Fashion: Aspects of lace

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There’s more to lace this summer than bridal wearand lingerie. More too than tight lace bodycon dresses. Stephanie Smith has advice on how to do lace in suitably contemporary fashion.

The very thought of lace is enough to lead inevitably to thoughts of romance, both the demure bridal kind of dressing and the more raunchy, see-through and wispy styles that are meant to be seen only in the boudoir. Of course, there is something rather fairytale special about lace. Only last week, Lily James stepped out onto the red carpet for the premiere of Cinderella wearing a fabulous pale lace gown with a train, by Elie Saab, emerging as if from a cloud of smoke, very Disney-esque and demonstrating the magical, ethereal effects that dreamy long lace dresses can elicit.

That’s all very well if you’re planning your own wedding or masquerade ball, but fortunately for the rest of us, when it comes to fashion for this spring and summer, there’s far more to lace looks than either its romantic (or raunchy)incarnations. This season it’s gone totally mainstream.

Those tight and uncomfortable looking lace shift dresses in lurid colours are still to be found, if you have a hankering, although many TV presenters seem to have gone off them recently, which is a relief, as there was a time, just a few short months ago, when it was impossible to switch on daytime TV and not have to witness some poor weather woman or sofa star squashed into a lace bodycon dress and shifting painfully as if the blood was about to cease circulating to her legs.

Thankfully, lace has become very wearable indeed.

Perhaps the most surprisingly accessible and lust-worthy lace look comes with the Haute Hippy trend, which basically means you can waft about wearing loose, long, creamy, chiffony skirts and dresses, with lovely long lace jackets and coats over, but all in a very knowing and sophisticated way, making like Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury set, or, if you prefer, like Maggie Smith and Laura Carmichael as the Dowager Lady Grantham and Lady Edith in Downton Abbey (you’ve got to love that show for providing fashion role models of all ages).

It’s well worth investing in lots of different lace pieces for the summer, keeping them all different but in toning shades, as layering is key and this is an easy way of putting together a series of both casual and special occasion looks that will take you right through the season and well into autumn and winter.

A lace jacket is an essential piece, or any length from short to ankle-length, especially in white or cream or nude, or pale aqua or maybe a whisper grey or a blush. Or pale mint. So many lace shades, so many times and occasions for which they would all be absolutely perfect, from wedding guest outfits to just throwing on over your jeans.

A nude lace dress will take you anywhere you want to go and will look fabulous layered with more lace. A red lace dress could be a knock-out but avoid a tight shift shape and go instead for a flared luxe floral lace or cutwork number.