Posted by: dressgrrl | October 8, 2009

Sew True: Lace

Sew True: Fabric Facts
The History of Lace

Lace has a rich history and is available in a myriad of types. The first known reference to lace is made in the will of a Milanese family in 1493. Throughout the centuries, lace has evolved into a rich textile used in everything from household decor to evening gowns, and of course, the classic wedding gown.

Different levels of lace were worn by the different levels of society in Europe. Lace was also used on caps for women or for the hems of their skirts.

Lace began as a truly European craft and the finest laces are still produced in the mills there. In the beginning, the different types of laces were most often named after their places of origin and the specific techniques found there.

Milanese Lace was “not designed as pretty lace” and was meant more for table coverings or worn at the bottom of clergy’s robes.

The largest early lace producer was Venice. Venice lace was made by women in households or convent and sold via lace dealers. They were surpassed in the late 17th century by the lace made in France.

In 1665, Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister, started organizing the various luxury businesses of France, including the production of lace. Prior to 1665, lace was made in fourteen different towns in France but within a decade, different towns had expanded to making different types of lace. Colbert opened lace-making schools and had the French makers trained by the Venetians, the experts in lace at the time.

Although the Venetian experts were eventually called home by panicked government officials, worried about their export business, the damage had been done: France then and forever would reign supreme over the lace industry.

Some notable types of French Lace:

Alençon : The luxury lace of the 19th century, Alençon is still popular today. In the 1800’s, many lace firms opened offices in Paris and a lot of Alençon production was moved to the center of the fashion world.

Chantilly : The town of Chantilly is located very close to Paris, and as such, was very popular among the French court. After the revolution, Chantilly continued being made in Paris, Bayeux, and Calais.

Valenciennes : Although technically a Flemish lace, Valenciennes was ceded to France in 1678 and became absorbed into the realm of French laces. In the eighteenth century, it became one of the most popular laces in Europe, most likely owing to the lower cost of the lace.

You don’t say?

-Lace ruffs became popular in the 1500’s when Henri IV of France wanted to cover a scar on his neck.

– The lace on Queen Victoria’s gown in 1840 took 100 lacemakers six months to make. She then had the pattern destroyed so it could never be copied.

– Lace collections can be seen in many well-known museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monique Lhuillier- Re-embroidered Lace

Monique Lhuillier- Re-embroidered Lace

Jim Hjelm- Cotton Lace

Jim Hjelm- Cotton Lace

Lazaro- Alencon Lace

Lazaro- Alencon Lace

Anne Barge- Chantilly Lace

Anne Barge- Chantilly Lace

Liancarlo- Chantilly and Alencon lace

Liancarlo- Chantilly and Alencon lace



  1. […] a lacemaker from Beer to create the lace for her gown and veil. (Read about the history of lace here) It took over a hundred lacemakers more than six months to handcraft the lace. After the completion […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: