February 13, 2015 - Comments Off on Fashion History: 5 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Lace

Fashion History: 5 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Lace


There's a lot more to lace than its ability to add a feminine flair to any outfit it graces. Looking back, the fabric has hand a place in most fashion trends through the ages—from the overwhelming lace ruffles Queen Elizabeth would don in the 16th century to the "Below The Knee" dresses flappers so often turned to. For the custom evening and bridal gowns Nicole has created, she favors the exquisite laces made on traditional Leavers looms in France. But there's equally a place for modern-day stretch lace, and we also love the subtle sophistication and function it brings to our Evelyn Dress.

With so many delicate designs and patterns, it's hard to imagine the making-of being anything short of painstaking (and to call it "involved" would be an understatement). So, in our effort to bring everyone closer to the clothing they love, we're digging into a few highlights in the history of process of this elegant textile. Read on and learn.

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Lace History Tidbits

In the 17th century, lace was even used to decorate door knobs. Years later, "his and hers" lace collars would become all the rage. Today, the textile plays a much more strategic role in fashion—one that can put a design over-the-top or impress with its subtlety, depending on how it's incorporated. There's a lot to take in when it comes to the history of the fabric, but here are five things you probably didn't know before reading this.

  • Tatting (a specific type of lace making) was inspired by the intricate knotting of sailors—used for both functionality on the ships and as mementos for long-distance loved ones.  (Side note: Nicole's Great-Grandmother from Greece was an excellent tatter)
  • Lace helped people survive Ireland's Potato Famine. Once food became scarce, the women of Ireland created schools to teach crocheting and lace-making. The founders of the schools even assisted their students in selling their creations—helping them survive a time when money and food was hard to come by.

Vintage lace (left) and Chantilly lace (right)

Vintage lace (left) and Chantilly lace (right) made on Leavers looms in France

    • Some lace-making machines are made entirely of iron, measure between 15 and 20 feet long, and weigh about 3,800 pounds. The Schiffli embroidery machine (a modern way of making lace)—or "power machine"—can pump out 15,000 to 18,000 stitches per day, compared to the iron-made hand-powered machine's 2,000 to 3,000 stitches.
    • The first pieces of lace weren't woven—they were cut out. Nuns would use the decorative fabric cut-outs to adorn altars and distinguish rank among prelates.
    • At one point in history, there was a law set against "commoners" wearing the lace styles of a community's more noble members. Before lace-making machines were introduced, it was considered wasteful to make more of fabric than absolutely necessary because of resource cost (We wish there was more consideration for waste today—our Evelyn Dress uses end-of-line deadstock fabric, a more sustainable sourcing method than new production). Once the machine became popular, resources were easier to come by and more people could rock the lacy look. Needless to say, the "higher class" of society wasn't pleased when their fashion go-to became commonplace.


Lace-Making in Action

We can chat about lace and its history all day, but the only thing that rivals the finished product is watching it being made. More than anything, it's mesmerizing. One type of lace made by hand is called bobbin lace, displayed from pattern-planning to the finger work in the first video.

If you're looking for a quick idea of how it's done, here's a jump into the middle of the process:

How to Pull It Off
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The lady in lace

There are all kinds of ways to wear lace, whether you're adding a touch of romance with a crocheted lace necklace or making a statement with an all-over lace dress overlay. Soften a hard-line outfit with a lace accessory—search through grandma's jewelry box for a pin or make your own lace hair pin with a particularly eye-catching vintage piece attached to a piece of felt and a bobby pin. Or if you're going for an all-over lace look, stick to classic accessories in solid colors to keep the look from getting too busy.

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Published by: Nicole Lenzen in Behind the Seams, Style Advice