Carola Long: 'Lace ranges from sophisticated seductress to trash goth. Then there's the Readers' Wives red-lace vibe...'

Lady Gaga isn't really one to follow trends. As far as I remember, cloaks made from Kermit puppets weren't that big when she wore one last year. However, her outfit for the Brits chimed with one of this season's key looks: lace.

The good news – for the modest dresser, if not for lairy men on building sites – is that lace doesn't have be raunchy, or worn in the form of a sheer body suit à la Lady G. Nor is it necessary to copy her doily-like lace mask, unless you want to look like the Phantom of the Opera if he were to haunt a particularly genteel tea-room; rather, lace can be slotted into your wardrobe to add instant femininity.

It was Miuccia Prada's dazzling lace collection for Autumn/Winter 2008 that kick-started the revival; she picked up on its cultural significance and the way it follows women throughout their lives on christening dresses, wedding gowns, underwear and mourning clothes. Accordingly, the fabric's connotations range from sophisticated seductress to Eighties trash goth, or the rather less aspirational Readers' Wives itchy- red-lace vibe. At the opposite end of the spectrum, pale lace can be innocent and regal; just think of Grace Kelly's angelic wedding dress. On the catwalk this season, interpretations ranged from Dolce & Gabbana's Sicilian siren (pictured below) to Christopher Kane's candy-coloured Lolita dresses, billed as "a bit pervy".

Certainly, it's designer labels that do lace best, and one member of The Independent's fashion team has been sceptical that high-street versions can work at all. As more of an optimist/ delusional cheapskate, though, I'm going with the theory that it can look kitsch and a little bit tarty in a good way. High-street lace works better on tops than it does on skirts or dresses – the surface area is smaller and it doesn't involve hideous flesh-coloured polyester linings. Both Maje (net-a-porter.com) and Warehouse have nice long black-lace T-shirts with pockets that would look great layered over a vest and teamed with rolled-up boyfriend jeans and flats. The aforementioned colleague has reformulated her rule. Lace should look "couture or Camden market". Do not attempt a middle ground.

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