Kate Middleton got props for wearing Carrickmacross English lace on her McQueen sleeves when she walked through Westminster Abbey in April. But the delicate fabric — once reserved for big-day dresses and French lingerie — is now also showing up in the form of picnic-perfect sundresses, drapey tees and even bomber jackets.

“There’s been a return to femininity in fashion,” says designer Hilton Hollis, whose silver lace blazer is currently on the racks at Betsy Fisher (1224 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-785-1975). “After the recession, there were lots of black and gray undertones of sadness, but now everything is romantic. Lace gives a beautiful, Old World charm.”

But the centuries-old craft, which also includes macrame and silk embroidery, isn’t the demure stuff of Granny’s tea party tablecloth anymore. Modern shapes and unusual treatments (lace ballet flats, anyone?) mean its easy to work into your wardrobe. “So many women associate lace with this dressy tendency, but you can mix it with jeans or leather jackets,” Hollis says. “It’s not uptight and prissy anymore.”

“I like to put clients in lace tops. They layer under blazers for work or go alone for casual occasions,” says Rosana Vollmerhausen of personal shopping company DC Style Factory (Dcstylefactory.com). “Lace is comfortable, cool and easy.” Plus, as a certain prince would agree, it can make hearts melt.

Lace to Victory
1) Summer’s “it” color (coral) meets summer’s “it” fabric (lace) on his Allison Parris cap-sleeved sheath ($400), paired with multi-hued bangles ($22-$46), an oversized cocktail ring ($24, all Proper Topper, 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-842-3055), a David Aubrey stone necklace ($156, Simply Soles, 3222 M St. NW; 202-232-0072) and nude stiletto sandals by Loeffler Randall ($550, Sassanova, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-471-4400).

2) Look lacy and a bit racy in a BCBG cream blouse ($198) and Diane von Furstenberg scarlet trousers ($265, both Bloomingdale’s, 5300 Western Ave. NW, Chevy Chase, Md.; 240-744-3700) paired with oversized sunglasses ($14), Matisse platform wedges ($78, both Shoefly, 2727 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-243-6490) and a leopard-print bangle ($128, Kate Spade, 3061 M St. NW; 202- 333-8302).

3) Too much of a good thing is lovely when it’s a cream lacy tank ($128, South Moon Under, 2700 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 703-807-4083) under a sheer Free People blouse ($88, Bloomingdale’s) worn with a Beth Bowley green macrame skirt ($118, Anthropologie.com), chandelier earrings ($45, South Moon Under) and an Ishayra cocktail ring ($150, Sassanova).

4) Rock two trends in a Theory summer maxi dress ($375) and Aqua gray lace tee ($48, both Bloomingdale’s). Cream and brown pumps by Blondo ($119, ShoeFly) and gold earrings (price on request, Sassanova).

Photos by Marge Ely/Express
Styling by Cathy Phillips
Model from CIMA Talent Management
Hair/Makeup by Leah Bassett, T.H.E. Artist Agency