Understanding and selecting bridal lace

How do you know what lace is what? How do you tell the difference between one lace and the next?
Fine chantilly lace sleeve of gown for Ann

Unravelling lace

How do you know what lace is what?  How do you tell the difference between one lace and the next?

There are three types of lace.  Yes, really, only 3!  Amazing really considering shops often like to confuse the hell out of us by labelling so many variations as new things.

So, what are they?  (in no particular order)

  1. Embroidered lace
  2. Chantilly lace
  3. Guipure lace
  4. Beaded fabrics (not a lace, but we will cover them here)

Each of these laces are available in an enormous range of designs, with and without beads added.

So, in more detail…



Embroidered lace is created using a stitching method, (similar to the type of work on an embroidered cap).  This is usually stitched onto a tulle of some sort.  This is popular at present and can create some amazing effects, especially when a nude colour is placed underneath, giving the appearance of no structure, just lace straight over the skin.

Traditionally the Swiss and Scandinavian countries have expertise in this area, so if you find an amazing vintage embroidered lace, lucky you!



Chantilly lace is created with a fine mesh netting and an incorporated design.  This is usually fine and lightweight.  This is the lace which the three surviving french mills are renowned for.  (Our favourite is Sophie Hallette.)  As these mills are in Avignon, if it is created there, can be called Avignon lace.  There are also many mills creating this type of lace in China and the east (although typically not as fine and lightweight as the french, and often made of synthetic fibres).

Chantilly lace can also have a ribbon cord stitched around the edge of the design (hence the term Corded chantilly).  This gives the lace a little more weight and definition.

This lace can also be beaded (mostly in India) with stunning results.  The edge on chantilly lace often has little eyelash type edges (these are known as lashes).  If you’re seeking superior quality, look for fine chantilly, made of rayon, cotton or silk.




Guipure lace has also been traditionally created in France, but stunning designs are now created across Asia (especially Taiwan).  These are often made of cotton (matt) or rayon (sheen) and do not have a mesh/tulle/netting base.  The individual sections of the pattern are linked with fine knotted threads.  The design range available is amazing creating dramatic and stunning results.



disentangling-lace-beadsBeading needs to be discussed because it can be confusion.  All laces can be beaded.  Yes, you read that correctly, all laces can have beads stitched onto them with superb results.  But, there are also lots of designs out there (tulle and light weight fabrics) that have beading added (without a lace design underneath).

Beading is typically very expensive because of the time it takes to literally stitch beads/sequins onto the cloth/lace design.  If your seeking top quality, ask for glass beads (although heavier, they reflect the light much more than do plastic beads).  And, Swarovski do create the most sparkly crystals around (in my humble opinion).


So, why is this important to know how many lace types there are?  People tend to gravitate towards one type of lace very quickly.  This can help you feel less over whelmed if faced with hundreds of choices.

Please also be aware, that designs can be floral, geometric, random or a combination of all three.

If you’d like the lace to ‘pop’ on your gown, add a slightly darker shade of fabric under the silk to give more design definition.  Adding a satin (as opposed to a matt weave) underneath can also help highlight the design.

Yes, there can be a long lead time in ordering some lace, as the mill needs to receive your order and schedule it in.  (A run of lace for most quality mills is between 3 and 8 metres).  It then needs to created on the loom.  The cloth is then sent to be beaded (usually India), and finally sent to you.  This can take three months, so do get your order in early!

It is difficult to purchase laces on line because it is quite difficult to take good photographs.  And, as lace is not cheap, it can be a costly mistake if you don’t like it.  If you are based in Melbourne and seeking your own lace, three of the best lace retailers around are Tylers Fabrics, Tessuti and Silk World.

Remember… the most important thing to do when selecting lace is to go with what you love.

ps Marvellous title photography by Nikole Ramsay.  In line by Tea Lily Photography.