The first garment to be decorated with lace was found in the Sumerian civilization, dating back to 4000 BC. The Europeans started using it from the fifteenth century onwards when it was made by needlepoint for the rich and elite. Around the 17th century, the industry boomed and its popularity increased. Not only was it used for clothes, from collars to ruffs and skirts, but it became a household commodity to be put on tables, chairs and curtains. The real legacy began when in 1840; Queen Victoria wore a wedding dress made of lace. From that day onwards, no wedding dress was complete without lace. Through the centuries, it has never lost its style and appeal.
The Lace Industry
Nowadays, the lace industry has developed rapidly, given the never-ending demand for new and better types of lace in the market. The production of synthetic materials and the use of technology have allowed mass production and variation. There are many types of lace, depending on the material, structure and style. Designers from all over the world are continuously on the lookout for something new, in order to stay ahead of the competition.
The industry can be divided into two: handmade and machine-made. Obviously, the handmade lace is more expensive as so much more labour is put into it. Not forgetting the skills needed to create masterpieces. Handmade lace is more exclusive and made to a certain market only. It is said that Queen Victoria had hired more than 100 workers for her wedding dress and that it was a very secretive process.
Machine-made, on the other hand, is freely available. The many new innovations in the garment industry are further expanding the horizons. All sorts of embroidery, beadwork and embellishments are now down in factories by machines. There is no limit for the material made so it can be used for mass production of garments, too.
The Wedding Dress
It would be nearly impossible to make a wedding dress without lace today. This fabric is unique as its very incomplete nature, the more intricate designs and openwork involved gives it more beauty and value. So, there is a special place for lace wedding dresses in any designer boutique. The type of lace used for the dress varies according to the customer’s need. The budget involved, plus the theme required to play an important part in deciding the type of lace used. The different type of material used decides the weight and stretch of the fabric. Its durability and delicateness also depend on the client’s requirements. A vintage theme will be given by the big, old-fashioned designs of yesteryear. A more modern design can be made with the intricate, closely knit and machine made masterpieces. Lace can be used for the whole dress or different parts like the bodice, sleeves, skirt or train. While a short, figure-hugging dress gives a more modern look, a long flowing train gives classical grace for an old fashioned setting.
Types of Lace
There are many different types of lace, depending on the style. Alencon Lace has designs on a net background and is very sheer, originating from France. Guipure lace does not have a net background and is thicker and heavier. Chantilly Lace has more intricate designs, outlined by cordonnet. Knit laces are more flexible and do not have a tulle background. Embroidered lace has the most delicate designs and a very sheer background. Brocade is a shuttle-woven fabric, with intricate designs, and interwoven with gold and silver threads.