What is lace? Lace is basically a light to heavyweight fabric known for its delicate and web-like features characterized by intricate and openwork patterns. It is a highly popular textile in Europe ever since the 18th century, with Belgium, Italy, and France being the top manufacturers for handmade lace. Traditionally, lace was made using linen threads, silk, and even silver and gold thread. However, it is now popularly made with cotton and synthetic fibers such as polyester. In addition, natural materials like silk, wool, and viscose can also be used to create lace.
What is Lace?
The word ‘lace’ was derived from the Latin word laqueus which meant “noose”. For the longest time, lace has been associated with beauty and sensuality because of its complexity and elegance.
To further define what is lace, lace is rarely made into whole textile products and is often used decoratively to accentuate garments, especially female clothing, homewares, and other upholstery with botanical and geometric patterns.
Now that we know what is lace, let’s proceed to its history. The origin of lace remains unconfirmed. Openwork fabrics were found present in Ancient Egyptian burial garbs, and before the Renaissance, a similar fabric to lace was popular over the Middle East.
In the 15th century, however, a series of Italian and Flemish paintings were found featuring genuine lace, which then led scholars to assume that its origin might have been from either of these two countries.
What is Lace - Types
During contemporary times, lace has become a versatile fabric that can be used in all types of garments like bridal fashion, casual clothing, gowns, costumes, and lingerie.
The main types of lace are as follows:
This type of lace is made out of pure cotton and is heavier compared to the Chantilly, Guipure, and Corded lace. This is known for its delicate and complex patterns with cord outlines and woven on lightweight tulle. The Lyon lace is perfect for bridal gowns.
This is a volumetric type of lace because of its soutache outlines. It is less heavier than Lyon lace and is great for accentuating any type of garment or overlay.
This type of lace is lightweight and is often characterized by a floral pattern with a silk outline on a net background. Its name was derived from Chantilly, a city of France. It’s a worldwide classic when it comes to making bridal garments, gowns, and overlays. The Chantilly lace has scalloped ends and can either be sheer or semi-sheer depending on the designer’s preference.
This is also a heavy type of lace that is known for its raised design. Its elements are connected together with braids, unlike the Chantilly lace which uses a net background. The Guipure lace is preferably for casual and formal dresses, tops, jackets, and the like.
Often used in evening gowns and formalwear, embroidered lace is heavier than Lyon lace and is characterized by festive elements like crystals, beads, sequins, ribbons, and satin stitch embroidery which explains how it is heavier than most laces. This type of lace is popular in haute couture and bridalwear.
This type of lace is basically a piece of openwork fabric. The weight can vary depending on its added elements like beads and sequins.
Aside from the previously mentioned types of laces, there are also a variety of handmade laces which are named after how they are produced:
This type of lace is often applied on parchment paper and is produced using thread and needles.
Also referred to as the ‘pillow’ lace, this one is created out of threads around bobbins.
This type of lace is handcrafted and characterized by a series of loops and knots using a tatting shuttle.
Crochet in French means ‘small hook’ and from it, the Crochet lace got its name. It is either created manually using crochet hooks or manufactured as strips of lace on a loom which will then be sewed together afterward.
Stretch Lace Fabric
Another versatile type of lace is the stretch lace which has the addition of elastic fibers such as Lycra or Spandex, for it to become stretchable and durable. This is widely used to adorn lingerie, multilayered costumes, and sleeves.
The African Lace is manufactured by Austrian or Swiss fabric companies to target the West African market. This is not conventionally a ‘lace’ but rather an industrial embroidery either on cotton, linen, or sateen. To further match the traditional garments of Africa, bold and vibrant colors area used to attract customers.
The African lace looks similar to Guipure lace, but it simply can’t be considered lace conventionally. Instead, this is popularly called the Nigerian lace because Nigeria became one of the biggest export markets for Swiss companies. Still, in reality, the other official names for this are Austrian or Swiss Lace.
What is Lace - Properties and Qualities
Lace can either be machine-made or handmade, and its weight will vary depending on which types of lace it is. It is breathable, versatile, soft, and often in need of an outline. These are soft if they are created using silk, wool, or cotton, and at the same time extremely durable with synthetic fibers.
It is also possible to add metallic threads for more brilliance. A lace’s typical patterns are botanical and floral, however, there are also a lot of laces with ornamental and geometrical patterns found almost everywhere.
You may also be curious about what is lace made for or what can you do with lace. Luckily, with lace, you can also create a lot of elegant pieces like the following:
- Lace Trims
- Lace Shawls and collars
- Bridal garments
- Drapes and curtains
What is Lace - Proper Care
One important thing to know when it comes to dealing with lace is knowing what is lace care as improper care will cause shrinkage. Preferably, lace is best when dry cleaned.
Further Reading: How to Wash Lace
The following are the steps to correctly care for your lace fabrics (do note that you may not wash embroidered lace):
- Start off by checking the care label and see if it can be hand-washed or machine washed.
- For lace that can be hand-washed, make sure to use mild laundry soap and cold water.
- Then, towel dry after washing.
- For machine wash, go for a delicate wash and use mild detergent and a wash bag.
Don't iron lace if possible, most especially stretch lace fabric, since ironing may cause the synthetic fibers to melt which can decrease its durability.
However, if ironing is really needed, then be extremely careful. You can do this by placing the lace on a towel, then pressing a cotton fabric or cloth between the iron and the lace before ironing on adequate temperature. To dry lace using an iron, gradually raise the iron temperature from cool to medium, and wait for the lace to almost dry before putting the iron away. Avoid stretched lace; instead, dry heavy lace on a flat surface.
What is Lace - Pros and Cons
Like any other type of fabric, lace also has its fair share of pros and cons. Starting with the good side, lace’s advantages include its beauty, versatility, breathability, and festive elements. Lace is stunning on every type of garment as it gives off an elegant and sophisticated vibe.
It is versatile in the sense that it can be decorated and used in almost all types of clothing and improve their overall aesthetic. Moreover, lace is breathable and soft on the skin.
For the disadvantages, lace can be extremely fragile without synthetic threads. It can also be pricey, especially for handmade lace because some materials that were used can be expensive and high-maintenance, given that its materials need delicate care, otherwise it will become damaged in no time.
Another downside is that lace is transparent, which makes it a necessity to combine it with other materials for added opacity if you are not fond of too much skin exposure. Regardless, this does not deter the value of lace fabrics.
What is Lace – In Conclusion
With that, you now have gone over all you need to know about what is lace, including its properties, types, uses, pros and cons, and proper fabric care. Lace has become the most sought-after decorative fabric, especially for formal attire and gowns, because of its beautiful intricate designs for centuries long, making it a timeless classic in the fashion industry. The next time you shop for clothes for a formal event like weddings and romantic dates, or when you shop for fabrics for your upcoming fashion project, then you might want to opt for lace and lace adorned pieces to add to your elegance, beauty, and versatility.