There Is a Way to Dress Flirty While Covering Up

by Julia Friedman

Why is it that when we want to look sexy, our first instinct is to wear something shorter? Or tighter? Or with a lower-cut neckline? I'm speaking generally, of course, but this has become a common impulse. The words "covering up" don't really have that alluring ring to them. So instead, we opt to show a bit more skin.

In fact, it is possible to dress flirtatiously without wearing something overly revealing. (Care to join us, Kendall and Rihanna?) I sought out the professional advice of Stine Elmegaard, the store manager of Filippa K at Illum in Copenhagen, Denmark, who shared with us her top tips for looking sexy without showing off all the goods.

1. Have Faith In A Summertime Sweater

Don't break out those wool knits quite yet, but do consider something similar. "If it's not too warm, then try a sweater," Elmegaard suggests. "A light cotton one would be cute with a pair of boots."

I'm not condoning this look when temperatures start climbing into the 80s, but it's a refreshing change-up from tank tops that, at this point in the summer, are growing tiresome.

J Brand Ready-To-Wear Julie V Neck Sweater, $298, Neiman Marcus

Okay, so this piece is a bit of a splurge, but its lightweight silk fabric will hug your skin. Wear it with a pair of white or denim shorts for a summertime look. When fall rolls around, pair it with a bright scarf.

2. Show Just A Little Leg

The lower halves of our bodies have some seriously sexy attributes. Butts and thighs are probably the first things that come to mind when you think sex appeal, but don't forget about your feet and ankles. In the spirt of "less is more," try trading in a pair of super-short shorts for a pair of cuffed jeans. They're a lot sleeker than capris and look great with heels and a simple top.

Fade to Blue 360 Cuffed Super Skinny Jeans, $99, Neiman Marcus Last Call

These jeans show just the right amount of ankle, but if you're not looking to make any purchases, then try cuffing your longest pair of jeans.

3. Pantsuits, Please

While rompers are a flirtatious fail-safe, they're not as popular this summer as they have been in the past. "Pantsuit rompers are very hip now," says Elmegaard. Indeed, a pantsuit romper can be sultry and sophisticated at the same time. Case in point:

Strapless Wide-Leg Jumpsuit, $33, Forever 21

Unlike short rompers that always seem to let a little cheek peek out, this pant version offers coverage while leaving your shoulders bare. This piece would look divine with some gold jewelry.

4. Remember: Skin-Tight Isn't Always Sexiest

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of the body-con look, but there's something about a flowey top that's ethereal and utterly sexy. "Make sure that the shorts or the skirt or whatever you wear is not too short and not skin-tight," suggest Elmegaard. If flirty is what you're going for, then leave something for the imagination.

Sunshowers Midi Skirt, $41, Nasty Gal

This midi skirt is the epitome of flirty. It has big, soft pleats, a bow that doesn't make you look like a child, and the fabric is an eye-catching color. Because of it's length, this skirt (unlike a mini skirt) would lend well to a fitted crop top without showing too much skin.

5. Wear Sheer Fabric to Show Off Skin Without Exposing It

Slightly sheer and lightweight fabrics are perfect for showing off some skin while still covering up — as long as you're wearing appropriate undergarments (i.e. a hot pink thong underneath a white cotton dress is a no-go). Elmegaard suggests a light linen t-shirt. "It's a bit see-through but still cool because it's a bit loose," she says. "Or a silk shirt that you can wear loose with denim."

The Laden Showroom X Vintage Sheer Panel Dress, $23, Asos

Sheer cutouts on an otherwise opaque piece are very intriguing. This dress, for example, has a conservative collar, but the skirt length and sheer sleeves soften up the look.

6. Work a Men's Shirt

What's not to love about a classic white button down shirt? This summer (and every summer), wear one with your favorite pair of cutoffs. This tip speaks to Elmeggard's earlier advice about being wary of falling into a pattern of skin-tight ensembles. "Wear it a bit oversized," she says, possibly cinched by a thin belt. And instead of buttoning up all the way, keep the top 3 or 4 buttons undone and cuff the sleeves so they hit your forearm.

Clyde Shirt, $98, Need Supply

I hope you'll be happier in this shirt than this model, who looks very sad. I'm sure she'd look more at ease if the stylist had let her keep those top three buttons undone.