Backless or low-backed dresses are sexy, slinky, and fun. But maybe it's chilly out, or you just don't feel like having your whole back on display. If you love the dress but also want to cover your back, don't worry—you can have the best of both worlds! Accessorize with a glamorous shawl or jacket, or make some simple alterations to the dress itself for a little added modesty. If you're worried about your lingerie showing, there are plenty of options designed for backless dresses.
Method 1 of 3:Using Wraps and Cover-Ups
1Choose a cover-up that's appropriate for the weather. When you're covering up a backless dress, keep your comfort in mind as well as your sense of modesty and style. If it's warm out, choose something gauzy, light, and breathable, like a light silk or sheer muslin shawl. For a chilly evening out, bundle up in a jacket with long sleeves, a lined capelet, or a thick stole.
If you want something that's warm but not too heavy, reach for a cashmere pashmina wrap or shawl.
2Keep it simple with shawl or stole. For a quick and easy but elegant cover-up, drape a wrap, shawl, or stole around your shoulders. If you're more concerned about covering your lower back, wrap the shawl around your forearms and let it droop down behind you.
A wide pashmina scarf or shawl makes an elegant complement to most dresses.
Shawls and scarves are incredibly versatile, and will look good with anything from a cocktail dress or formal evening gown to a casual bohemian maxi dress.
3Put on a capelet for a more structured alternative to a shawl. As the name suggests, a capelet is basically a small cape. Depending on the style, it can hug your shoulders closely or drape more loosely, like a shawl. Choose this option to give your outfit a hint of old Hollywood glam. For example:
On a cool evening, you could cover up with a faux fur capelet for a striking and luxurious look, or pick a cozy knitted capelet if you're going more casual. Keep in mind that a capelet probably won't keep you warm enough in truly chilly weather, though.
If you don't want to completely hide your back and shoulders, but are just looking for a little more coverage, opt for a sheer or lacy capelet.
A capelet that flares slightly is a fabulous complement to a slinky, hip-hugging dress.
4Balance out a slinky dress with a draped evening jacket. If it's chilly out, or if you want more structured coverage, pair your dress with a jacket or blazer. A loose or flowing jacket looks especially good over a dress that hugs your curves.
To give your outfit a stylish but casual edge, put on a denim or suede jacket.
Avoid wearing anything bulky, baggy, or shapeless, like a slouchy cardigan. If it's not too chilly, leave the jacket open so that you don't completely conceal the shape of your dress.
5Wear a bandeau underneath to cover your back but not your dress. If you want to hide your skin without covering your gorgeous dress in extra layers, slip on a pretty bandeau or tube top. For added elegance, choose a sheer or lacy bandeau in a color that complements or blends in with your dress.
If you want even more coverage, slip on a body stocking. Choose a sheer or nude-colored stocking for a look that's tantalizing while still offering a bit of modesty.
6Use a coverup that complements the color of your dress. In general, bold patterns and bright colors pair well with solids and neutral colors. If you're wearing a simple, solid-colored dress, complement it with a colorful or patterned coverup.
For example, if you're wearing a solid, cream-colored dress, match it up with a deep red shawl or a jewel-toned blue jacket. Or, you could pair a solid navy dress with a yellow and white floral-patterned wrap.
If your dress is patterned or brightly colored, stick to a coverup in a solid, neutral color (such as black, white, dark blue, taupe, or even metallic silver or gold).
7Get creative with different textures and fabrics. In addition to playing with colors, you can also mix and match textures to add variety to your outfit. Grab a cover-up that's a different texture or fabric from your dress to make your outfit more exciting to the eye!
For instance, create a dramatic look by matching a lacy shawl or a faux fur stole with a sleek satin dress.
A sheer cover-up with embroidered designs is a great way to liven up the look of a simple dress—without totally hiding the dress itself.
On a cool spring or fall day, pair a cotton dress with a corduroy blazer or a cable-knit poncho for extra warmth.
Method 2 of 3:Modifying Your Dress
1Sew a lace insert into the back to add some delicate flair. If you love the look of your backless dress but want a little bit more coverage, adding a lace modesty panel is an excellent solution! Choose a dainty lace fabric that matches or complements the color of your dress. Cut it into a V-shaped wedge that's slightly wider than the opening at the back of the dress, then sew it into the back of the dress at the desired height to get the coverage you want.
For instance, if you're wearing a black dress, sew in a piece of delicate black lace to add modesty without sacrificing the dress's alluring look.
You can also use contrasting or complementary colors, like cream lace with a dark blue dress.
You don't need to cover the entire back of the dress with lace. For instance, if the back of the dress dips down to just above your rear, you might put in a panel that ends right above your waistline.
2Use a piece of illusion fabric to maintain the “nude” look. Illusion fabric is stretchy and sheer, similar to the material used for nylons or pantyhose. If you want something subtler than lace, but don't want your back to be totally bare, cut out a wedge of sheer fabric that matches the shape of the back of your dress and sew it in place.
Illusion fabric is fine and stretchy, so it can be a challenge to sew it correctly. If you're using a sewing machine, check the instructions to determine the right settings and needle to use for stretchy fabric.
Go with sheer or nude fabric for a nearly invisible look, or black for a smokey, sultry result.
3Attach a wide sash or belt to cover the waist area. If you're just looking to cover the lowest part of your back, consider adding a wide, waist cinching sash. You can even slap on a big fabric bow to give your dress a cute and classic accent! Stitch some simple fabric loops onto your dress if you'd like a detachable sash, or pin the sash to the dress in the desired spot and sew a vertical seam to attach it in place.
Choose a material in a contrasting color to add drama, or pick a matching color for a more seamless look.
Wide belts or sashes make an especially flattering addition to empire-waist dresses, since they help create a more defined waistline.
4Take the dress to a tailor if you need help. If you don't know your way around a sewing machine, don't sweat it. Any tailor can easily make these types of modifications. Bring them the dress and describe the alterations you'd like them to make.
You can either bring your own materials or ask your tailor to recommend something.
In the U.S., tailoring alterations can cost anywhere from around $15 to $50, depending on the shop, the materials involved, and how complicated the alteration is. Call around to some tailoring shops in your area to find one that fits your budget.
Method 3 of 3:Hiding Your Bra and Undies
1Choose a low-back or convertible bra that fits under your dress. One of the most challenging things about wearing a backless dress is concealing your bra. If you'd rather not show off your lingerie, look for a low-back bra that's designed for backless or deep-backed dresses and tops.
Low-back bras typically have shoulder straps that are longer than usual in the back, along with a very low back band. They also have an extra strap or crossed pair of straps that go around your waist to help keep the bra in place so that the back band doesn't ride up.
You can also get a convertible bra with straps that can be worn in different configurations, or buy extenders for your bra straps so you can tuck them out of sight.
2Wear an adhesive bra to go completely backless. Just like the name suggests, adhesive bras stick directly to your skin. These are an ideal option for super revealing dresses that don't give you many options for tucking away straps. Simply peel off the protective backing and stick the cups in place, and you're good to go!
Adhesive bras come in many levels of coverage and support. For minimal coverage, opt for basic pasties or nipple petals. You can also get adhesive bras that lace up in front to enhance your cleavage.
3Try body tape to shape and control your bust. If adhesive bras don't give you the support you need, or you just can't find a low-backed bra that works with your dress, body tape is a good alternative. Grab some gaffer tape, medical tape, or skin-safe fashion tape. Lift your breasts and push them together to get the desired shape for your bust, then carefully tape your bosom in place with 2-3 horizontal strips of tape.
Each strip of tape will need to be at least 12 inches (30 cm) long. Make sure you can wrap the tape all the way around your breasts and extend it out slightly on each side.
For extra comfort (especially when it comes time to pull the tape off!), put a cotton pad over each nipple underneath the tape.
4Go DIY and sew some cups into your dress if you don't like adhesives. Adhesive bras aren't for everyone. For a convenient alternative, you can add a little support directly to the dress itself. Cut the cups out of an old bra and sew them into the lining of your dress. If you're not comfortable with a needle and thread, use some fabric adhesive to keep them in place.
Before you start sewing, pin the cups in place with safety pins. Try the dress on to make sure the cops are positioned correctly.
Use loose stitches so that you don't pucker the material of the cup or the dress.
If your dress is lined, sew through just the lining and the cup, not the outer material of the dress. If there's no lining, choose a thread that matches the color of your dress.
5Put on low-rise underwear if your dress is extra low-cut in back. When you're wearing a sexy, backless dress, the last thing you want is to show off a pair of high-rise briefs. Choose some hipsters or a thong that won't show when you put on the dress—even when you're bending, sitting, or dancing.
If you're not sure whether your undies are visible, use a hand mirror to check or ask a friend to look for you.
Choose seamless or no-show panties to prevent visible lines if you're wearing a thin or form-fitting dress.
6Use backless shapewear if you need extra support. Shapewear is great for flattering and smoothing your figure, but it can be challenging to wear with a backless dress. Fortunately, there are a variety of low-backed options on the market. Choose a shaping garment with a plunging backline that matches the cut of your dress.
Alternatively, pick some attractive, lacy shapewear that can double as a modesty panel under your dress.