a full updo or more styled looking waves would.

Romantic

Mesh with ruffle trim and voluminous sleeves can pair well with a more formal outfit, adding a lightness to something victorian or medieval inspired. Ruffly mesh can also add a sultry-sweet lingerie element to dress up an otherwise casual outfit or help tie in more old timey pieces to more modern ones. And yeah, probably a lot of this stuff is probably organza and not tulle or stretch mesh, but in my mind they are friends and can hang ๐Ÿ™‚

Sporty

If frou-frou isn’t for you, the activewear side of mesh means it’s also easily styled into a sportier look. I didn’t go for any literal athleisure or mixed-activewear outfits here, but sleeker designs of mesh tops paired with minimalist styling feels energetic and not so fussy. It’s all around a great way to add depth without weighting down a look.

Tonal / Monochrome

With tonal or monochrome looks, mixing up the texture intensity keeps things from feeling too boring, and a mesh top is a great option to add dimension to the outfit.

High contrast color

While black mesh layered with another black top seems to be the most common styling in stock photos, one of my favorite ways to see mesh in an outfit is with a bold contrasting color. The sheerness of the mesh simultaneously makes the outfit feel more fun (and less like pajamas or like a “my mom made me wear this turtleneck under my princess costume on Halloween” sort of layering) while also toning down the color by letting some of your natural complexion through.

Prints

A printed style is an easy way to incorporate a more distinct aesthetic (hippie/kawaii/goth…) and often it will feel more casual than a mesh top that has visual interest from texture or embellishment. IMO a printed top also steers away from a more lingerie vibe and a more chaotic print will also make bumps from inner layered items less obvious.

Maximalist

Thinking about how to the inside layers of an outfit is so underrated compared to adding accessories and outer layers when you’re looking to add MORE! Mesh is an easy way to work in yet another layer at the bottom of the stack, and if worn as a mid or outer layer, the wonders of sheer fabric means it won’t hide all the other fun pieces in the outfit.

Low Key

Doesn’t have to be complicated! You can totally just wear a mesh top with your favorite jeans or a simple top and let it do its thing without playing accessories tetris. With a little bit of color coordination, louder mesh can be incorporated into a look that’s proportionally mostly neutral or minimalist without feeling out of place, like in the navy outfit with the peachy sneakers. (Yeah, with the ruffle I wouldn’t really say that is a totally low key outfit, but still way more chill than most of the runway examples. Plus you can easily picture the same look wit ha plain top or jumpsuit).

Outfits

Mesh is one of those things that I’ve always liked seeing in fashion inspo, but I’ve only really just gotten around to adding it to my own wardrobe. I hope to eventually do a full lookbook sort of post, but for now here are a few outfits I’ve been playing with to work more mesh into my wardrobe. It’s been so much fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can come up with!

Here are a few looks that are more on the extra / dressy side. It’s still a little too cold right now to wear these, so this was from some experimental dress up time, but I would totally wear these to whatever on the weekend (that doesn’t involve extended periods of energetic movement or likely contact with claws or bristly branches ๐Ÿ™ƒ โ€“ I’d stick to true activewear mesh for that).

I went for more of a maximalist styling with these. The purple dress is quite casual, but it’s got a lot of fabric manipulation going on with the panels of smocking, and it’s actually more of an apron dress with an open back aside from the ties, so it’s got a bit more lightness from that as well.

I think a plain satin slip dress would also be cute, but I liked the weight added by the velvet fabric and how the silver print keeps the dominant proportion of navy from making the outfit feel too dark or serious.

I’m a little on the fence about the rightmost outfit โ€“ it’s fun but I feel like it needs something else to bring it more towards vogue editorial maximalism than toddler maximalism (which isn’t wrong, but just not what I was going for here). I might try a different color of shorts and/or a different hairstyle if I restyle this.

  • Find Me Now “ross mesh top” in “dew” size M
  • Free People “Taking Sides Maxi” in “thistle patch” size S
  • Melissa x Lazy Oaf “Kick Off Platform Sandals” size 8
  • generic-wholesale-brand mesh dress via Poshmark (there is a similar celestial tulle dress with long sleeves on amazon if you are set on this, but it’s definitely amazon/shein level quality, more for costume or if you want something you won’t cry over if it gets ruined, ya know?)
  • Urban Outfitters “Rooftop Constellations” dress size L via Poshmark
  • Dr Martens “Leona” boots in bone size 7 via Poshmark

A more casual look with some printed mesh! Wearing a long sleeve over it so it’s just got little pops of the mesh, but combined with the bright hair claw, it makes the outfit feel a lot more playful. Also a way to incorporate a lil mesh texture when it’s not actually warm enough to not be fully covered.

(Next day edit for bonus outfit!) Here’s the same base of the floral bodysuit and washed black jeans, but with a cropped crochet tank (Free People “Wildflower Cardi” size M via Poshmark) instead of the long sleeve. I love combining mesh with tops that are otherwise maybe slightly more revealing than I’m aiming for to get more coverage while still feeling relatively airy

Not a particularly novel combination here, but the slip dress over fitted long sleeve with combat boots is a 90s classic! Loved the more casual feel of the turquoise here (vs if I went for a black top) and the cool toned palette when taken with my purple hair.

A very preschool chic loungewear outfit for around the house. This is more elaborate and silly than what I’d usually throw on after work, but since I was finishing up this post I felt ~inspired~. I did genuinely like how the mesh top worked under the tank though, I’ll probably wear that top combo with jeans in a regular outfit.

Mesh Top Reviews

The unstyled fit reference photos taken with a black bra and untucked (for shirts, kept the bodysuit tucked in obvs) to give a better sense of the opacity and length. I am 5’1″, have a 32DD bust, and usually wear a size 8.

Terminology

  • slim fit โ€“ skims close to the body, but not so tight as to show every lump or the outline of a bra
  • fitted โ€“ directly lays on the body, would show texture of a bra or cami but does not squeeze you in
  • skintight โ€“ as fitted as you can go without it cutting off circulation or creating a sausage casing effect

Find Me Now The Label Ross Mesh Top

Ordering โ€“ I ordered a size medium in the color “dew” which is a pale turquoise-mint from a random boutique on Garmentory because it was the only place at the time that actually had one, but I would recommend ordering from the Find Me Now site or Free People instead if the size and colorway you want is available because the return policy is less strict. I like that this comes (at least periodically) in a variety of colors and not just white and black.

Style โ€“ I’ve been seeing this top all over Instagram for a while now. It’s super on trend particularly with the squiggly stripes, and as a layering piece it’s an easy way to add a trendy flair to a lot of outfits. Personally I really like that the texture comes from a more geometric/stripe design than a more overtly feminine lace-like pattern as that’s easier to style with super casual outfits. The longer silhouette and mock neck is also nice cause if you’re spending this much on a top, presumably you want to see more of it even if it’s the base layer.

Fit โ€“ It runs true to size, and on me the M is fitted. I think it can work in a skintight fit through slim fit depending on what look you want, and as it’s hip length with sleeves on the longer side so probably should work for taller folks as well.

Fabric โ€“ The nylon mesh reminds me of the mesh you’d see in tights. It’s on the matte side and more of a delicate netting sort of feel rather than technical/athletic feeling mesh, which I think makes it more versatile for styling as it has neither a techwear nor lacy vibe. Despite the less sporty feel, it’s still breathable.

Quality โ€“ Disappointing for the price. I actually had also ordered one in black from Free People at the same time I got the turquoise one, but it arrived with a hole in one of the side seams so I returned it. It feels more delicate than most of the other meshy pieces I have so I would not recommend this if you have a clawed pet or are generally nervous about delicate clothing. On the bright side, I think this the funkier casual leaning style would still look cool with visible mending.

TLDR โ€“ a super fun and trendy layering option that you will feel very cool in, but it is expensive and delicate so I would only recommend getting this if you are getting one in one of the more unique colors and you are 347% in love with the squiggly stripes. If you just want a mock neck mesh top generally, I would go for something else.

Free People Before Sunset Mesh Long Sleeve

Ordering โ€“ Purchased a size medium in “sage grey” (a dusty turquoise, true to stock photo color) through the Free People website.

Fit โ€“ Overall I found this fits TTS. Sleeves are on the long side and the length is on the cropped side. On me (5’1″) the sleeves can cover my hands, and it hits around my natural waist, and it’s fitted. If you have a longer torso this is definitely going to be a crop top.

Style โ€“ A basic cropped crew neck, easy to style casually. The nice fabric, tailored fit from the center-back seam, and the long cuffs elevate it and make it feel a little more substantial like a “real shirt” and not a cheap costume mesh.

Fabric โ€“ This like ….. the most average feeling nylon stretch mesh. I wouldn’t say it feels delicate (for mesh), but it’s also definitely not an activewear mesh. I’m not sure what denier this is equivalent to, but it’s less sheer than the Ross Mesh top. The cuffs are cut long and have a double layer of fabric, making them nearly opaque, so if you only have the ends peeking out from under a top it will not read as sheer. The fabric is breathable.

Quality โ€“ Not anything to write home about, but also for sure not a throwaway item. The cuffs and neckline being thicker also makes me suspect that it will be sturdier than the average fashion mesh piece. I’ve machine washed this on regular cycle cold in a mesh bag and it came out just fine and not wrinkly.

TLDR โ€“ I’d recommend this If you’re looking for a minimal style, slightly cropped top with a slightly elevated look in a matte fashion mesh. If the longer + opaque cuff doesn’t do anything for you, you’re probably better off just getting a plain mesh top from an actual activewear or dancewear brand as those are likely sturdier.

Free People Under It All Mesh Bodysuit

Ordering โ€“ Got a size M from the Free People website. “Midnight black” floral is true to the stock photos. FP also has the same bodysuit in a lot of solid colors.

Style โ€“ I was initially waffling on whether it looks like Anna Sui chic or like something I might find at Walgreens, but in the end I decided that the print’s artistic merit (to my taste anyway) and the multiple panels of ruching pulled it more toward the former. The lettuce hem and ruching make this one feel more romantic and feminine but the slim silhouette keeps it more wearable than if it had some sort of puff sleeve. I personally like this colorway for my wardrobe as the black will coordinate with black jeans and shoes but there’s still some lilac.

(tragically I did not realize that I did not close the bodysuit properly before taking this pic)

Fit โ€“ Overall TTS but on the longer side. On me the M is fitted. However since the design has ruching you can play around with, it can work for folks with shorter torsos too. I think this would look best if you order for a fitted look, as if it’s not right up on your skin, with the ruching it might read as unintentionally oversized. If you get it really skintight, I think it could be fiddly to get the ruching to lay where you want it to.

Fabric โ€“ The weave makes the fabric look slightly tights textured, but the feel is pretty slippery/smooth. It’s a polyester mesh and while it’s not at the level where it makes you sweat when you’re sedentary at room temperature, I do feel like I get sweatier in this when moving than I do in the “Before Sunset” mesh top. However it does feel like it will be less prone to snags than the other two tops.

Quality โ€“ print resolution is good and it doesn’t look weird on parts like your elbow where it gets stretched out more. I don’t feel like I need to baby this when I have it on, but it doesn’t feel like a sport mesh that’s meant to take a lot of abuse.

TLDR โ€“ I would recommend this if you’re looking for a feminine mesh bodysuit that’s not totally skintight but also not floofy or puffy, and/or particularly if you have a longer torso.

๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒผ

Whew! That was a lot, but I hope you enjoyed reading it! I also tried out doing a more stylized collage for the inspo section. I know it’s not as polished in how the photos are cropped and arranged as it could be, but I thought the old school magazine vibe was fun.

Do you ever incorporate mesh into your outfits? If so, do you use mesh in a more sporty or streamlined way, or do you gravitate towards more textured or brightly patterned pieces?

2 Comments

  1. Ahh, I think these are the โ€œsecond skin topsโ€ Who What Wear has been trying to convince me to wear for a week. If I had known they were made of mesh, I might have tried them out! I love how lightweight and summer friendly mesh tops are. I think theyโ€™re the secret to summer layering!

    I have a black mesh top and a white lace top, and I use them in fairly unimaginative ways (matching with sleeveless tops). I like the idea of wearing them under long sleeve or short sleeve tops!

    Ah ha ha ha ha I died at the โ€œWalgreens topโ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ Instagrams next fashion challenge should be โ€œmake a stylish look using only clothes, fabrics and accessories found at Walgreens.โ€ But I do think itโ€™s trendy enough to not look like one of those meshes in a bag (which Iโ€™ve boughtโ€ฆ).

    The squiggly line top was so cute, a shame it seemed overpriced. The geometric shape adds flair.

    Liked by 2 people

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