Are you a fool for tulle? (Ok, sorry, that was super hokey, but you know we can’t resist a cheesy rhyme around here). I am, but I am also aware of its limitations. It resonates so strongly of the ballet and weddings that it needs to be used wisely, and overuse of it – tulle bulk, if you will – tends to make for an explosive effect.
Early tulle garments were hand woven, much like lace garments. There have been pieces of tulle found dating back to the 1700s, but tulle really took off after a weaving machine that could quickly produce it was patented in 1809. It’s been integrated into evening dresses and lingerie ever since. Silk tulle remains the elegant high end option, but synthetic tulle is much more common, and has made the fabric accessible to the masses. Tulle became exceedingly popular in the 1950s as a classic skirt fabric and has waxed and waned since.
Let’s take a look at how the royals have worn it, and how successfully it translates to our modern times.
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The traditional use of tulle is of course weddings, and the most high profile royal to wear a tulle gown was Serena Stanhope. This Bruce Robbins design was said to be an homage to Princess Margaret’s well known gown. Although this is a classic use of tulle, I always felt that the skirt here was like a cream puff trying to escape from a satin stranglehold. The tulle bulk is way off scale to my eyes.
The Danish New Year’s levees are a definite event with a capital E. Mary wore this dreamy ensemble of a tulle skirt with a velvet jacket to both the 2010 and 2013 galas. I love the color and I find that the tulle bulk proportion is just perfect. I think the skirt could be repurposed for Isabella or Josephine ten years from now and it would still look up to date.
.In 2001, Queen Silvia wore a Nina Ricci gown with a dotted tulle skirt to the Nobel ceremonies. Silvia also wore this dress under a Snow White cape for her 25th anniversary celebrations. It is certainly a dress that translates to modern: Princess Madeleine borrowed this gown from her mother for her wedding reception.
For the 2016 Monaco Rose Ball, Beatrice Casiraghi reached into her closet and pulled out this Giambattista Valli ballgown. Lots of tulle bulk distribution in the lower body here, but I think it works in a modern way. Partly because of the exuberant style, but mostly because the wearer can wear almost anything.
The Duchess of Sussex wore this Oscar de la Renta “Bird” dress for the Australian Geographic Society Awards in Sydney. This dress has caused the hofdames to line up in for and against camps: between those who find the differing shades of tulle and lining disconcerting (ahem OC), and those who find it festive and fun (moi). Modern? You tell me.
Now this, this has some interesting bulk distribution! Crown Princess Victoria wore this Selam Fessahaye tulle dress to the 2019 Polar Music Awards, where she always brings the unusual. This dress could be described as modern or completely bonkers, depending on your point of view.