TWS Bride Guide: Lace

Our first TWS Bride Guide feature is lace. Lace has become almost synonymous with wedding dresses, especially white lace. Historically, however,  many laces were not made in white, instead made in black for wear during mourning periods. White lace, and white wedding dresses themselves, were popularized not because of an implication of purity, but rather as an indication of wealth. A white dress, particularly one of all lace, would be easily dirtied, and difficult to clean. Wealthy women wore white lace for their weddings during the 18th and 19th century, showing that they could afford to own a dress they would only wear once, and became fully popularized by Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840 (see more here in this lovely little BBC piece from 2014).   Below are some photos and descriptions of common laces found in the bridal universe, but the varieties are endless and these are merely a glimpse of the laces available. 

 Alençon lace. It is distinguishable from other laces by its heavy cord or thread on a fine mesh, usually outlining a floral motif. It's light and soft to the touch, but sturdy enough to cut and use all over a dress and as a detail, perhaps on a veil. Extra fact: Real alençon lace is a needle lace originating from Alençon, France, and the craftsmanship required to make this lace is recognized under UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity! 

Broderie Anglaise: a light but solid fabric (like a cotton voile) which is embroidered with a pattern composed of small round or oval holes which are bound in overcast (buttonhole) stitches. These little holes, commonly known as eyelets, can be accompanied by embroidered details, like the small flowers seen above. This style originated in the 16th century in Eastern Europe, but was popularized in the Victorian era in England. 

Battenburg lace: developed in the late 1800s. It's distinctive look is achieved from a combination of machine-woven tapes which are connected with hand-stitched or crocheted stitches. The tape is formed to make the structure of the design and the stitches holding these tapes together can be tight to look more like a mesh, or looser, almost like a net, like that shown here.

Beaded lace: A lot of chantilly and alençon laces may be beaded, particularly when it comes to bridal laces. Above is a beaded chantilly lace, with beads used to outline some of the floral motifs. This example also shows the eyelash fringe detail along the scalloped edge, which makes this a beautiful and elegant choice for a hem of train or if scallop depth allows, along a neckline and/or armhole of a bodice. When looking for beading lace, be sure to consider the additional time required to work with the fabric. 

Chantilly lace: This is also a traditionally handmade lace from Chantilly, France, dating back to the 17th century, and is known for its fine, spidery style on a fine ground mesh. The motifs commonly found in chantilly lace are floral, baskets, and vases, and rather than being outlined by cording as seen in the alençon lace from yesterday, these motifs are outlined in a flat untwisted thread. Its quite soft and delicate. I love seeing it on a softly draped bodice but is also used all over dresses, usually blocked over a more sturdy fabric underneath. Historically, this kind of lace was made with black silk threads, and was considered mourning wear. 

Guipure: This heavy lace is used often in edgings and insertions, but is also used all over for a bold bridal statement. It is a denser lace than most, and is good for brides who do not like the look of netting. It is distinguishable from other laces because of the legwork or "brides", which are long coarse stitches, joining the design motifs, usually flowers, as opposed to being sewn onto a mesh ground. Modern guipure can be made by embroidering the motif onto a water- or chemical-soluble material, which is dissolved away after later. I particularly love it as a lace jacket or crop top over a simple dress. 

Embroidered Organza: Often used as a trim or an applique, embroidered organzas are machine made laces that can have a combination of features of traditionally handmade laces, but on the more stable and durable organza fabric ground instead of a fine mesh ground. Some have cording outlining the motifs like alençon lace, like that in the foreground here. These are often beaded or embellished and used for belts and bridal accessories. 

Leaver's lace: This is lace made on the Leaver's machine, developed in the early/mid 1800s from an adaptation of a net making machine and the jacquard weaving apparatus, which makes lace complete with the pattern, net, and outline, all at once. This machine-made lace incorporates some of the shading details found in finder handmade chantilly lace, without requiring a netting ground. It's generally flatter, and makes for a sturdy lace option, even if made in a more delicate design.