To Achieve That Feeling of Amazing Grace, Designers Are Turning to a Touch of Lace
One leading influence on the estimated $250-million-a-year lace industry is that peacock of rock, Prince, who favors fancy shirts and lace gloves. Another devotée is punk canary Cyndi Lauper, with her frilly hair bows and frou-frou skirts. Then there's Madonna, who often makes her moves in an un-Virgin-like white lace body stocking.
Unlike the prim Edwardian-inspired creations of a few years back, there's nothing straitlaced about the new styles. Trendy teens are pairing lace T-shirts or body stockings with jeans. Conservative matrons are flashing ex-otically patterned lace neckties, stockings and fingerless gloves or going all out with strapless sheaths. Sometimes the colors are irridescent neon, but generally, says New York lace designer Maurie Welsh, "The new lace is black. It's sexy. Women want to look like women again."
Picking up on the beat, designers like Norma Kamali, Betsey Johnson, Janet Russo and Bill Blass are using lace in their designs. But it's a former beauty contest winner named Pat Kerr who is the uncrowned queen. "I've tried to take lace out of the little girl, frilly, mumsy image and elevate it to a more sophisticated level," says Kerr, 42, who concocts her creations out of a lavish Memphis penthouse. And at what a price! A typical Kerr cocktail number made of 17th-century Milanese handwork and embellished with pearls and Russian embroidery costs $14,000. Her collection, which includes christening gowns, wedding frocks and antique mourning veils, is sold at Neiman-Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.
Kerr's clientele is all-female but up in New York things are racier. At one outré Manhattan boutique the guys are buying T-shirts and boxer shorts made of lace. Oh what a frill!
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