I started this post wanting to write an ode to black lace. I wanted to say something about how every woman should have something in her wardrobe fashioned from this most delicate, intricate and beautiful of fabrics, and that it should be in black. In contrast to the symbolic purity and innocence of white lace used so often in religious ceremonies to mark new beginnings - the baptisms, the holy communions and weddings - black lace was more symbolic of a woman's coming of age.
I wanted to say that there is possibly no other fabric that is so emotionally charged. Worn as an expression of our sensuality, a siren call to potential lovers, it can also be worn to express loss or grief. In some cultures it is the mark of the enforced solitude of widows, in others a sign of a woman's maturity. Unlike any other fabric it is particular in the role it plays in signposting the phases of a woman's life. This significance was not lost on Miuccia Prada, whose much lauded Autumn/Winter 2008 collection was a celebration of how lace accompanies a woman from birth until death and resulted in a lace revival that has yet to die down.
I wanted to say that my awareness of wanting to wear it marked my passing from being a girl to a young woman, and that I remember starkly the first black lace item I decided to buy and wear when my parents could no longer have any say over what I chose to spend my money on, or indeed about what clothing I chose to wear. I wanted to say that when the day finally arrived when you were able to wear a black lace dress without feeling self conscious was the day that you were finally a woman.
I wanted to say that I love black lace and that love is reflected in how heavily it features in my wardrobe. It is there in eyelash borders, fine filigree, floral motifs, dark twisted roses, delicate knots and heavy guipure. It features as yokes and trims on blouses and tees. It is fashioned into several cocktail dresses as well as a fur collared three quarter length coat. It is lined in nude, or grey or black. It even covers a couple of pairs of shoes.
I wanted to ask - is there a woman who does not feel beautiful wearing black lace? In a search for answers on the internet I was dismayed to find the following article on the Financial Times with readers thoughts on the "Case for Lace", most of whom are probably very highly paid City workers who could afford the finest black lace on offer.
While I understand that black lace is not generally office appropriate in high end corporate jobs, I certainly didn't expect so many women to be so down on (and in some cases very anti-) such a gorgeous fabric, as well as so unenthused about the interpretations of black lace that have graced the runways since Prada wove it back into our collective fashion consciousness again. Only a couple of participants brimmed with a delight in its return to fashion that matched my own. I began to wonder if maybe I was actually in the minority.
To add insult to injury amongst the comments was this barb from one reader: that in her opinion if you are over thirty lace is a ‘no’ at any time, even as evening wear and that under thirty, lace would only be acceptable if it was "subtle and stylish, à la Julia Roberts at an evening business dinner date in Pretty Woman..."
Surely she was not serious? Pretty Woman? Given such a puritanical tone was she being ironic referring to an evening business dinner date when the business in question was prostitution?
Deflated, I then thought that perhaps I shouldn't say anything about my love of black lace at all. It suddenly felt like I'd been told I was in love with a tainted thing and that I should keep my passion to myself like some dark, dirty secret.
Troubled, I put the question to Mr V. - why would a woman over thirty want to wear black lace? He immediately said - "to feel beautiful". That's my man!
I tried hard to imagine what the life of Ms. "No Lace Over Thirty" must be like. I could only conjure up the blandest and dullest of existences for her. A life lived without taking any risks, safely within the confines of others expectations of her, with years of frowning disapprovingly of those who didn't do the same stretching before her. A life free of any drama, frisson or great passion. I'm sure she's quite happy. Frankly I'd rather be dead.
This post is part of the Visible Monday series over at Not Yet Dead Style
Black Lace Top: very old Karen Millen; Silk skirt: Chine