Not too long ago, style descriptors like girly and romantic didn’t necessarily strike as positive. They often meant unserious and frivolous—perhaps even foolish, depending on who you asked. But a recent aesthetic shift in fashion, what trend analyst Kendall Becker dubs “sartorial sensibility,” represents the powerful potential of high-femme dressing. “Consumers want to experiment and indulge in dopamine dressing without feeling like they’re in a costume or sacrificing comfort,” says the Director of Fashion at the data-driven retail platform Trendalytics. And unapologetically feminine codes are how adventurous dressers make their mark: "Bold colors like Barbie pink, Regencycore corsets, over-the-top bows, and romantic trims." In particular, Becker highlights the lace clothing trend as particularly impactful and dynamic for summer 2023.
"The lace trend is beginning to spark this season," with "high search volume at 68k average weekly searches," Becker shares of recent Trendalytics data. But don't expect summer 2023's take on the textile to be predictable. The best lace clothing of Pre-Fall 2023 demonstrates the fabric's full range of aesthetics: At Rodarte, lace-trimmed slip dresses were saccharine yet sexy; Chanel's Métiers d'Art celebrated the craftsmanship of needlework; Jamaica-inspired label Diotima offered an assortment of doily-esque crochet; and lastly, Stella McCarney, Khaite, and Isabel Marant's capsules all featured dark and moody lace as gothic going-out wear.
Elena Kanagy-Loux, a historian and lacemaker who self-identifies as "a sentient pile of doilies," says summer 2023's lace trend also "ties to a desire to wrap oneself in beauty, perhaps as an escape or protective device in the face of a tumultuous world." For the textile artist, "lace embodies both a pleasingly feminine aesthetic and a history of skilled women's labor that has long been undervalued." And she, for one, is thrilled to see it ascend to trending status. "Fashions often emerge in extreme parallels, and it makes perfect sense to me that in an era of hyper-fast fashion, people would be drawn to incredibly time-consuming practices like lacemaking and the adjacent aesthetics of the handmade."
Here, Kanagy-Loux touches on yet another aspect of lace being a multi-faceted wonder: the beauty of the fabric is found in its many contradictions. Despite being labor-intensive, delicate, and hair-thin, the textile can pack quite a statement punch. It can be coquettish and prim like the communion gowns you wore as a young girl but also as sultry and primed-for-the-boudoir as the lingerie in your intimates drawer. Lace—and by extension, all sartorial details synonymous with femininity—are more formidable than one easy definition can convey.
Now that Becker and Kanagy-Loux have thoroughly made a case for lace, it's your turn to shop the trend. Ahead, find a shoppable edit of the best lace clothing that represents its various vibes, from sweet and demure to sultry and commanding to dark and vampy.
The Best Lace Clothing
For a safe first step into the summer 2023 trend, try a dress, whether that be a slip trimmed with eyelash lace or a slightly see-through maxi made entirely of the fabric. "Lingerie beyond the bed is one of my favorite perennial trends," Becker details, encouraging you to try a sultry-forward dress. "I love this sexy yet chic iteration from Ronny Kobo," she says of the brand's ivory midi.
Now, onto tackling tops. Becker shouts out Coperni, crediting the French label for "playing with metallic lace in their last collection, which felt like a fresh and exciting twist on the trend." Kanagy-Loux, however, urges you to consider lace's potential for androgyny due to its history and future trajectory. “As a lover of hyper-feminine aesthetics, I love seeing the returning popularity of lace in fashion. This time around, though, sheer clothing and lace tops are trending in menswear as well (see brands like Bode and KÚR Collection), which harkens back to the origins of lace in early modern Europe, where wearing lace was a gender-neutral signifier of wealth and status.”
You know linen is lightweight and breathable, but you may be surprised by just how breezy a lace skirt can be, especially midi or maxi silhouettes that take advantage of the textile's cutouts. Options like Maeve and RHODE's are easy options to add to your daytime weekend rotation, while H&M's crochet-inspired, calf-hitting number begs to be included in your next beach outfit.
Becker credits the textile’s burgeoning success for summer 2023 to its piggybacking off of an ongoing fashion moment: "The sheer trend has been one of the most impactful in the market, as it has ranged iterations from daytime tops, sexy night-out dresses, crochet beach sets, and finally, it’s getting a romantic stamp of approval with lace." For those feeling bold, lean into the sheer nature of the fabric through a pair of lace pants. Proenza Schouler's bright cerulean kick-flare pair, for instance, is a compliment magnet with a guaranteed mood-boosting effect.
Meet the Fashion Experts
Experienced in luxury editorial, trend forecasting, and strategic consulting, Kendall is currently the Fashion & Beauty Trends Editor at Trendalytics as well as a freelance writer for Refinery29, The Zoe Report, LuisaViaRoma, WhoWhatWear, and Coveteur. Prior, she was the Assistant Fashion Director for Women’s RTW at Bloomingdale’s and contributed to global trend forecasting agencies. Plus, she’s a fashion media personality and expert that’s been featured in ABC, Cheddar News, Harper’s BAZAAR, GQ, Bustle, Sourcing Journal, Brides, and Vice.
Elena Kanagy-Loux is a descendant of the Amish and grew up between the US and Japan, where she was immersed in both traditional Mennonite crafts and the DIY fashion scene in Tokyo's Harajuku neighborhood. She received her BFA in Textile Design from FIT and an MA in Costume Studies at NYU. She co-founded Brooklyn Lace Guild, an organization devoted to preserving lacemaking, teaches bobbin lace classes, and worked as the Collections Specialist at the Antonio Ratti Textile Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also makes lace commissions for Columbia Law School, Refashioning the Renaissance, Bard Graduate Center Gallery, and more.