By  on May 20, 2008

Gauzy gowns and chiffon shifts made a strong showing for spring 2009, but one of the oldest materials in the book stole the spotlight. "Lace has such a rich history," says designer Claire Pettibone who designs frilly frocks dripping with the stuff. "There are so many types for a bride to choose from." Modern lace, preceded by intricately embroidered nets found in Peruvian ruins and ancient Egyptian tombs, was popularized during the 15th and 16th centuries. The variety derived from its exceptional heritage allows lace to seem outmoded at one moment, but clears the way for it to be in vogue in the next.

"The popularity of vintage has made lace much more fashionable," Pettibone adds. And other designers agree. JL Couture by Jenny Lee, Jim Hjelm, Romona Keveza and Lazaro Bridal are all featuring lace gowns for spring. "There was a time when lace was not so popular," notes Lazaro Perez, designer of Lazaro Bridal. He has always used the material in both his bridal and bridesmaid collections at least as trim. This season, several of his gowns were nearly covered in lace. "I'm so pleased to see it make a comeback."

And the growth of lace isn't confined to the bridal market. The use of Chantilly, Cluny and guipure variations has shot up in ready-to-wear collections of late — most notably at Prada for fall 2008 and Oscar de la Renta for resort 2009. "Bridal has taken inspiration from ready-to-wear in the past," says designer Romona Keveza, "But it's hard to tell where this trend started." Grace Kelly wore lace on her wedding day in 1956 as did Queen Victoria nearly 120 years earlier, but their styles also influenced the rtw of their times. There's no resolving a classic "chicken-or-the-egg" paradox, but Lazaro Perez concludes, "Trends come and go with everyday clothes, but as long as weddings are about tradition, lace will have a prominent place in the bridal market."

PHOTOS BY STEVE EICHNER, TALAYA CENTENO AND THOMAS IANNACCONE

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