In the 1860s women made one-piece dresses in sheer fabrics for warmer weather. In the north, the popular fabric was barège, a thin gauze fabric made from wool or a wool blended with silk or cotton. In the southern climates, sheer solid or printed cottons were fashionable.
Most dresses were made with a bodice lining (applied by flat lining) that was cut lower around the neck and shoulders. In some period photos you can see the lining cut as far down as the shoulder, similar in cut to a ball gown neckline. You can see this above in Princess Helena’s sheer dress with large pagoda sleeves with cut-down bodice lining.
In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if women used their ball gown bodice pattern as the base for a sheer dress then mounted the sheer bodice over it. The skirts were either fully lined or left single layer over the petticoats.
Sheer dresses were nearly always gathered bodices rather than fitted with darts. But they could also be a separate bodice and skirt in addition to the more popular one-piece dress. The sleeves were either a full bishop sleeve gathered into a cuff or a lined bell or pagoda shape.
Skirts were knife, box or cartridge pleated. And the sheer dress could be trimmed like other fabric gowns. Notice the designs here are similar to other gowns of the period; no other change but a sheer fabric with a half-cut lining.
If you reenact at Victorian events during the summer, there is nothing like wearing a sheer dress!
Do you have a sheer dress?