The History of Lace
The history of lace, one of the most beautiful and feminine fabrics in the world.
With all of our designers using beautiful, handmade lace we wanted to share the history behind the ornate fabric.
Lace has long been a treasured decorative element for fashion, especially bridal fashion. Cherished for its delicate workmanship and airy patterns, lace has been worn as an adornment since the 15th Century. This is a look at the history of lace, its origins, different forms, and its use in wedding fashions.
There is some dispute over whether Italy or Flanders can lay claim to the invention of needle lace in the 15th Century. It is certain that bobbin lace was first developed in Italy and Flanders (a region on the border of Belgium and France) at around the same time, though it is not known if one region was the first to develop the technique. Before the late 15th Century, there was no true lace being created (although there is some speculation that it may have been made by the ancient Romans). Decorative trims were created by a system of drawn work, in which threads are removed from a woven cloth to create open patterns, which are then reinforced with embroidery. When the techniques for bobbin and needle lace were created, it was a departure: rather than remove sections from a solid cloth, the open designs were created in thread over a pattern, and there was no backing fabric.
Lace veils and lace bridal gowns became an enduring favorite for brides in the Victorian era and beyond. Families would purchase the best lace veil they could afford, which became a treasured heirloom to be passed down through future generations. From Renaissance times, fine handwork was considered one of the few appropriate pastimes for elegant ladies, and young women spent years creating the lace trimmed goods that were to make up their wedding trousseaus. By the 19th Century, less laborious techniques for creating handcrafted lace had been invented, such as Irish lace (technically a very fine crochet), which allowed middle class Victorian ladies to make these special pieces with greater ease.
A passion for lace continued into the 20th Century. Throughout the Edwardian and Belle Epoque periods, society women indulged their love of the finer things in life, including garments trimmed with elaborate lace. High lace collars and blouses with cascades of lace were part of the everyday wardrobe for a wealthy society matron in the early 20th Century. For the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, money was no object when it came to fashion, any more than it was for the members of the royal courts of the Renaissance.
By the 1920s, styles had been considerably simplified. There was one time when every woman, no matter how modern, wanted to wear lace, and that was on her wedding day. The boxy tea length shift dresses worn by 1920s brides were accented by voluminous veils of the finest Belgian lace. The veils were created in a Point de Gaze, which was a Belgian lace which had a very light effect. Roses, scrolls, and ribbons were created on a fine net, which made the lace soft and flowing. Brides in the 1920s offset the boyish nature of their short hair and shapeless dresses with feminine lace veils, often made from yards and yards of the precious material.
Lace was used in many ways throughout the 50s. It was used as insets on the bodices of satin gowns. Dresses were created entirely out of Chantilly lace, with skirts of many lacy tiers using up to 80 yards of lace (of course, by then, mass production had brought the price down considerably). As the decade wore, on, stiffer gowns became the fashion, especially ones inspired by the gown of Grace Kelly, whose wedding attire was estimated to have required 300 yards of the finest Valenciennes lace. She not only wore a gown with lace, but an exquisite lace veil which featured an estimated 1000 pearls. American brides rushed to find bridal gowns which were styled like the one worn by the new Princess of Monaco. This ushered in a demand for heavier laces, especially Alençon, which was frequently used as an applique, rather than as whole cloth. Alençon lace was clipped apart and carefully stitched to background fabrics; matching lace trims were used to decorate the edges of the bridal veils.
The beauty of lace has ensured that its popularity for wedding gowns remains constant. Through the excessive styles of the 1980s, as inspired by Princess Diana’s gown, through the 1990s, and into the present day, brides have continued their love affair with lace as have we!