STYLE ADVICE OF THE WEEK: Bilro Lace

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I don't remembrer my great-grandmother very well. From what my mom tells me, she used to be an extremely vain lady— who also faithfully believed in the effect milk baths had on your skin. I inherited, however, one of her greatest treasures: a box full of French handmade lace that would have cost a little fortune back in the first half of the 20th century. This box has become a treasure for me, too. I learned to love lace in all its delicacy and complexity.

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Fortaleza, in the Northeast state of Ceará. There I stood, amazed at the local elder ladies who would patiently create what is known as bilro lace. A card with the pattern to be followed and pins that will hold a number of threads are set over a cylindrical fabric cushion. At the end of each thread, there is a wooden stick—the so-called bilros. The rendeiras (how the ladies are called) transfer the bilros from right to left, in a rustic loom. I asked “Dona” Rosa, a silver-haired woman who carries a curiously permanent smile, to watch her work— she's hearing-impaired, I am told, but doesn't seem to care as I marvel at her newly-born creation. After a while, she tells me that this particular piece of lace will take a week to be finished.

Back to Rio, I started noticing a lot of people wearing lace at PUC. Today's Fashionista, however, stood out from the crowd in her basic, casual-like manners. Bilro-like lace is sewed both to the collar and the hem of her black jersey dress, adding an interesting, delicate touch to the outfit. Toughening up the otherwise too girly-girl look, dusty lace-up boots complete the ensemble, along with a leather crossbody bag. I understand that the probability this lace is actually industrialized is huge — but this realization doesn't seem to erase an oddly undying smile.

Although the lace trend has finally shown some signs of relent (in the Winter 2013 edition of Fashion Rio, it was packed up along with the tag “transparency”), bilro lace adds femininity and a little naïf tone to any piece, specially when it appears only as a detail—like in today's Fashionista look or in this Farm blouse. In my opinion, it also makes any ensemble a little more magical. Maybe that's why the silver-haired lady couldn't stop smiling.

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