When a character's costume doesn't include underclothes; their bra, panties, or both, seem to be AWOL. They're usually female, but the trope isn't gender exclusive. The outer clothing may be made from a translucent material (with strategically placed lace or tape for modesty), feature a Navel-Deep Neckline or a Cleavage Window, be cut to show off Sideboob or Underboobs, or may be something backless, but whatever the case, it's obvious that the outside costume is all that the person is wearing. If she's wearing any underclothes at all, they must be made of air - or, should we say, Vapor Wear.
Of course this is often Truth in Television, perhaps as a way of being daring or flaunting convention. Today, it's common among celebrities and in runway fashion. During the 1970s the look was even a part of mainstream street fashion (the more obvious a woman's lack of a bra was, the better).
Vapor Wear is the default dress code for The Vamp and the Femme Fatale, whose personality traits match up well with the need to not waste any time removing her knickers, and who (if seen in something less vampy) will specifically mention the lack of underwear, which can present even an ordinary outfit as something interesting or unusual. As such, it is frequently a significant factor in the Theiss Titillation Theory. A similar trope applies to Hot as Hell demons and Succubi and Incubi (with the exception of one popular succubus who tend to avert or even invert this trope).
This trope can also apply to male characters, but rarely does, because nipple nubs tend to be more socially acceptable than a certain bulge. If something should be there but isn't, it's probably thanks to Barbie Doll Anatomy (common in most forms of animation), as well as a sign you might be overthinking things.
The trope is common in Science Fiction and Fantasy, regardless of the medium, perhaps because it's easier to insert fetishes in an invented world than in the real world. It is also common in Historical Fiction (but more often than not this is not historically correct — most people did wear underwear even in ancient times, though it may not have looked like what is worn today).
This is occasionally known as "itenai" (a shortened form of 履いてない: "haitenai", which means "not wearing (over legs/hips)") in Japan, especially when the question "is she or isn't she wearing them" is left deliberately ambiguous.
Since the 1990s the trope is quite commonly inverted, with people wearing skimpy or see-through clothing to show off the undergarments beneath. Interestingly enough, the effect is more or less the same as playing the trope straight: titillation by showing what is not supposed to be seen.
Not to be confused with Censor Steam, Vaporware, or Vaporwave, nor with the similarly named Real Life clothing company that, alas, bears absolutely no relation to this trope. For a more generalized version see Going Commando (which means just not wearing underwear, without necessarily being obvious about it).
- There was a commercial once showing a pretty girl standing on a busy street wearing a tartan skirt. She turns to the camera and says cheerfully: "No, I'm not wearing any." Referring, of course, to the famous vapor wear of the Scottish people.
- That sounds very much like a commercial in which the girl says "Do you want to see what's under my kilt?" The ad was for tartan-patterned sanitary napkins.
- Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe: The woman in the background is completely soaked, which causes her white dress to be partially transparent. This reveals that she's not wearing any sort of underwear.
- Primavera: The Graces and Chloris are draped in translucent sheets that make it clear they are nude underneath.
- The braless look became popular in the late 1960s and remained quite common in mainstream fashion until the mid 1980s, though not quite as common or blatant as some media depictions would let you believe. It seems to be coming back into fashion again in the late 2010s.
- The ancient Egyptians were infamous among the Greeks and Romans for their immodest fashions. At least some clothes were made of linen so thin it was almost completely transparent. If anything was worn underneathnote it was probably transparent as well.
- The ancient Spartans considered it a sign of weakness to wear more than one garment at a time. While the other Greeks of the time had no objection to male nudity, even they were scandalized by the Spartan fashion for teenage girls: a dress that was open in one side, only held together at the shoulder, and worn without any underwear, leading to inevitable exposure when the girls were running.
- In 2014, a number of celebrities wore see-through shirts which showed off their nipples at various events. This was a part of the "Free the Nipple" movement; a protest against the censorship rules of social media (which tend to remove any images that show even a hint of female nipple). Others who didn't want to go quite that far wore shirts or bras with nipple prints which made them look like they were topless; actress Rumer Willis made the headlines for wearing such a shirt with three nipples.
- Runway models tend to avoid undergarments that may show through clothes and ruin the lines (unless the designer intends that the underwear show through, of course). Their lack of bras is often quite obvious.
- Tanya Mousekewitz in An American Tail wears panties in every movie except Fievel Goes West, where she wears nothing underneath her skirt.
- In Fritz the Cat, Bertha and Harriet both wear no underwear and short skirts that ride up in the back, so their butts are basically visible all the time. Oh, and Harriet's breasts are hanging out of her top during the entire first scene she appears in.
- Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She was given panties in the DVD release, sorry to say, though she's still obviously going bra-less.
- Madonna in the music video for Vogue◊. MTV wanted to remove such shots (which make up a good ten seconds of the video), but Madonna overruled them. Madonna is of course better known for inverting the trope and wearing visible undergarments.
- Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt of Brides Of Funkenstein, appearing in Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense concert video.
- The front cover of Stacey Q's Boomerang album; only her hands are covering her unmentionable parts.
- In "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "TMZ", celebrities in Vapor Wear make up some of the photo opportunities pursued by the eponymous Paparazzi.
Those guys are all around
So you really shouldn't dare
Go to every club in town
If you've lost your underwear
- This photo◊ of Cheryl Ladd on her album cover.
- It is very obvious that Tatiana Shmaylyuk, the singer of Ukrainian metal band Jinjer, sometimes goes braless on stage, since her breasts jiggle noticeably when she moves and her nipples show through her shirt.
- The object of Big Joe Turner's original, un-bowdlerised version of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" (1954) apparently does this.
Way you wear those dresses, sun comes shining through
I can't believe my eyes, all of this belongs to you!
- In Capt. Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, all of the women are wearing T-shirts that emphasize (a) their large breasts and (b) their lack of bras.
- Similarly, the women of Evel Knievel are shown wearing tight white "Evel Knievel" T-shirts that make their lack of undergarments clear. Crosses over with Sex Sells, as Real Life shirts were also available from Bally.
- Farfalla, by Italian pinball maker Zaccaria, is infamous for the butterfly nymph on its backbox, who is wearing nothing but a very translucent gown.
- The female jogger on the backglass of Future Spa wears a skintight spandex jumpsuit that makes it clear she's not wearing any sort of underwear.
- The tight tops worn by the women of Truck Stop make it obvious they're not wearing any bras.
- Mistress Mara the merchant from The Fallen Gods is covered head to toe in a silk outfit that clings to her body and leaves nothing to the imagination.
- Tends to go hand in hand with Clothing Damage/Wardrobe Malfunction.
- At WWF Capital Carnage, December 6, 1998, there was a mixed tag match with Sable and Christian defeating Jacqueline and Marc Mero. After the match, Jackie attacked referee Tim White and was sitting on his neck (he was standing) and punching away at him. Sable casually grabbed Jackie's shirt and pulled it right off of her, leaving her topless on camera.
- Jazz defeated Jackie on on the April 7, 2002 Sunday Night Heat with a reverse rollup and a handful of tights, partially exposing Jackie's bare butt on camera.
- Some tabletop games acknowledge and actually provide statistics for the improbable amounts of protection offered by Stripperiffic "armor" (such as GURPS, which calls it "Bulletproof Nudity").
- The Swedish RPG Playelf has "clothing penalties" — anything above the base necessities will obstruct your movements and give penalties to everything. Armor is useless because any advantage gained is negated by all the penalties. There are some options, but for the most part, you're encouraged to dress like a Boris Vallejo painting.
- Warhammer 40,000: The Dark Eldar field Wyches, evil space-elf gladiators who wear weapons, boots, and about a grand total of one square foot of black leather. Maybe two square feet for some of the guys. The reason for their lack of armor is that Wyches are so confident in their abilities, they believe that they can charge into battle without getting a scratch, and boast that armor is for cowards. They're wrong. Wyches also dress Stripperiffically because they're performers, not just fighters. They use sex appeal to gain audience approval in the arenas, which can make the difference between living to fight another day and being quickly killed off in a fight they can't hope to win. It's also why the ones that actually get to out on the field as opposed to the arena can live: They're the smart ones who learned how to dodge.
- The infamous black lace bodystocking worn by the late, great Anita Morris as "Carla" in the 1982 Broadway musical Nine (Musical).
- In Tsukihime, apparently, Roa's favorite outfit when it was possessing Ciel in a previous incarnation was a partially open cloak. And only that. Given how he (or would it be a she?) went around raping people (regardless of gender) before he killed them, his choice of clothing is really not all that shocking.
- Alice in Virtue's Last Reward is topless except for a short open-front jacket and a heavy gold necklace. The necklace stays perfectly in place even when she's struggling with people or lying on her back.
- Cochlea & Eustachia: In this surrealist webcomic, the titular characters are two young women who usually wear masks, very short dresses, and (as is shown in some scenes with them getting dressed or undressed) nothing else. Their skirts are just long enough to cover their genitals but leave their butts mostly exposed.
- Angie's picture on the Cast Page has her in a miniskirt with no underwear.
- On the male side, a couple of Artie's appearances imply he doesn't wear underwear.
- Initially played straight in Ennui GO!, since Izzy's low cut outfit makes it very clear that she isn't wearing a bra (she never bothered due to being unable to find a good looking one that fits). Inverted after page 569, when Tanya points out that she could just get a custom fit one. After that point, her bra is always visible under her shirt.
- A kind of Flashback in General Protection Fault reveals that Ki didn't always dress as Tomboyish as she does in the present. Not only did she wear her hair longer, but she also wore dresses. When she tripped and fell one day, granting bystanders glances under her skirt, she reconsidered wearing dresses and skirts — as well as not wearing panties under them.
- Girl Genius: The dress Tarvek picked out for Agatha while they were in Sturmhalten is just asking for a wardrobe malfunction as it is a halterneck affair where the front and back of the dress do not connect until below the hips. There is also no way to hide that she's not wearing any undergarments while in the thing.
- Saves-a-Fox from Goblins wears a loose top. It is not immediately apparent that she wears nothing underneath, until we see her upside down.
- In How I Became Yours, many of the female characters' dresses are so low-cut that it's obvious that there's nothing under there. Toph at one point wears a flimsy nightgown that obviously shows her nipples.
- Ménage à 3 is pretty open about its fanservice aspect...
- It seems that the ultra-voluptuous DiDi hardly ever bothers with a bra. It's amazing she can walk, let alone jog... She's shown to be wearing one in one strip, but she's in disguise there. Later, she's shown putting one on, but it turns out to be too small for her (strip #854, February 22, 2014, NSFW).
- Zii seems usually to go braless as well, as does Kiley, but they're both notably small-busted and really don't need support.
- In Misfile, Cassiel's wardrobe, to the point it seems that she only wears panties in order to do panty shots. Ash initially refuses to wear a bra, but comes around to the idea. However, a thong is a bridge too far - when talked into wearing an evening dress and informed that panty lines are a no no, Ash just throws the offending undies in the trash when no one is looking.
- Aurelina in Murry Purry Fresh and Furry. Even lampshaded.
Melvin: Hey, how do you get your bodysuit to stay on?
- Denise from Nineteen-Ninety-Something never wears a bra, which fits with her being a New-Age Retro Hippie stereotype. Kendra, when she decided to go for a similar hippie theme, lacked a bra as well, but went back once she got over the phase.
- The Order of the Stick:
- Celia is pretty obviously not wearing a bra most of the time, although you can only tell when she turns her back to the "camera": her clothes are all backless on account of her giant fairy wings.
- Sabine does likewise; unsurprisingly, as she is a succubus.
- Questionable Content: In this strip, Faye notices that her bra has somehow gone missing during a make-out session. She hypothesizes that the sheer intensity of make-out may have vaporized it, making it a rare literal example of this trope.
- In Sluggy Freelance, the MMORPG "Years of Yarncraft" has all female Rose Elves start out wearing a see-through top with no bra. You have to complete a quest in order to earn underwear.
- Princess Daisy obviously has nothing on under her cavewoman outfit in The Mama Luigi Project - Super Mario World Reanimated Collab 2017 film. Start watching from 0:09 to see her bare round cheeks.
- On Miami TV, Jenny Scordamaglia usually leaves her blouses unbuttoned down to her navel and ties a knot in the front so that her braless breasts show.
- Hinted at by Jaune Arc in the RWBY Chibi skit "Cousins of Chaos", when his qualification of being a bad boy is that, "I may... or may not... be wearing underwear." The show plays it as Fan Disservice, though considering how single moms see him in the main show...
- Grammi from Adventures of the Gummi Bears sometimes wears bloomers under her skirt and sometimes nothing at all. This actually even changes within the intro. Then again, she's all covered in fur, too — as is Sunni who goes "commando" all the time under her dress that's so short that it makes her a female Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal.
- Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers:
- In one scene in "Double 'O Dale", we see Gadget lying in an awkward upside-down position while wearing her infamous red dress as part of a disguise. Since it doesn't include a Magic Skirt, we see that she doesn't wear anything underneath it. There is absolutely nothing to see, probably because everything is covered in fur, but still. Better yet: The next shot shows her in the same position at the same place, but for some reason, she is now wearing her trademark lavender coveralls under the dress — under a dress that could impossibly conceal a pair of long-sleeved coveralls.
- In "Adventures in Squirrelsitting", Tammy's nameless mother is unintentionally pounced by Chip and Dale. For one frame or so, we can take a look under her skirt and see that she isn't wearing any underwear.
- Then again, there is no evidence that animal characters wear underwear in the CDRR universe at all, unless you count what Bink wears as panties.
- Pauline from the Donald Duck short, Duck Pimples, as she holds up her dress, jumps, and runs in place before fleeing. She's revealed to go without any knickers under it.
- Futurama's Zapp Brannigan isn't wearing any pants below his jacket, as can be judged from Kif's reaction upon having a view up there. That is, his crew uniform does not include any pants at all (unless everyone except Zapp wears tight pants in whatever is their skin color, including Kif whose skin is green), but Zapp apparently goes without any underwear as well.
- In The Incredible Hulk (1982) episode "Enter: She-Hulk", She-Hulk wears a tattered shirt, with enough of her legs exposed to indicate that she's not wearing undies without violating standards and practices.
- In The Legend of Zelda (1989), Fairy Companion and Chivalrous Pervert Spryte is knocked over by an earthquake, briefly averting her Magic Skirt, and reveals for a split-second that she's not wearing anything underneath it.
- In the Robotboy episode "Traffic Slam", Lola sits in the back seat of the Turnbull car with her legs apart, and she's not wearing any panties. A few scenes later, she sits in the same position and is wearing panties.
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: During the first four seasons, Hordak wears a halter thigh dress that doesn't leave much for imagination. When Catra's kick sends him tumbling during Season 4, his skirt covers magically his butt, reinforcing the feeling that there's nothing underneath.
- In the first The Simpsons episode "Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire", Lisa is seen dancing whilst wearing a grass skirt, with seemingly nothing under it. The creators said that she's wearing a skin-colored suit, but you can see her individual toes.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM), Bunnie Rabbot definitely isn't wearing a bra. In addition, her tail would tend to make any sort of panties impractical to wear.
- One surprisingly shocking moment in Teen Titans (2003) has most of Raven's clothes get torn away. A look at her bare back implies that she doesn't wear anything under that skintight leotard. Then again, most leotards are made to be able to be worn like that, not unlike a bathing suit.
- Honey Drips in Wave Twisters rather obviously isn't wearing a bra underneath her top.