“I consider lace to be one of the prettiest
imitations ever made of the fantasy of nature.”
– Coco Chanel –
“A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE…
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and
a black, lace bra…”
– Pamela Redmond Satran –
Since its invention, lace has always been in style. It’s pretty and best of all, exclusive to women. It’s the detail that signals femininity and elevates any look – be it romantic or rocker (leather & lace). It is, therefore, kismet that both lace and lingerie are conjoined.
While COVID cocooning, most turned to comfort bras. However, with the slow opening back up to normal life again, isn’t there also a tinge of desire to return to wearing something pretty and feminine? It’s my opinion that every woman should have at least one special lacy bra. Should you agree with me, the following is a short primer on the different laces used in lingerie.
Lace vs. Embroidery
Genuine lace is a fabric or trim solely created by twisting or knitting many individual threads into an airy pattern. However, saying a garment has “lace” has been a bit hijacked. Now, embroidery on a garment with a similar design to lace is being called lace as well. This blurring of the term is due to most modern-day women not being familiar with the differences between lace and embroidery. I can confirm this through our search data. No one searches for “embroidered bras”. Here’s a quick explanation: Lace is created during the making of the fabric. Embroidery is stitching placed on top of finished fabric.
Why Lace is Expensive
Lace and embroidery on lingerie makes it more expensive. Here are a few reasons why:
It’s complicated to make. The fibers used in making lace may be basic and inexpensive, but it’s the hours of manual labor going into its manufacture that creates its higher costs. Some lace is handmade. Others are made on machines, but all have complex patterns that must be carefully designed, programmed, and implemented, which is very labor-intensive.
Lace creates waste. Something most of us don’t think about is that excess lace can be wasted in order to get the lace pattern to look perfect on the garment. Here are a few lace examples to further explain this point.
Notice the perfect symmetry of the lace in the first example. Each side lace panel is a mirror image of the other. The center has been cut out and carefully placed. To accomplish this, parts of the lace panel were not used. In the second example, the lace has simply been cut and sewn without the lace design being considered. The rose pattern on the waistband is not a mirror image and the lace pattern on the front is not centered. This example has much less lace waste because the pieces can be cut very economically. It is, therefore, cheaper to manufacture.
Itchy, Scratchy Lace
Many avoid purchasing lacy lingerie for fear of it itching. This was a legitimate issue years ago. But far, far less today. I have spoken to many of the leading lingerie designers about this. All are very aware of this concern, so give careful thought to the laces they choose to ensure softness and comfort. To this point, you will rarely see a review on our site where someone is complaining the lace is itchy, and even then, the reviewer will admit to having highly sensitive skin.
One thing to know about lace is that many manufacturers will spray it with starch to give it some stiffness for more accurate sewing; it allows the seamstress to sew without the lace slipping. This starch is sometimes left in the lace, making it feel stiff and possibly scratchy. A quick hand wash or soak in cool water with a lingerie detergent will remove this starch and return your lace to its intended softness. Another option is to use fabric softener (3 parts water to 1 part softener). And, for those of you who prefer not to use any chemicals, a white distilled vinegar rinse is a natural fabric softener without adding chemicals.
This special type of lace is named after the “Leavers” lace machine invented in 1813 and discontinued by the 1930s. The few machines that remain are primarily maintained in the French region of Calais.
Leavers lace is known as the “Queen of Laces” due to its fine and delicate details. The Leavers machine intertwines 5,000 bobbins that must be set in these antique machines manually. The limited number of remaining machines in existence and the intensive human labor required makes Leavers lace scarce and expensive.
See all Leavers Lace items at HerRoom.
Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was made with French Chantilly lace – the only fabric in her gown not sourced from a British company. Chantilly lace is named after the city of Chantilly, France where it first was made in the 17th century. This lace has a bit of a disturbing history. It was highly prized by Marie Antoinette and her court. Once she was guillotined, the lace makers – considered protégés of the then royals – were also killed. Chantilly lace no longer existed until Napoleon I sponsored its revival around 1810.
The best Chantilly laces are made in silk or linen. Notable to Chantilly lace is its use of a half-and-whole stitch which acts as a slightly raised fill that creates light and shadow in its patterns. Chantilly lace shawls in black or white were an important fashion statement in the 19th century.
See all Chantilly Lace items at HerRoom.
Technically, Guipure lace is not lace. It’s a type of heavy embroidery applied on top of a tulle base. The tulle is then chemically dissolved leaving a free-standing embroidery design behind. It is common for pieces of Guipure lace to be sewn on as applique.
See all Guipure Lace items at HerRoom.
Stretch lace is a recent phenomenon, which is now ubiquitous. It’s basically a machine-knit mesh with programmed-in designs using very fine elastic fibers mixed in with synthetics such as nylon on polyester. It has great stretch and is quite durable due to the synthetic fibers that are used. It’s so versatile it’s also used in other types of clothing beyond lingerie. Stretch lace is more reasonably priced due to it being made by machines and constructed from man-made fibers.
See all Stretch Lace items at HerRoom.
So, there you have it. Whether you select the finest or the more affordable, lace lingerie gives a touch of feminine elegance. It has the power to make you feel special by just putting it on –- with or without showing it to others.
For those of you who frequently wear lace lingerie, you may have noticed some of your favorite bra styles being discontinued. Lace is quite difficult to source right now. Manufacturers who cannot source the exact lace, will discontinue the style, and create a new style number with a different lace design so you, the customer, will not be disappointed. My buyers also continue to find great new lace options like Natori’s Embolden Wireless with supertextronic lace made from recycled yarns, Andres Sarda’s Mamba with lace and snake-inspired print, Aubade’s Mon Bijou in luxurious Emeraude, and Cleo by Panache Lana now in Blue Moon. HerRoom has lace options in hundreds of styles and colors. I’m sure you will find something pretty, feminine, and worth the indulgence.
Final Fit: YIKES! or YEAHS!
As you probably know, it is my pet peeve to see ill-fitting bras photographed on models in marketing. It’s tough enough to find your correct bra size, so at the very least, the photography should show you the proper fit for a bra. Below is my YIKES! or YEAHS! challenge for the week. Make your choices and then click to see if you qualify as a bra fit expert. In my answers, I’ll detail where the YIKES! bras went wrong.
Tomima Founder & CEO HerRoom.com