Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Like a Little Lace

I was married more than 35 years ago in white satin and lace.  My wedding ensemble was a collaborative effort:  I designed it, tante Jeanette sent the lace from Alençon for the bodice and my Mother worked in her sewing room at the top of the stairs through a long, hot summer.  Each bead in the Juliet cap and lace bodice was hand sewn. 
While the satin was beautiful, the dentelle d’Alençon (not easy to see in this faded photograph from the pre-digital era) was exquisite. 

Yes, dear Friends, I have been married long enough for my wedding pictures to have taken on that vaguely Rembrandt-esque hue. 

Jacob Ferdinand Voet (1639–1689)
Portrait of a member of the Chigi family 1670
In the 15th century, Alençon lace made its mark in the world by winning first prize in a lace making competition against the finest lace makers of Venice.  By the 18th century, it had become the most sought after and expensive lace in the world.  

By the 20th century, machines had largely replaced the work of handmade lace.  But in Alençon, les dentellières (lace makers) still labor for weeks on a single piece of lace in a state of intense concentration that demands total silence, what the French call un silence religieux.  The process is laborious and exacting, but the delicacy and intricate beauty of la dentelle du point d’Alençon, now classified by UNESCO as one of the world’s treasures, simply cannot be reproduced by machine. 

Alençon lace still figures prominently in haute couture collections. 

This magnificent ensemble by Paco Rabanne is made entirely of Alençon lace. 

The white Alençon lace sleeves of this stunning cocktail dress by Christian Lacroix add a touch of softness to the strong vertical lines in the skirt and bold red satin wrap. 

You don’t have to be a blushing bride to wear lace, but, there’s something so eternally soft and feminine about a beautiful, young bride in lace.   And Alençon lace is still the lace of choice for the discriminating bride. 

This gorgeous Jim Hjelm bridal gown in champagne charmeuse with an overlay of ivory Alençon lace has a lovely vintage feel to it.  The crystal belt accentuates a tiny waist and the modified A-line is a silhouette that flatters almost every figure.  And just look at that intricate neckline!!

The bodice and pleated skirt of this strapless stunner by Lazaro is made entirely of ivory Alençon lace.  A bride making a grand entrance in this gown would have everyone catching his/her breath. 

And, speaking of catching one’s breath………………

The groom would need total CPR on his wedding night if his bride walked out of the bathroom in this pink satin negligee (vintage1930s).  Again, the lace is from Alençon.  Wouldn’t you just love to have this in your wedding trousseau? 

Dolce and Gabbana White Chantilly Lace Dress

As I said, you don’t have to be a blushing bride to wear lace, but you do have to be careful about how and how much you wear.   The white lace cocktail dress should probably be left to the young and sleek, even if it has a bit of stretch in it, which most modern lace fabrics do.  Lace has a vintage feel to it, and, while we all love a touch of vintage in our wardrobes, “looking” vintage is not something a woman my age should go for.  Some can pull it off, but most of us look like we’re wearing grandmother’s tablecloth. 

The most flattering way to add lace to the wardrobe of a femme d’un certain âge like moi, is to do it with completer pieces and accessories. 
I love this lace-overlay jacket (featured in  The cut is flattering (i.e., slimming), as are the three-quarter sleeves, which shows the thinnest part of any woman’s arms, and the color is just yummy.  Paired with a white Tee-shirt, skinny jeans and statement necklace, this young lady has really rocked the lace look. 
This black, woven lace jacket from Free People will quickly become a go-to piece in any woman’s wardrobe, whether you pair it with a skirt, jeans or a cocktail dress. 
Here's an idea for your next cocktail party outfit.  Take a plain sheath dress, add a great necklace and a pair of black lace gloves.  Instantly, the whole outfit moves up a style notch or two.   Is there anything more elegant than a woman holding a flute of champagne in a gloved hand? 
There are so many lovely lace touches you can add to your outfits: 
n  Jackets
n  Brooches
n  Headbands
n  Hats
n  Handbags
n  Collars
n  Gloves
n  Scarves
n  Shoes
The possibilities are endless.  So, while we can’t all afford to wear la dentelle d’Alençon, any woman at any age can afford to add a lovely touch of lace to her look. 



  1. Bonjour M-T. I knew nothing about lace... or la dentelle d'Alençon, so I could only learn a lot from this well researched post. My favorite part, I will confess, was seeing your wedding day photo. What a pretty girl you were. The dress and coiffe were exquisite but that red hair! No wonder Dan fell head over heels with la petite française... He is a lucky man! :-) Vero (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. You're too sweet, ma chère. I am surprised that you didn't know about la dentelle d'Alençon, but delighted that I was able to share a few tidbits with you about something that is very dear to my heart. Tante Jeanette would be delighted, as well. She was very proud of her city and its lace.

      Big bisous,

  2. Dearest Marie-Thérèse.
    What a lovely post and I loved seeing your beautiful wedding gown once more. Incredible work done by your sweet Mère and the Alençon lace is indeed the most beautiful neelde lace in the world. Incredible the way it is produced. One can only admire it and caress such pieces. Jacob Ferdinand Voet did paint the Alençon lace jabot very well. I did recognize his Dutch name right away. Yes, he still lived in The Netherlands at a time before Napoleon messed up and created Belgium...
    Thanks for sharing such lovely insights! Let's hope it will survive the mass production and that people always will cling to the true beauty of lace.

    1. I knew you would recognize the artist's name (Flemish painter). I had to laugh at your characterization of Napoleon and his creation, Belgium. I have some Belgian (Walloon) friends who might agree with you.

      Warm hugs,

  3. These are really impressive ideas in concerning blogging.
    You have touched some nice things here. Any way keep up wrinting.


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