Yesterday afternoon, my adorable boss and I were swooning over the sexy-yet-sweet Stella McCartney dress Kelly Ripa wore a few weeks ago:

(Yes, Sarah Jessica Parker sported the same dress and looked lovely, but Ripa just killed it with her platform nude pumps, long chain necklaces, and wavy, undone mane.)  My boss had been lamenting the fact that — though she loves the idea of wearing lace — it often looks either matronly when worn on its own or cheap/tacky when in certain shapes and colors.  (Agreed on both counts.)  Though neither of us are willing to shell out the $1,825 for the Stella McCartney original (available in stark white at Net-A-Porter),

we found a number of alternatives (and many of them in the blush-toned palette I’ve been gravitating towards this spring season).  This ladylike Ann Taylor frock hits just the right saucy-sweet balance and I’m head over heels for the scalloping along the bottom.  (I could devote an entire post to my love of scalloped details.  I could write another entire post about Ann Taylor’s recent reincarnation — the past two seasons have yielded a ton of non-frumpy, not-your-mother’s-jeans type finds.)

A definite “do.”  She’d proposed the idea of pairing it with a Miami-Vice-done-right boyfriend blazer in a creamy, off-white hue (with the sleeves rolled up) — and I loved it.  Not only on-trend, but an appealing way of toughening up the delicate lace look without roughing it up.  This one, by TopShop, is affordable ($135) and right on the money:

I’ve seen similar styles at nearly every shop under the sun, so you should be able to find one readily.  I slipped into J. Crew’s double-breasted blush-colored version and found it surprisingly flattering.  You’d definitely need some sky-high heels for this get-up.  Those drool-worthy Louboutins I’ve been dreaming about for years would complement the look perfectly —

Aldo Shoes has a slew of neutral-and-blush-hued shoes in fashion-forward styles (lots of platforming going on) for a fraction of the price.  Check out the Whitseys in the bone color ($110):

Jewelry-wise, you could move in a lot (!) of different directions.  If you want to go femme (as I probably would) and pick up the “stud” trend I’ve been pushing, you might pair the look with these flower earrings from ASOS (cheap — only $10!):

(They look yellow in the post, but they’re actually a lovely cream shade.)  I also like the idea of throwing on a stack of thin, delicate gold rings, a la Jacquie Aiche:

Shopbop sells a number of Aiche’s different stackable styles for around $120 apiece.  I’m into it.

Alternately, go the Ripa route and pull on a fistful of chain necklaces.  J. Crew has tons of easy-to-layer styles in varying thicknesses.  (This one, $98, is called “The Nastrino.”)

Another way of getting the genteel lace look without wandering into the “grandma’s old dress” zone?  A jeune fille shape — this dress is just too darling and girly to be old-fashioned looking (Jill Stuart, $598, Shopbop):

The same holds true of this airy little number by Diane Von Furstenberg (Nordstrom, on sale now for $280).

I’d definitely toughen it up with some platform pumps — maybe even in a bold red or coral (preferably by Christian Louboutin, as below)?  They would work — along with a raffia clutch like the Ismachseven version below, available at Vivre — given the dress’s “Spanish Senorita” vibe.

On the other hand, I could imagine a brown leather belt looped loosely and low on the waist and some casual wedges…or even — dare I say it — cowboy boots.  Linea Pelle, a fabulous premium leather belt-making company with an impressive range of different styles, makes the one below ($138).  I love LP belts because they all have an artisanal, vintage, lived-in look to them.  I’ve also scored some nice belt finds at J. Crew (occasionally in the boys’ section!)

For them cowboy boots, I have serious label lust when it comes to Loeffler Randall’s take ($725, Shopbop):

Ugh.  So.  Cute.  I’d probably layer some thin gold necklaces (maybe one with a pendant) and stop there.

Other lace centerpieces I’m loving this season?  This boho-chic lace tunic dress by Joie ($258).  I can just see Nicole Richie rocking it with some strappy gold gladiators and a huge slouchy bag — the haute hippie look at its best.

For the big spenders out there, this D&G lace shift dress is perfection.  You really can’t say anything else about it.  Except for that it’s pricey — nearly $1000.  You can buy it for me at Net-A-Porter.

Meanwhile, the back of this $300 NightCap Clothing dress has just enough edge and sass to it, you almost need the lace to counteract its attitude.  (It’s demure and high-necked in the front).  I love the back detailing.  It reminds me of some of the gorgeous backless Monique L’Huillier bridal gowns I tried on in search of my own wedding dress.  (Mum’s the word on that subject — I want the dress to be a big surprise on the big day).

While you’re all lace-d up, you might as well splurge on this well-mannered lacey-leather Valentino bag:

Epic.  I’d sport it with a soft gray dress or LWD and some patent pink pumps.  If you’re iffy about a big lace statement, however, test the waters with this fun little lace-ribbon-and-gold-bead necklace from TopShop ($45):

And while we’re on the subject of TopShop, I’ve just got to share this dainty lace dress I found there — it is just too precious to pass up:

I mean…it’s just screaming my name.  How unladylike.

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