Lace is mysterious and stylish. It is a symbol of elegance and luxury, as well as the queen of textiles. Some artefacts sow that the most ancient examples of lace appeared 2500 BC in Egypt. These were nets decorated with small pearls and porcelain. The technology for knitting of nets, used for catching small animals, was applied for the “lace” as well. The decorative nets were used mainly for curtains and bedspreads, but not for clothing.
In the 12th and 13th centuries lace has appeared in clothes. Lace decorations were only used for the garments of the priests, located high in the church hierarchy. The popularity of lace, however, increased rapidly and it was spread among the cottage industry of Europe. It was the Renaissance, however, which led to the great spread of lace, mainly in Italy. Venetian style lace was extremely popular in Europe and was used even in furniture decoration. The first lace in Europe was actually a narrow strip with pointed teeth. Later on larger and more complicated patterns appeared.
In 15th-16th centuries the use of lace was widespread. The information comes from the Decree of Charles V (15th century), when the laces began to be taught in schools and monasteries of the Belgian provinces. This is a period of renaissance and enlightenment, and the laces quickly enter the field of fashion. At that time in the Belgian provinces were developed many styles and techniques for the manufacture of lace. Lace, knitted in Belgium was coarse and heavy, or light and delicate, with floral and geometric patterns. It cost almost as much as jewelry.
It is considered that Belgium is the cradle of lace. However, three countries nowadays compete to be the birthplace of the splendid decoration: Italy, France and Belgium.
In the 17th century the industry for production of lace in Italy was in a flourishing state. Almost all countries imported lace “Made in Italy”. In France, the lace became popular because of its qualities that make it suitable for scarves, collars, and ruffles. Lace was a favorite of royalty, especially Louis XIV – the Sun King. Although today lace is considered feminine adornment, in former times it was used in decoration of both female and male clothing.
The price of one gram of lace reached one gram of gold! Even though, the passion for lace became a real obsession and the purchase of this product required huge money… The reason was that the two techniques used for production: with a knitting needle and with hammers, were too slow and very expensive. These techniques are used even today, but for hand made production of lace.
In the 19th century a knitting machine for production of lace was invented. This increased enormously the variability in patterns and designs. On the other hand it leaded to fast lose of the skills for handmade lace manufacturing. The easy to find and the lower prices decreased the value of lace as a symbol of aristocracy. Once lace became widely available it was no longer so valuable and rare, and has become part of the clothing of everyone.