Lace, your grace
The delicate, open-worked fabric has literally been in fashion for ages. The graciousness of lace decorations on clothing and home decor was brought to light during the sixteenth century. French courtiers and kings - Louis XIV being the trendsetter of his century - are depicted in paintings wearing clothing adorned with lace collars, cuffs and ruffles. The influence of French style on the fashion world was significant at the time, so the rest of Europe swiftly followed their example. Two common techniques applied by lacemakers were needle or bobbin lace, both requiring a great amount of skill and being very time-consuming. As a result, this handcraft was an expensive process and lace became an exclusive textile, sought after only by the upper class. Wearing clothing with handmade lace detailing was a symbol of wealth and status and only premium quality was good enough. The key regions for high-quality lace were Flanders and Venice, but because travelling back and forth became too much of a hassle, the elite began to house lacemakers in various French villages. Hence the names of specific lace techniques such as Valenciennes and Alençon.
By the end of the eighteenth century, more people acquired the means to purchase clothing and the demand for lace increased. New techniques were developed to speed up the creative process and make it less expensive. With time, machines improved and began to equal the complex patterns that were once made by hand. The textile inevitably became accessible to a large audience and threatened to lose its exclusive image. The aristocracy found ways to prolong the elite character of the fabric - among which dying it with tea to mimic a vintage look - but the commercialisation turned out to be out of their hands.