LACE GOWNS

Lace GownsLACE

By Anita Turner-Williams

If you love lace, you’re not alone. This feminine fabric has a history that is thought to date back to the early sixteenth century. Because lace evolved from so many techniques, it’s hard to say where it originated, but Venice was where the first lace pattern books were printed around 1550. By the 1600’s, lace was being made across Europe including France and England.

Once the fabric of noblemen and royalty, often woven with gold or silver, the popularity of lace spread, spurred on by the industrial revolution. By the late 1800’s, virtually all laces were machine made and it wasn’t long before handmade lace production had virtually disappeared.

Lace and the royals, especially royal weddings, go hand-in-hand. Queen Victoria was often seen draped in lace from head to toe. The Spanish also love lace, and mantillas are worn in a range of colours. Let’s not forget Grace Kelly whose lace veil and sleeves had women across the globe racing to follow suit. Prada’s use of lace in their 2008/9 Collection started a lace renaissance that has yet to wane, as evidenced by the Sarah Burton for McQueen dress worn by Kate Middleton on her wedding day.

There was a time when Vinka herself used to import directly, and wholesale a fabulous range of lace. She made regular trips to Europe, sometimes taking me with her, to visit some of the top textile and lace houses in the world. Times have changed, however, with the market shrinking and much of the world’s manufacturing being done in bulk in Asia. Designers in New Zealand are lucky to still see the best of what Europe and the world has to offer, with representatives from some of major textile houses visiting us a few times a year to tempt us with an amazing array of samples from their latest collections. We order and the laces are made! Some of the European laces are beaded in Asia, simply to keep the costs down.

Luckily we have some very talented importers based in NZ who develop and produce a beautiful range of laces through Asia, giving us more options at very reasonable prices. Brides have never had it so good – so much choice and quality!

You don’t choose lace because it’s French, English or Italian, or that matter Chinese, or American; rather for the subtle finishes and effects that each lace provides. Beaded or not beaded is another consideration, and only the bride knows what she’s happy with.

The funny thing is many of the lace designs we see today are the same as what was on offer back in the early 20th Century. It’s highly likely your Nana could have had the same lace! The difference now is that we have options, not just in the design of the lace, but also how the lace is developed, whether or not it’s beaded, and with what, corded, and colours. No wonder the love affair with lace continues!