Trend report: How to style tulle

Jenessa Williams

You may think of tulle and look back to your ballet days, but the fabric isn't all tutus and tiaras. Here's why tulle is making a comeback in a big way

Where did the trend come from?

Left to Right: Molly Goddard, Matty Bovan, Emporio Armani

Whether stretched tight as a sporty mesh or looped loose in a romantic ballgown, tulle is undoubtedly the fabric of the season. 

Often sporting as a sheer layer over a more traditional look, it’s part homage to 80s Madonna, part 90s workout gear, and part development of the millennial obsession with layering and “more is more” aesthetic, creating silhouettes that that toe the line of “ugly-beautiful” that has come to define many a modern fashion trend. 

Seen on many a spring/summer 2019 catwalk, it hit it’s peak with the success of BBC America series Killing Eve, featuring the iconic scene with Villanelle, clad in a candy pink Molly Goddard frock as she played poker face over her psychopathic tendencies. 

Jodie Comer as Villanelle in Killing Eve

A way to add bulk and create an imposing silhouette without adding weight, tulle is surprisingly wearable if you know how to do it right. 

 

What should I be looking for? 

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: New Look Jumper; We11Done high neck top; Maria Lucia Green Gown; Monsoon Black Floral Dress; Miss Selfridge Yellow Dress; Prada Bucket Bag; New Look Skirt; River Island Off-Shoulder Top; Amina Muaddi Heels; Topshop Shoes; Matalan Headband; Fendi Bag; Needle & Thread Blouse

Bold colours that evoke the dramatic. To achieve an age-appropriate look, stick to tulles in strong tones, or if you must go pastel, consider a floaty fit—you want gentle, textured layers rather than stiff, Ballerina-like effect. 

A tulle gown is the ultimate investment for a romantic or formal engagement, but separates can work just as well—tulle skirts have been particular popular this season, as have mesh undershirts. 

If you’re not quite ready to go the whole hog, there is a huge selection of mesh items on the market to (quite literally) dip your toe in—mesh socks add a feminine touch to an otherwise plain sandal heel, or choose a mesh bag or sports top to bring your gym kit up to date.

When washing tulle or mesh items, remember to take extra care—place them in a wash bag on a delicate cycle using mild detergent, and allow to air dry. If in doubt, just hand wash—the huge benefit of this fabric is it’s swift drying time. 

 

How should I style this trend

Left to right: The Atlantic Pacific, Susie Bubble, Stylecaster

Figure fitting and balanced well. Tulle and mesh is one for the body confident, but if you’re not quite there yet, there are plenty of ways to balance out the potentially revealing fabric into a slightly more demure look. 

Tuck a cashmere jumper into a tulle skirt for a waist-accentuating princess effect that doesn’t dip into costume, or layer a mesh top under a cami or pinafore dress for an easy daytime look. If you’re fearful of flashing too much flesh, body stockings and neutral-coloured slips can come in handy. 

A mesh bolero or cardigan can also be a great addition to a plainer dress—look for something with a touch of shimmer or embroidery for true impact. Remember that although this look is all about making an impact, it shouldn’t be overdone. Let your tulle piece do the talking while pairing with plainer accessories and complimenting colours. 

 

Where can I get this look?

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Jenny Packham Cape; Carolina Herrera Rainbow Gown; Topshop Rose Top; Primark Sports Bra; And Other Stories Socks; True Decadance Blue Dress; Colville Shoes; Girls On Film Dress; Mon Tresor Jeans; Dorothy Perkins Top; Rag and Bone Mules; ADIDAS Trainers

For tulle that doesn’t look cheap, chances are you may have to go reasonably high end. As with most gowns, price points for formal wear can be high, but the high street is absolutely awash with separates, ranging from gym wear to summer shoes and bags. Tulle is definitely a spring-summer trend, so watch it creeping into stores very soon, or get ahead of the game online at boutiques such as Net A Porter, Matches and Selfridges for the seasons must-haves.