Lace is an item that brings to mind intricate webbing of knots and threads. It also reminds me of dollies, the itchy dress I had to wear as a flower girl and my first job at Victoria’s Secret. Lace is an item that has come in contact with everyone at multiple times in their lives and strings together imagery and memories as unique as the patterns made out of the fabric. The trade itself of lace is just as intricately webbed into history. Like the fabric itself, its intricact history is full of knots and twists, the beginnings and ends hard to identify and there can often be little holes here and there that muddy the story a little further. But man, it sure is pretty isn’t it?
Cotton -the most currently common lace fabric other than synthetic lace – wasn’t used for lace until the 16th century. Before then, fine linens, silks, gold and silver threads were the primary materials used. The actual origin of lace and the method of creating it is disputed, with several origins laying claim to its invention. However, its popularity surged in the 16th century, as people began using it for ornimitation on themselves and their homes. The lace industry was lucrative as it was time consuming, and costly. The industry making up a big chunk of Europes economic market in the 17th and 18th centuries. The primary clientele being royalty and church clergy.
The high demand for lace and its expensive costs often lead to monarchs putting restrictions on the fabric. This lead to widespread lace smuggling from across boarders for nobles. The rumors for how lace was smuggled range from hollowing out bread or swapping bodies in coffins for bundles of lace.
However, with the French Revolution, lace, a prominent symbol of the elite class, seemed to die in popularity. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution when machine made lace became available that the interest in it began to rise again. With the item now easily manufatured, it soon became available to a wider audience. This however did not decrease the interest and demand for hand made lace.
This new ability to make the once time consuming lace eventually lead to synthetic fabric lace, which lessened the cost further and widened the consumer audience once more. Lace is one of those topics I could spend days discussing. Going over the detailed and often ironic laws against it, about the different materials used (can we take a moment to appreciate how cool silver thread lace is? I mean, it’s silver, turned into thread and then further turned into lace. Insane right? But very hard to repair) and the different types of lace out there.
For now, I leave you with this introduction and brief synopsis of lace. It’s withstood the test of time, made it through a revolution, and now covered items from clothing to bags, dollies, curtains, masks, baskets and so much more.