DIY Alencon Lace Veil
The DIY veil project set-up, in progress.
After hemming and hawing about what to put on my head for the ceremony, I finally decided on making a two-tier cathedral Alencon lace DIY veil for the wedding. Here’s how it became a thing.
CUTTING THE TULLE
You’re supposed to use the stronger and more expensive embroidery tulle, but I used the cheap stuff. About a dollar per yard. Granted, I did have to cut two different veils in the end since the first one ripped (again, cheap stuff). Another thing is, you have to use 108? wide tulle for the cathedral veil, otherwise it will look like you’re dragging a ribbon around like a Russian rhythmic gymnast.
For a two-tier drop veil, which is smooth and continuous from end to end, you have to add up the length that will hang from the back, as well as the length that you want in front of your face. Cathedral veils usually extend 120 inches from where they’re pinned on the head. To get the front to reach my fingertips (very spooky and dramatic), I had to add another 40 inches to that measurement, for 160 inches total. Random fun fact: On average it takes a three-toed sloth a whole minute to move that exact distance on the ground. Sure, sloths are slow, but wrangling that length of veil in our home was just as painstaking, to say the least.
I have a small apartment to work in. Hardly a cathedral space, more like a broom closet in a chapel. Even though our one-bedroom does have a little extra parlor which I use as my “studio,” there simply wasn’t enough room to cut and drape this particular (longest & widest) type of veil.
With 108″ tulle, you also have to cut the ends of the veil into two perfect hemicircles. So if you’re like me and don’t have three yards of continuous table space, use your mattress! I could spread the end of my veil over the bed, and the soft padding and smooth surface actually gave me room to see what was happening, while also providing a surface to pin the veil to so that I could mark and cut a perfect half-circle.
One drawback is that with such a large circle to pin, you’re bound to leave a sharp object on the bed, which will scratch or poke your fiancé’s belly in the middle of the night. (Sorry!)
Once you’ve measured and cut the DIY veil and rounded the ends gracefully, it’s time to think about lace.
THE SEARCH FOR THE “RIGHT” LACE
I had browsed many, many lace sellers online. Just endless, monotonous, eye-glazing scrolling. Most of the pages and pages of what I looked at was from Chinese vendors on Etsy. I knew I wanted a wide lace, and their prices were anywhere from $7-13 per yard. At this point, I didn’t really know the difference between “real” and fake lace. There. Are. So. Many. Types. Alençon lace, Chantilly, Venice, Guipure…I knew what I was finding wasn’t genuine, and that upon receipt the quality was basically a crapshoot. Online wasn’t going to cut it, and the cheap prices had to be too good to be true. I couldn’t make a decision staring at a screen.
Instead, I went down to New York with the fiancé to visit some friends and do some much needed in-person shopping. I dragged him all over town looking for Chinese lace vendors. I even managed to get us into a locked stairwell on some ungodly high floor of a horribly grungy sweatshop building, when one of the places on my list (which was closed that day) ended up not panning out. Finally, we ended up at a brick-and-mortar bridal veil shop that also had bolts of lace to browse. The semi-pushy, yet highly effective, salesman immediately educated me on the difference between what they had (real, genuine European lace, even some vintage samples) and what I had seen.
Here’s what I learned:
Chinese lace is essentially just embroidery/stitching on top of tulle. Though it carries off the “look” of lace, that’s all it is, essentially. Embroidery. Alencon lace, however, is a true needle lace, looped and threaded into its form, not simply stitched over top. It can be cut into without fear of unraveling, it’s complex, thick from the raised cord used to outline the floral forms, and just generally gorgeous. I went with three yards of double edged Alencon lace (six yards functionally since it had two identical sides) and parted with a pretty penny. One hundred fourteen dollars, to be exact. Yikes. I know, the irony of using $100 of lace on cheap nylon tulle.
My Jenna is showing…“Johnny Choon”…“Dolce and Banana”…“Gukki”
But, once having seen the differences between what I bought and what I was looking at previously online, I couldn’t turn back! Even my fiancé agreed that we had to get the better stuff, so onward I went with Alencon lace.
Now, for the tedious task of cutting the Alencon lace and curving it along the bottom edge of my hem, I had to throw on a movie and break out some precision tools. Naturally, I put on Gone with the Wind.
Cutting lace inch by inch with an X-Acto knife…thrilling.
But once I had the Alencon lace pinned and stitched, it was a beautiful sight to behold. Of course now my DIY veil is tucked away in a Ziploc bag, waiting for the big day when it will get steamed and placed delicately over my bridal-looking self.