New Rules for Tulle

Traditionally reserved for wedding veils and tutus, tulle is having a contemporary revival. Across the board - from high street to haute couture - designers are interpreting tulle in new ways. From romantic and rebellious to delicate and demure. Even paired with slogan tees and trainers in a new athleisure aesthetic.


Molly Goddard

The new ’cool tulle’ is directly influenced by designer Molly Goddard’s frothy creations. The young, London-based designer has championed the fabric ever since her first show back in Spring/Summer 2014, winning her a plethora of fans including Rihanna. Many of Goddard’s gowns use over 100 metres of gathered, pleated, folded and smocked tulle. Even if you’ve never heard of Molly Goddard, it’s likely you are already familiar with her creations, or at least one dress in particular, a bubble gum pink tulle confection, which was worn on the hit BBC drama Killing Eve.


The origins of tulle

Textile historians believe that the first tulles were woven in the 1700s, using hand knotting methods similar to lace production. But with the industrial revolution, tulle as we know it today, began to be produced using mechanised looms in Leicestershire in 1808.

A complex loom worked silk fibres in warp and weft to quickly produce tulle in greater quantities. As these fabrics were exclusively woven in silk, they tended to be reserved only for the upper classes and became increasingly popular for wedding gowns, evening dresses and lingerie. Tulle only became readily available to the masses with the introduction of cheaper synthetic fibres such as nylon, rayon and polyester.

Historically, tulle has been used to convey modesty, for example as a bridal veil to conceal a woman’s face before marriage, and as the embodiment of the feminine delicacy of graceful ballerinas adorned in fluffy tutus. But today tulle offers the opportunity to flip traditional values on their head, giving a woman the chance to reveal and conceal her body as she wishes. Think Carrie Bradshaw in her iconic tutu and tank look for the ‘Sex and the City’ intro, or Serena Williams competing in an asymmetric tutu tennis dress at the 2018 US Open.


A versatile material

The versatility of tulle eliminates the need for designers to use boning or rigidity to create volume and structure and its many layers can be used to either reveal or conceal the body.

When it comes to showcasing this versatility, French luxury brand Schiaparelli uses tulle to construct garments including anything from capes to miniskirts, working with multiple layers to create volume, as well as single layers which give a glimpse of the wearer’s body.

Other designers are finding increasingly unconventional ways to use this adaptable fabric. By infusing ballet-inspired styles with sports, leisure or menswear garments - which often result in gender-defying looks - high-end designers and high-street stores are presenting tulle as fit and fresh for a contemporary consumer.

Couture designer Giambattista Valli is well known for his voluminous, ultra-feminine tulle ball gowns but for his 2015 show he injected some unexpected androgyny by showing sheer, lightweight tulle layered over tailored trousers and paired with blazers.

Similarly, the recent debut collection of Dior’s new Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri was a showcase in tulle and a shout out to feminist power dressing. Appealing to millennials and streetwear devotees alike, the dresses were skeletal interpretations of ball gowns and the tulle skirts were paired with ‘we are all feminists’ t-shirts, proving the versatile fabric can be worn on any occasion.


What is your favourite way to experiment with tulle?

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Written by: Rosie Gibson

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