In Part 3 of our focus on weddings, we're speaking to Lizzie on the Main Floor about French laces and silk satins…exactly what you'll need for the wedding dress that you imagine. Believe us, it takes expert help to navigate the selection here!
Q: What kinds of trends are you seeing right now?
Lizzie: A lot of guipure laces and guipure lace trim, especially with non-traditional motifs. Also, embellished tulles with lots of geometric shapes and dimensionality. Of course, there will always be the desire for a traditional gown with beautiful floral lace–which we certainly have!--but the trend right now is moving toward more boldness.
Q: What is the best way to start shopping for bridal fabrics?
L: Come with photos and know what you want, because there are a lot of choices here! There are any number of fabrics that would look beautiful and work for you in a general sense, so you really need to be able to narrow things down–for instance, know whether you're a formal bride or a rustic garden bride.
Q: Should you shop for the lace or the fabric first?
L: Lace first. If you're using lace, it will inform the rest of the gown. It will also (probably) decide your residual budget: if you happen to fall in love with a very expensive lace, you might be looking at different fabrics to put underneath it than you originally intended. It will also decide the shape of the dress. For instance, if you choose a super-delicate chantilly, you'll end up with a light, flowy dress…and you'll definitely need a lightweight fabric to go underneath the lace. An alencon or venise lace, on the other hand, will give you a more structured dress–and you'll need a satin or taffeta with more body to support it.
Q: What kinds of laces does Britex carry?
L: Chantilly, guipure, venise, alençon, beaded, re-embroidered–and those are just the ones I can think of offhand. Often, part of the fun of shopping for lace is in learning the names and terminology and everything that goes into making each type of lace…it's amazing how much you can pick up. And of course, many similar laces have different names: crocheted and venise laces are technically still guipure, for instance. The selection of French laces here is really staggering, especially when you add all of the color options besides white and ivory.
Q: In terms of white and ivory, though, what are the options?
L: Well, anyone who really wants to enjoy the full selection should plan to spend several hours here– and maybe take a coffee break between the white and the ivory. In addition to the basics, we have some really amazing embellished laces…an Armani lace that's encrusted with little beads; an Art Deco-style beaded tulle; an amazing sequin mesh, and a chiffon that's completely covered in little chiffon petals–which we carry in both black and white. Dimensionality is the thing: it's almost like the lace designers are challenging themselves to see how many motifs they can stack on top of each other!
Q: Then there's the satin. What kind of satin selection does Britex have?
L: Vast. In traditional bridal tones, we have everything from bright optic white to silk white to deeper antique ivories and yellowy creams. Then there are the off-whites, which are based in green, or sand, or pink or blue. All off-whites have an undertone. There are many, many kinds of silk satin. We carry four-ply satin in optic white, silk white, cream, blush, taupe, various nudes–it's really one of our favorite satins and great to use. It's reversible– it has a crepe side and a shiny side–and you can use either or both as the face. Some people use the crepe side for a base, and the satin for a trim. It's also a nice formal weight for bridal gowns because of the way it moves. It's very stately, yet refined–it doesn't cling, and because it's thicker it can flatter almost any figure. Another great option, of course, especially if you've chosen a chantilly lace, is charmeuse. It's a far better choice for a flowing gown or skirt or ruffling sleeves than for a structured dress. It's often difficult to layer an alencon lace over a charmeuse, for instance, because it just doesn't have the right oompfh. Four -ply is better in that case.
Q: Are there any tips or tricks for sewing with these fabrics?
L: Number one: Do it by hand! With the meshes, like embroidered tulle and such, you won't have as much difficulty if you use a machine. But a real French lace–if you're going to invest in it–do it by hand. With the ways that the lace has to be manipulated in order to get the shape you want, it's almost impossible to get a good result with a machine. Imagine a complicated neckline with a scallop–you have to cut and assemble those things with intense precision. Number two: Remember that it takes more yardage than you think. French lace is frequently only 34" wide, and if you're lucky it's got a double-scallop border. You'll need more yardage to make good use of the scallop (which is frequently removed in order to cut the dress pieces, and then stitched back onto the hem, neck or sleeves as desired), and you'll have to plan for the repeat (you want the flowers or motifs to line up properly all the way around the dress, and some repeats are larger than others). Basically, if your skill level is high, don't worry about it and enjoy the challenge. But if it's not, either choose a simple gown pattern or hire a professional.
Q: Do you have a particular favorite gown you've worked with?
L: I definitely do. A beautiful young lady came in with her mother and they chose an absolutely incredible alençon. It was a traditional floral pattern in antique cream, but the cording was more swirly and very unique. And instead of using satin, they put a power mesh under it and created a tiny romper, with a chiffon skirt cut in strips over it. So when she walked, you got little glimpses of the shorty shorts. She looked liked she could walk down any runway…just stunning.