How To Tell Bad Lace From Good Lace

There's no doubt about it, Lolitas love their lace. We will cover whatever we can in it, dresses, hats, socks, fake fingernails, even our cell phones and iPods are probably covered in lace. But a proper Lolita knows that not all lace is good, in fact, some lace can be downright horrible. The right lace can make something beautiful and decadent, but the wrong lace can go so far as to ruin something completely. This post is aimed at the beginner Lolita, who finds the idea of "bad lace" and "good lace" intimidating and confusing.

This post isn't going to so much as teach you about all the different kinds of lace, because just because a lace is a certain type, that doesn't mean that it is necessarily good or bad. Instead, I will focus on a few tips on how to spot the good from the bad. If you are interested in learning about different kinds of lace, check out this great post by Macaron Hearts. Please keep in mind that I am neither a seamstress or a lace maker, and my opinions on good and bad lace are simply from my own experience in buying Lolita clothes, both good and bad, for the better half of a decade.

Why bother with good lace?
The simplest reason is that bad lace is often ugly, and why bother wearing something ugly? Especially something ugly tacked onto what would be an otherwise pretty dress. The other answer is that Lolita is often about having a very extravagant and decadent aesthetic. And cheap lace just doesn't follow that aesthetic because $1 a yard lace from Walmart really isn't very decadent.

A few different qualities of lace
Here are some examples of 4 different lace qualities on various things I own.

Let's start from the top! The best lace on this image is very soft, thick, and has a lot of delicate details. It's generally a very pretty looking lace. The good lace is similar to the best lace in that it is pretty and delicate, but it's not quite as delicate, it is a little bit angular and is sort of shiny. The okay lace is soft and thick, but it's not very pretty. It's not ugly, it just doesn't have a lot of detail to it. Something that also makes that lace simply okay, that doesn't really get through in photos is that the lace is generally weaker feeling than the other laces and was actually fraying in a few places when I got the dress new. You can manage to get away with okay lace by not having a whole lot of it, just enough to detail the hems and ruffles. The bad lace is neither soft, thick, delicate, or even pretty. It is stiff and sticks up really weirdly, it's very thin and scratchy, and the design on it is very blocky.

How to spot bad lace
While there is a wide variety of styles when it comes to good lace, bad lace usually all looks very similar. There are a few tell-tale signs of bad lace. First, have a look at a couple examples of bad lace.

Bad lace from various online shops.

What is it that these two laces have in common? The first is a visible base netting, good lace, even when it's made with a netted base, will usually have a very tight-weave net that is not obviously visible. In addition to a wide netting the details on both of these laces is very blocky looking. Try to think of details on lace as resolution on a picture. A good picture is not pixely and blurry, it is crisp and full of detail. The details on lace are the same way. If you are buying lace, bad lace is also usually cheap lace. If your lace is sold in a store at $1 a yard, it's probably not going to be very good. Unless of course, it just so happens to be on clearance or you are buying it wholesale. Cheap $1 a yard lace is also often very common looking, they all have pretty much the exact same blocky flower design. Nice laces often have many more options when it comes to design.

What makes good lace good?
As I said above, there are lots of different types of good lace, but they also have a few traits in common with each other that make them all good.

Good Venise lace from Cheeptrims

Both of these laces have a lot of curves in the design, there is hardly anything blocky about them at all. While these do have netting-like details, they are there for the purpose of decoration, not as a cheap base to machine stitch square looking flowers on top of. Both of these pieces are also very thick and soft looking while still managing to look delicate. In short, good lace is good because it is pretty, soft, has gentle curves, and is thick.

Good cluny lace from Cheeptrims
One kind of lace that doesn't always follow the "gentle curves" rule is cluny lace. Which is generally chunkier looking than other laces, but that certainly doesn't mean it's bad. Cluny lace is still soft and often delicate looking, it just has a much more "crochet" kind of feel to it as it is actually made from threads plaited together to form the design.

But I can't afford anything other than cheap lace!
First of all, that's probably not true. There are many places to get good quality Lolita clothes for a cheap price, check out my Bodyline posts for starters. But, if for whatever reason, your only choice is a dress with lace of questionable quality, there are a few tips you can follow:
  • Avoid a lace color that contrasts with your dress color. One of the reasons that black and white Lolita dresses get a bad rap is because when a dress is sold with cheap white lace on a black background, the cheapness of the lace is very apparent. The same goes for red and white or any other high contrast combo. Once you start going into pastel and white combos the contrast isn't so high, so you don't notice how cheap the lace is unless you really get up close and personal with the dress. Printed fabrics also help hide poor lace quality. But, your best bet is to find a dress where the lace and the fabric color match, such as a black dress with black lace, or white with white lace. In that case, the lace simply becomes texture and detail, not cheap decoration.
  • Avoid lace on the bottom of hems, especially if it is wide lace. For the same reasons as above, lace just hanging off a hem is going to be very noticeable, especially if it is cheap, wide lace, which tends to be very thin, often looking very out of place and gauzy. Lolita dresses usually have lace on the hem, but a good dress rarely has very wide lace, even of a good quality, so instead, look for a dress with a very narrow strip of lace, no more than a half an inch wide.
  • Remember, most lace can be removed. If you fall in love with a dress that has some cheap lace that you are less than in love with, you can usually snip the lace off. If the lace is just sewn on top of the dress, buy a seam ripper and start picking out the stitch. If the lace is sewn into a hem, snip it down as close to the hem as possible. Removing lace is kind of an annoying task, and unless you are willing to take apart your dress and reassemble it you are going to have to do some close and careful snipping. So if you are buying a dress that you plan to remove the lace from, try to avoid a dress completely covered in lace, it will make your life much easier.
Once more, these bits of advice are only for when a dress has bad lace. I am not saying that Lolita dresses cannot be black and white or cannot have wide lace at the hems, just that if a dress uses cheap lace, those two things are going to make the cheapness of the lace very obvious.

How to make the most out of a bad lace selection
This section is for the crafty Lolita looking to sew her first Lolita pieces herself. Many fabric stores usually only sell lace of questionable quality, especially when it comes to non-white colors. So, you have your fabric all picked out, you've been brushing up on your sewing skills, and have been reading tutorials on how to make the perfect Lolita skirt. Your skirt is almost done, but it's missing something, lace! You head to your fabric store in search of lace only to find rack after rack of stiff and scratchy lace only suited for grandma crafts. What are you to do if your only fabric store has the worst lace selection ever? My advice would be to either follow the above tips about avoiding lace that contrasts with the fabric, or, even better, to use eyelet lace. Most every fabric store carries eyelet lace. Eyelet lace is like a little ruffle of fabric with embroidery and eyelets in them, and it's usually inexpensive.

It's not everyone's cup of tea, because it's usually only sold in whites an is more suited for Sweet styles. But it looks much better than cheap lace, and it's really not that expensive. If you are curious to see how eyelet lace looks on Lolita dresses, Anna House uses a lot of eyelet lace on their dresses.

Where to buy good lace.
There are a few places online to buy good lace for a reasonable price. Cheeptrips sells whole spools of lace for around 20$, but you are going to need to join a group order unless you plan on spending a lot, because they have a minimum order of $65. The Etsy shop Mary Not Martha is also a great place to buy good lace, especially good black lace, which is sometimes hard to find. If you are looking for a specific kind of lace to buy, try Venise lace, it's usually the nicest that you can find for a reasonable price.

Always remember: no lace is better than bad lace
A Lolita dress doesn't have to be covered in lace to be pretty! Sometimes, in the case of lace, less is more. Especially when it comes to low quality lace. If you are shopping for a Lolita dress from a cheaper place, especially a cheaper place that you have no idea what kind of lace they are going to use on your dress, look for a dress that has ruffles instead of lace.

I hope these tips have helped you learn a little bit more about the difference between good and bad lace and how to make the most out of what you can get a hold of. Once more, I'm going to suggest this post by Macaron Hearts about the different types of lace. Especially if you are sewing your own Lolita clothes, it is very handy to know what type of lace will work best for you.


  1. I actually would've thought the 'okay' lace is good lace because it looks like it's made from nice cotton, and the 'good' lace would be okay at best, because of the shine it has.
    But I'm not a seamstress myself, maybe it's just my personal preference... It's true what you say with the 'okay' lace not being very detailed.
    It's interesting to read another opinion about it!

  2. I do think it's a matter of opinion - I tend to agree with Asuka, nice cotton cluny laces are often much nicer than manufactured Venice laces. Not that cotton cluny is ALWAYS better, but you can't just write off cluny just because it's not detailed. After all, our beloved brands use nice cotton cluny laces much more than rayon Venice laces. You can get cheap looking clunies and really really nice Venices, but I don't think your examples are these...I think both of your examples are securely in the okay to good range, but I'd say the cotton actually looks a bit nicer. I think cotton in general tends to be nicer than rayon, though...cluny vs Venice is simply a matter of taste.

  3. Maybe it just doesn't show up so well in pictures, or maybe I shouldn't have bothered with "Ok" and "good" and instead just kept them both as "good" but this cluny lace really isn't that great. While it's soft, it's just kind of crappy, it has a few places in it that are frayed and is just generally kind of weak feeling. It's off a Bodyline dress that cost about 20$.

  4. I see! Yeah, it's not very clear from the photo - it sounded like you were saying it was only "okay" merely because it wasn't as detailed a design, which seems inherently not true in my opinion (after all, Baby for example uses a lot of plainer cluny laces, but they are lovely laces!). But now that you mention it, I can see one place where it is messed up even in the photo.

    I guess I just wanted to comment because while I have a LOT of Venice laces in my stock pile, my personal favorites to use are all cotton clunies of a plainer variety - the Venice look nice on some things, but in general I prefer a nice clean cute cluny. ;) As chemical laces are difficult to find and usually prohibitively expensive, I use mostly cluny. :D

  5. I really like this post I really like 'bad' lace for my gothic sewing, so I found it hard to see what exactly is the difference.

    I wish my local fabric store stocked a larger range now :)
    I foudn this post really helpful :3

  6. Thanks for the post! As a seamstress, this is incredibly helpful. I have unknowingly been using "bad" lace... it's cheap and my budget likes it :x Invested in some beautiful eyelet lace for my next project!

  7. I think its a bit funny how you labeled everything good vs bad lace.. when in fact they are all just different styles. (different weaves and fibres)
    Guipure lace would be suitable for some garments but not all, just as tulle lace works well with angelic pretty's style, cluny lace looks good with classic styles.
    It depends on the fabric with which it is used.
    Price is usually the best indication of quality

  8. The use of "bad lace" isn't actually something I made up. "Does this dress have bad lace?" or "How do I know if a dress has bad lace?" is a question a lot of new Lolitas often ask. Of course they are just different types of lace, but many dresses aimed at Lolitas who don't really know better are covered in cheap lace and to simply say that price is an indication has different meanings. To someone buying their first dress $70 usually seems like more than they have ever personally seen a dress sold for, so the assumption is often times that $70= a lot of money therefore = the dress must have good lace.

    But like I said in the post, this is really aimed at beginner Lolitas who don't yet know the difference between cheap lace and quality lace.

  9. Wow, thanks for the plug, Caro-chan!
    This was a great post - you handled the "good" and "bad" lace discussion much better than I did in mine. I had good fun reading it, even though I don't really sew much. Thanks for the excellent content!

  10. Interesting post. I'm missing the tulle lace though. ;) I often find it to be very beautiful.

  11. Thank you so much! I never wore anything with much lace when I was little, and it can be a bit confusing now that I have to identify between good and bad. >.< Oh, well. Eyelet lace it is then! Oh, and eyelet lace is very cute, I think. ^^

  12. I don't believe in a bad lace, just different looking lace with different textures, different appeals, and different materials.
    'Good' lace according to this post is crocheted lace, the most expensive of all lace because of the intricate work gone into making it curvy rather than a 'blocky' look. The fact is, it's just a different method for each kind of lace, just how a cotton weave can change the fabric entirely. However, in this case, you a generally comparing something to being bad to something barely related other than by name.
    Its like saying that a fashion brocade is worse than velvet. Face it, they're both polyester, and you may prefer one because you and a lot of other people think it's prettier, but there are others with a taste for the brocade. In the end it's silly to compare the two as being better or worse than the other.

  13. Maybe I should have put "good" and "bad" in quotation marks. While what you say is indeed true, referring to lace as either "good" or "bad" is just something that's done in Lolita, meant to imply that the lace on something is either on par with brand quality or cheap and scratchy. I certainly didn't invent it!

  14. Lol when I get time and money I am going to destroye the shit lace on this red dress I have. It is a sweet dress but its so Ita with that bad lace. I'll add a nice heavy cotton lace later. Maybe I'll even make it. That'd be fun. ^///u///^

  15. I have just one more piece of advice for "But I can't afford anything out of cheap lace!" I say, look for smaller, simpler lace. I've seen venise lace that has sold for just over 50 cents per yard simply because it was small and not very intricate. Also, smaller lace tends to make a dress look less Lace Monster-ish.
    But those are just my thoughts. What do you think?

  16. Thanks A lot now I can tell the difference between good lace and bad lace

  17. I do have one question, I am one of the begining lolitas and I have read many articles on how to tell quality dresses apart, if it wasn't for this and another website I might have bought from Milanoo! However there is one dress that I have been eyeing on another website for about187.00$ and the lace is large, but very intricate in the photos with curvy designs like you demonstrated above, does this mean something?

  18. I know, everyone calls it 'ita lace' but personnaly I really love rachell lace, it's very soft and looks very pretty in my opinion, but that's just me! I also think the okay lace is very nice.

  19. Basically, the difference between curtain lace and dress lace. XD

  20. I know this is an old post (I'm reading because I want to try lolita and I'm scared!), but I have something that might be a useful tip.

    Eyelet lace can be dyed very easily, but it has an effect that can be stunning or ruin your look. The fabric part will take the dye, but usually the stitching won't. I've dyed eyelet lace blue and red before, and I loved the look of the colored fabric with tiny bright white details. But if you don't know that's going to happen, it could mess you up!

  21. WOW! Thank you for this info. I am in the midst of looking for my wedding dress or an affordable seamstress to make me one, and this was very helpful. Do you have any recs for a seamstress that makes wedding dresses in Silt, CO? the dress will be satin and lace!
    Thanks! Liz

  22. I think there is one important thing I did not see listed here. Fiber content. Just FYI, many laces of all types are Polyester or Polyamide. That is all cheap lace regardless of what is is molded to look like. Good lace is mostly cotton, rayon, and maybe a tad of nylon. Europe made the best laces first and if you look at the fiber content of those vintage and heirloom laces you will never see polyester. Which is one molecule away from oil. By the way lace that has polyester will not dye unless using a special dye. Good lace will dye evenly.

  23. I actually adore the look of raschel ("bad") lace, but imo it's best when ruffled and used to hem softer fabrics (especially those flow-y classic pieces -- they don't move as nice with venise and go OTT with tulle(unless chiffon-like already)). The rough texture of the raschel lace is offset by the soft texture of the fabric, so the piece gets all evened out and nice to look at.

    Your lace shouldn't stick out if the piece is balanced like that regardless of the type, unless there's a texture/color issue somewhere else in the coord.

    But yeah, it really is a bit harsh on the eyes when it's caught on standard cotton and/or sewn straight (which is unfortunately how a lot of the "cheap"/costume dresses use them). You need a really good eye for color and composition to get away with using it like that.

  24. I just bought a Fairies & Forest JSK from Lacemarket from the Taobao brand Imagine & Spectacle. The built-in underskirt has a lace trim and it looks kinda like the bad lace you featured, but to me it doesn't look bad on the dress at all. It hangs a little lower than I guess would be acceptable? but at the same time to me it looks really great! It's dark navy blue so it doesn't make itself known either, which is probably why. If it were in bright gold or white or something I'd definitely be snipping it off just for horrible color choice.

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