African heritage is rich in diversity and very upscale styles in ethnic clothing. Unlike in Western Europe, haute couture is not just for a minority: having custom made clothing based on measurements for parties and weddings is the rule.
African and ethnic clothing are carefully hand made by a myriad of designers, and the rich fabrics are sourced from all over the World. The key in ethnic apparel is the fabric sourcing: it must be exclusive and top quality. For African laces, the very best sourcing is from Austria and Switzerland.
Swiss voiles or African laces are made of one base fabric (named ground base) and stitched yarns making the design. The ground base is 100% cotton but the fabric itself is much more than a basic cotton: it's light, nervous, soft and made from the thinnest cotton yarns in the world, using the very best cotton fibers. With a special finishing (Exclusive from Switzerland and Austria), this cotton fabric does not shrink after washes and keeps its color. It's the utmost of cotton fabrics.
In regular clothing, you may find equivalent fabrics in very top end collections of famous brands: Dior, Pierre Cardin, Nina Ricci … maybe.
The yarns making the design are also very important in the final look. They are either in viscose (rayon) or polyester. Generally, viscose yarns look flatter and shine better. It's also more expensive than regular polyester yarns.Top grade quality yarns must have the following characteristics:
Color fasteners: the yarns do not loose the coloration after the first wash. If second grade yarns are used by the lace manufacturer, colors will fade away just after a couple of washes. Even worth, during the first wash colors will migrate onto the base fabric! Having a first grade yarn is the guarantee that the lace remains new and unspoiled after many washes.
The very best yarns are the ones coming from the lingerie industry: they are made to resist up to 40 machine washes in some cases. The yarn size is important as well in the final look of the African lace: the thinner the yarn, the richer the embroidery. However, it's generally better to compromise as having thin yarns might lead to broken yarns.
There is another issue about yarn's colors: depending on the country's legislation, some colors (Especially reds) might be harmful for the health. Some colors are totally banned in Europe as they have been registered as dangerous when in contact with the skin.
Looking at Swiss voile lace, there is no concern when you purchase a luxury one. They are safe and all chemicals used during manufacturing process are approved.
The best wedding gown are made from this fabric. Yarns look flat when stitched, no missing or broken yarns in the design. If you want to know how to recognize a polyester yarn from a rayon one, it's simple: take 1/2 inch of the yarn at the border of the lace and burn it with a lighter. If after burning there is a little black ball left, then it's polyester. If nothing is left, it's a rayon one and the best.
Now that the basics for quality base fabric and lace yarns are defined come the design itself. The design should by all means not be produced in mass production from Asia. The design must be exclusive as a wedding is always a special event.
Exclusive does not mean hand made: some hand made designs are produced in miles. To be exclusive, a lace design has to be new, straight out of the design studio from the manufacturer, and this before being copied in the far East. The manufacturer should guarantee as well that the design is produced only in small bulks.
A lace coming from Austria or Switzerland is not a guarantee by itself: some low key manufacturers keep producing the very same design year after year. Once you have spot the right lace manufacturer: real Swiss voile, top grade yarns and exclusive designs, then you are in gear to get the most exclusive fabric for your wedding gown. You just need to pick up the design you like.
Having the right stunning fabric in hands, the yardage will become a beautiful wedding dress. When the African lace is the right one, there is not any problem for a designer to make for you the most stunning ethnic gown in the World!