Why are so many white shirts see-through?

A sheer white shirt with a star print.
Sheer white shirt from Equipment. Image from Bloomingdale’s

When I googled this question to see if any answers were out there, I found no answers. Instead I got results like:

– How to find a non-see-through white shirt

– What to wear under a white shirt; and even

– How to wear a sheer shirt, advising you wear a contrasting colored bra under a sheer white shirt.

I guess this is the reason I once saw a woman in a professional office wearing a white t-shirt over a bright purple bra :/

But what about the actual question–why are white shirts so sheer? Why is it so dang hard to find white shirts that aren’t see-through? Especially when the white shirt is mentioned on every style essential list out there.

There’s actually a pretty simple reason why most white shirts are so sheer, even if the exact same style of the shirt in a different color is opaque. To learn why, let’s quickly go over how fabric is made and dyed for a shirt.

Read moreWhy are so many white shirts see-through?

Why are my t-shirts so sheer?

overly sheer t-shirt
A tissue tee, available for $62. Photo from Shopbop

I just had to throw out yet another t-shirt that I bought last summer. It had small holes in the sleeves and had lost its shape, especially in the collar. I didn’t think much about it when I bought it–it was $5 at a sample sale. I don’t think I even bothered trying it on.

It was a tissue tee.

Tissue tees, which have other names like slub-knit, are really common in the women’s apparel market today. You’ve probably seen them at retailers ranging from Old Navy to Neiman Marcus. They’re thin, flowy shirts with a loose shape that hang off your body a little.

Even though these tees come in every color, all of them tend to be pretty sheer–even in black. One of the other tees I got rid of, also purchased last year, is a dark grey. Somehow, even that shirt is sheer. I was frustrated and talked about this with my dad, who has worked as a vendor in the garment industry for 35 years.

Read moreWhy are my t-shirts so sheer?