*This post was updated on January 31st, 2019.
I have been seeing tulle everywhere recently and it is safe to bet that it is the fabric for Spring/Summer 2018. Tulle is a lightweight, very fine netting, which is often starched. It can be made of various fibers, including silk, nylon, and rayon. Tulle was most commonly used for veils, can-can for swing dresses and ballet tutus, but, after slowly appearing on wedding gowns, I have begun to see them on the red carpet and the runway. Tulle comes in a wide array of colors and it can also easily be dyed to suit the needs of the consumer. It is readily available at any fabric store or on Amazon.
I have been fascinated with tulle ever since I saw Carrie Bradshaw don a sparkly black one with stilettos in a Sex and City episode waaay back when I was in college. It gave her tiny frame so much volume and it looked so rad in the scene. I went nuts over it and waited a few years before I could afford a tulle skirt of my own. Avoiding looking like a ballerina or a 5-year old, I used very prominent and non-traditional colors like neon green and raspberry pink. The end result was fascinating and the talk of many parties. You can purchase your own tutu from Etsy HERE and style it with a crop top, off-the-should blouse or t-shirt. Creativity and imagination are everywhere in Pakistan and it was no surprise to see tulle used in bridal ghararas and lenghas (see pictures below).
The fabric name comes from Tulle, a city in the Southern central region of France. Tulle was well known as a center of lace production in the 18th century, and early tulle netting probably originated in this French city. Tulle netting appeared earlier in Parisian ballet costume than in most other nations, suggesting that tulle netting may have been more readily available there than elsewhere.
Ballet & Tulle
Ballerinas are feminine, graceful, strong yet delicate and almost angelic like, so of course, we want to emulate them. Every time a woman or a young girl pulls her hair back in a chic chignon or slip their feet in ballet flats, they are channeling some of that ethereal beauty.
During the beginning of the 1780s, the fashion impacted by classical ballet had a direct correlation with the attire worn by dancers at the time. All of the clothing worn by dancers was used to enhance the naturalistic features of the body including elongating the legs and arms and slimming the waist and chest. These features were considered the idealized female body at the time. Suited in the aristocracy, this led to a great amount of empowerment for women as well as young girls. Dancers wore soft long skirts that emphasized a wasp waistline and ballet slippers that became standard apparel for those in the aristocracy. Despite the discomfort they created, ballet slippers, which were made with satin and silk, provided flexibility for the foot which was ideal for dancers. Ballet has been affecting fashion from the beginning of the aristocracy as it was seen as one of the most sophisticated art forms of the time. It shows sentimental femininity in a tangible way through favoring fluttery silk gowns in soft pastel shades that highlight the waist.
One name stands out when it comes to asking who is responsible for ballet’s influence on the fashion world. The work of ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of Ballets Russes, the Russian ballet company that took Paris by storm in the early 1900s was the primary inspiration for this trend. The Ballet Russes inspired fashion designers, such as Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel, and Elsa Schiaparelli and art and fashion magazines including Vogue, Comoedia Illustre and La Gazette du Bon Ton, published articles and photographs which fueled ballets popularity in fashion.
Today, the majority of tulle is actually bobbinet, invented in Britain in the early 19th century. Bobbinet is made by wrapping the weft thread around the warp thread, creating a strong hexagonal design which tends not to twist or fall out of shape. The result is tulle netting which is lightweight and surprisingly strong and durable for its weight.
Besides using them to wrap gifts (add ribbons and tulle flowers or fake flowers and your gift will be a work of art) and as decor, one of the most common uses for tulle netting is in garments. Tulle is often used as an accent, to create a lacy, floating look. Tulle may also be used in underskirts or petticoats to create a stiff belled shape. While in the 1950s, the common color for these tulle undergarments was white and maaybe red, now they come in bright punk rock colors (Betsy Johnson solely responsible for that trend), which gives an edge to many a gown, dress, and skirts. Gowns are often puffed out with the use of several layers of stiff tulle giving the wearer symmetry and volume. Tulle netting is also used to make veils since it obscures the features of the face while allowing the wearer to see out. Also, a bride looks extra poised and graceful in a thin tulle veil.
Uses in 2018
As fashion weeks are taking place around the world, I am seeing them on runways. Another trend you see during these shows is the street style trend; so I thought why not try to combine the two- tulle in street style. This season the fashion shows were filled with tulle creativity. I saw tulle with sequins and tulle with beaded embroidery and patches. I saw fashion tutus to fashion cocktail style midi-dresses and they were gorgeous, but more party appropriate.
Sooo, how can we make tulle popular on streets without using magic-with a winning combination, I guess! Mix-matching tweed with tulle is a fun and creative way to look like a fashionista working for a fashion magazine. How about using a pale tulle as an overlay to colorful pants, capris, or a cotton dress?
Some other ideas for using tulle in your everyday look is using them as accessories. How about a tulle flower choker or lace and tulle gloves? Other creative ways are to have ruffled tulle on the hem of a shirt or on a chiffon poncho. There are a million ways to use tulle without looking like a 1980’s “Like a Virgin” Madonna (hey, gotta admit, I still love the look). The idea is to use it sparingly and with other fabrics (to avoid looking like the model below) to match your street style aesthetics. Hope I have given you some ideas. Now go to your nearest fabric store and look for some pretty tulle to stitch on to your trendy clothes or you can just wait for designers to finally incorporate them in street-wear. Happy Shopping!