By: Amy Willbanks, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc.
Whether you are in the deep south of the United States or the deep south of France, chances are most of the popular styles of wedding gowns will have some type of lace incorporated into the design. Lace, to varying degrees, is a mainstay in bridal fashions throughout most of the world.
Hand made lace is produced through a highly skilled and time-consuming process. The majority of lace makers is and have always been women. Intricate fine pieces of lace could take a whole day to produce only a few centimeters. Lace is created by looping and twisting threads using a set of bobbins or a needle. All true lace is done this way. True hand made lace is also constructed separate from any woven fabric.
True lace appears to have first been made in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. The finest laces were made in Italy, France and Belgium. Various qualities of lace were also produced in several parts of Europe, China, India, the Philippines, and South and Central America.
Laces were typically made from flax, silk, metal wrapped silk and some cotton and wool. However, flax (linen) thread made in Belgium was the fiber of choice.
Types of LaceAlençon lace has a fine net ground and a raised outer edge (cordonnet). The majority of this type of lace is made by machine today. It commonly used as trimming for wedding gowns.
Chantilly lace is a form of bobbin lace. It was originally made in the town of Chantilly, France. It was very popular during the 17th century. It is characterized by fine a net ground and delicate flowers, scrolls and branches. The pattern is commonly outlined with heavy silk thread. This lace is expensive ($95.00 per yard or more) and is commonly used in wedding gowns.
Battenberg lace, also known as Renaissance lace, and is created by using loops of woven tape secured together by yarn brides to form patterns. Producing Battenburg lace was a popular hobby in the United States in the early 1900’s. It is also now produced by machine and commonly used for tablecloths and in bridal gowns.
Venetian lace is made in Venice, Italy. It is a heavy lace with floral, sprays, foliage or geometrical designs. In the 17th century this lace was considered more valuable and held in higher esteem than jewels. Women of this era pinned up their skirts on the sides so the various layers of their lace petticoats would be visible. This lace adorned kings as they were crowned and the garments of the wealthy were abundantly covered with it. This lace is still used today, especially in wedding gowns.
Machine Made LaceMachines were developed in the early 1800’s to produce lace. John Leavers developed a machine in 1813 that produced patterns and backgrounds at the same time. The Leavers machine introduced the production of intricate lace patterns similar to those created by hand. Lace made on the Leaver’s machine is called Leavers Lace. These laces are usually expensive.
Raschel lace is made on a Raschel warp knitting machine. This type of machine can produce laces similar to those made on the Leavers machine but at higher speeds and at less expense. Much of the manufactured lace on the market today is made on Raschel knitting machines. Laces that are intricate, light and delicate are made inexpensively and quickly on these machines. Mass produced wedding gowns will contain lace that is produced by machines. Designer wedding gowns will more likely contain portions of lace that are hand made.
This type of lace is used mainly for wedding veils and other ceremonial occasions. The net is produced by machine and the flowers are applied with a needle by hand.
The current trend in wedding gowns is focusing more on detail. Plain simple designs have been popular in recent years. The focus is now shifting to adding a small amount of detail. This detail typically involves some type of lace appliqué. There is also a trend towards historical gowns. The 18th century gowns (Martha Washington type) are popular today. These gowns include more lace than some of the gowns from other historical periods.
From traditional satin gowns to the not so traditional leather or vinyl gothic gowns, lace is typically a necessary component of the gown and/or the headpiece worn with the gown. There are many types of lace to choose from for wedding gowns. Lace can be added to virtually any part of the gown to create a more sophisticated elegant gown. Many fashions are just cyclic fads but lace, in all of its beauty and elegance is a constant component of wedding attire.
- Harris, Jennifer. Textiles 5,000 Years: An International History and Illustrated Survey; Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers.
- Kadolph, Sara and Langford, Anna. Textiles, 8th Edition, Prentice-Hall Publishing Company, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
- Humphries, Mary. Fabric Handbook Reference, 2nd Edition, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, 1992
- Wingate, Isabel. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles, 6th Edition, Fairchild Books a division of Fairchild Publications, New York, New York.
Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc. manufactures fabric swatch kits for students who study textiles in colleges and universities. These kits are also sold to professionals in the industry. We also sell to high schools, department stores, interior designers and costume designers. The kits are designed to help educate people about a variety of fabrics and to be a permanent hands on reference for the user.