White Lace Dresses

When we started to think about the most noteworthy fashion moments involving white lace, our brains were immediately flooded with images of Madonna rolling around in a white bustier dress singing "Like A Virgin" at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards and Kate Middleton's wedding dress. Though these iconic frocks are vastly different--one is an '80s masterpiece, complete with a belt buckle emblazoned with the words "Boy Toy" and fingerless gloves, the other, a romantic couture gown designed by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton--one thing unites them: both are bridal gowns involving lots of white lace. And so the association goes--white lace equals weddings--or so we thought until we saw the way fashion-forward ladies like Harley Viera Newton and Chloe Sevigny were wearing these emblematic frocks. But instead of opting for matrimonial confections, these tastemakers are reaching for white lace dresses with streamlined silhouettes and above-the-knee hemlines, and styling them with unexpected accents, resulting in a modern look worth spotlighting in today's Trend Report.

This trend--as always--started on the runways, and while there were white lace dresses galore to choose from, we'd like to draw your attention to the wonderful examples in Ralph Lauren and Brioni's S/S 11 collections. At the former, we noted a cowgirl couture vibe, where Victorian-inspired lace frocks were updated via charming western and silver accents. In the above runway look, Lauren paired a long-sleeved Embroidered Donovan Dress ($5498, 888.475.7674) with a Small Fringe Bag with Beading ($595, 888.475.7674) and Jerina Sandals ($695, 888.475.7674). The contrast of the rustic accessories with the sweetly delicate frock keeps the overall look from being too costume-y, and results in a wearable ensemble that works well for a number of occasions. At Brioni, creative director Alessandro Dell'Acqua showcased a handful of awe-inspiring, shin-grazing, white lace dresses, like the Rebrode Sleeveless Lace Dress ($2250,310.271.1300) above. We especially appreciate the frock's deep-v neckline and minimal underpinnings; both aspects modernize the virginal, traditional material.

If you're still unsure that white lace can move beyond bridal associations, perhaps today's influential dressers can ease your mind. As demonstrated by Harley Viera Newton, one way to keep these delicate frocks from looking matrimonial is to add your go-to accessories. Spotted at Mulberry's Coachella barbecue last month, Viera Newton paired her Juicy Couture Lace Shift Dress ($298) with an armful of stacked silver bangles and an oversized pair of Illesteva's Frieda Sunglasses ($184). The combination of the abbreviated hemline and the modern accents free the frock from any fussy connotations. We also like that she kept things casual and cool by opting for naturally tousled locks--it's the exact opposite of stereotypical bridal hair!

In addition to adding of-the-moment accessories, another way to ensure your white lace dress doesn't scream "wedding chapel" is to style it with unexpected shoes. Take Chanel Iman, for example: the stunning model was photographed at a Met Gala after-party earlier this month wearing Dolce & Gabbana's coveted Lace & Swarovski Encrusted Shift Dress ($16095, 877.70.DGUSA) with a pair of Christian Louboutin point-toe pumps, which are sadly no longer available. While Iman's body-skimming dress is certainly elegant and sophisticated, the peek-a-boo styling and her crystal-embellished, spiked heels give it a refreshingly edgy twist. We were also delighted when we came across a well-dressed civilian on photographer Vanessa Jackman's site wearing a long-sleeved Marc by Marc Jacobs lace dress from the F/W 10 collection with Miu Miu polka-dot platforms and Mulberry's Alexa Satchel ($1200). The slouchy bag and quirky heels make the ensemble current a bit whimsical.

Additionally, we like the idea of styling a white lace dress with black platforms and a long-strap bag a la Chloe Sevigny and Caroline Sieber. For example, Sevigny showed up at the 6th Annual Tribeca Film Festival Chanel dinner in New York last month wearing Shumaq's Ivory Chloe Lace Dress ($150) with the Mary Ellen Boots ($475) from her Opening Ceremony collection and a Chanel across-body bag for a cool, '90s grunge-inspired outfit. A few weeks later at the Chanel Cruise 12 show in France, Sieber caught our attention when she paired a Chanel Haute Couture dress with ankle-strap platform heels by Prada and a gold Chanel bag, resulting in a party-perfect ensemble. In both cases, the strong black shoes play down the inherent romanticism of the white lace, while the chain-strap mini bags add an of-the-moment touch to their looks.

Now that we've addressed a number of excellent ways to execute this trend, it's finally time to peruse our fabulous assortment of white lace dresses! But before we start gushing over our picks, it's important to note that a slim, above-the-knee silhouette is key to avoid looking like a blushing bride. If you fancy Sieber's short-sleeve version, French Connection's Lace Embellished Pencil Dress ($332), Cynthia Steffe's Gretchen Floral Lace Dress ($245), and Pins and Needles' Lace Dress ($79) are all worthy options; just be sure to style them with either a black or nude shoe to keep them from looking too saccharine. Nasty Gal's Faithful Lace Dress ($58) features belled sleeves similar to Sevigny's Shumaq dress, while the body-skimming, sleeveless silhouette of Lily Pullitzer's Lela Daisy Lace Shift Dress ($328) reminds us of Viera Newton's drool-worthy selection. We're also smitten with Patterson J. Kincaid's Torino Belted Lace Dress ($248), which would work well for those wonderful afternoon fetes.--Jessica Baker

Photo of Caroline Sieber, courtesy of Splash; Photo of Chloe Sevigny, courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency; Street Style photo courtesy of Vanessa Jackman; Runway images, provided by First View