When Kate Middleton chose lace for the bodice and trim of that divine wedding gown, created for her by Sarah Burton, design chief at Alexander McQueen, the new Duchess of Cambridge wasn’t just honouring tradition, she was being perfectly on-trend.
Because lace, of course, is the fabric du jour and this season it is not reserved for evenings and brides. Lace can go anywhere any time, and there’s lots of it about — crafted into dresses, tops, skirts, little jackets and shorts.
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are largely responsible for the lace-for-daytime trend. The pair have been seriously in love with lace for at least half a decade but until now, most of their lace has been reserved for evenings, or for trims on some of their sexily corseted suits.
In former years, much of their lace has veered towards slutty, but this season they have gone rather more virginal, with demure white lace and its sister fabrics, broderie anglaise and macramé, all over their S/S 11 catwalk show and now selling briskly at some of the more recherché London boutiques such as Browns and Matches.
But it was a handful of UK designers who proved that lace truly rocks for summer: Erdem, with ‘Margot’ his flippy little red lace, half-sleeve number (given some valuable red carpet exposure by Michelle Williams at the London premiere of Blue Valentine, by which time the hem had dropped from mid-thigh to an infinitely more wearable length); Christopher Kane, whose collection included a neon green sheer-and-lace biker jacket; Jonathan Saunders, who used lace for several perfect little low-key occasion dresses; and Meadham Kirchhoff, who created entire lace pieces or appliquéd it on a series of ravishing skirts and little tops.
One of the more fascinating aspects of wearing lace is the semiotics of white versus black: in white, it epitomises purity (hence its use in bridal gowns), while in black it can look, let’s face it, downright slutty, which is why black lace — particularly if it has a mid-thigh hem and/or a plunging neckline —is best left for evenings.
If you are wearing lace for day, it is important to toughen up the look. Lace is not meant to look demure this season, so mix a pretty top with jeans or Capri pants, and team a lace dress with a pair of brogues, some chunky sandals or even this season’s favourite flat sandals as long as they aren’t too delicate and strappy. For a bit of cover over a dress, add a biker jacket or beaten up denim jacket.
Apart from the glow lace imparts to the skin and complexion — particularly in off-white, cream or nude — the clever thing about it is that it doesn’t instantly tell its price if you choose carefully.
As well as the delectable but high priced pieces from labels such as Dolce & Gabbana, Erdem, Charles Anastase and Stella McCartney, the high street has some really good lace this season.
There are notably good tops at Reiss, which has had lace shell tops in its collection for several seasons, tweaking the shape to keep it current. The SS11 version looks equally good with jeans or under a blazer for formal wear. Topshop has a sweet shell top in white or coral, while New Look has a particularly pretty fuchsia pink lace top at £22.99. Banana Republic has a pretty broderie anglaise top at £85 which will suit those who want a bit more cover. Oasis has a good lace pencil skirt at £55 which, despite being black, works for day as well as night.
Fenwick Brent Cross has a nude dress with black cotton lace bodice by Almost Famous at £135, as well as a cream lace dress at £115 and a navy tunic dress at £140, both by French Connection.
Other good dresses to seek out include a white cotton crochet lace dress at £68 from Warehouse; a grey, long sleeve dress from Mint Velvet, pleat-skirt and lace bodice dress from Comptoir des Cotonniers, and a divine "skinted" version of the Erdem 'Margot' at Topshop at £48.