Bolder colors, chic details take lace beyond grandma’s doilies

ajohnson@newsobserver.comMarch 20, 2013 

  • How to wear

    1. Choose wisely. Lace can get cheap looking. Go for lace that uses thicker threads or weave ribbons into lace-like patterns.

    2. Lace details can add a dash of style to even a pair of sweats. Look for appliques or sheer panels.

    3. Pair lace in vibrant colors with shoes in the same color family or in a metallic.

Like others, Cynthia L. Istook has memories of lace hanging from the back of her grandmother’s couch or as doilies on a tabletop.

On clothing, the N.C. State professor remembers it being used a lot around sleeves or at the bottom of skirts.

But these days, she notices that many of her students in the College of Textiles are using lace in new ways. “It’s sexy, not grandmotherly or country American,” she says. For instance, she’s seen lace layered over a deep V-neck.

Those students, no doubt, are taking their inspiration from professional designers – spring collections are awash with lace. Paired with leather, sewn into sportswear, as main attraction or a delicate detail, this modern take on lace offers outfits a complexity. It’s feminine and suggestive, ethereal and elegant.

It’s that mix that made Arlene Goldstein, Belk’s vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction, add lace to the store’s most-wanted-for-spring list.

“Sweet and sophisticated, effortlessly elegant, lace is easily one of spring’s most elegant essentials,” she writes.

Goldstein noted, too, that lace evokes hand crafting. It looks crocheted, after all. “While the digital age offers dramatic options to designers and print makers across the globe, such things as intricate laces and African-inspired weaves lend a hand to crafted modernism. Retro-inspired lady looks illuminate fashion’s glorious past but always with head-turning attitude and ‘new-season’ panache.”

The lacy look extends to accessories, too. Laser-cut leather lends the airy, fanciful look of lace to everything from oxfords to wallets.

Johnson Martin: 919-829-4751;

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