I enjoyed the Lace in fashion exhibition which ranged from the exquisitely handmade lace of the 1600s to the laser printed lace of today and covered quite a lot in between. I thought the lace in the handmade section was breathtaking. It included a Brussels Duchesse wedding veil from the 1860s that included bobbin and needle lace applied to a machine made net and a point de gaze needle lace shawl from the same period. The cape in the same case is also from the 1860s and is decorated with black Le Puy bobbin lace which was fashionable at the time. The cabinet also included a 1980 black dress made by Madame Osborn, the court dressmaker, which included quite large inserts of Venetian gros point from the 1600s, showing that lace was often reused. This was emphasised when I discovered a flounced dress by Catherine Buckley made in the 1970s from painted Nottingham curtain machine lace – I have seen examples of this painted curtain lace in Nottingham so recognised the material at once!
Going round the exhibition it struck me how soon machine lace took over from handmade laces. The evening dress in the image above dates from 1829 and is made of machine-woven gauze resembling blonde lace. A tatted wedding dress from the 1930s was an exception, but it had been made by Anne Goodwin for her grand daughter and was not available commercially. It was also interesting to see how quickly the handmade laces were copied by machine. There were examples of chemical lace mimicking Irish crochet and tape laces resembling bobbin lace. As well as a fabric giving the appearance of Carickmacross lace and a cream silk evening dress by Amalia Machado from 1959 for which pieces of machine lace were sewn on to the completed garment to resemble Chantilly lace.
I like the way the exhibition ranged from demure wedding veils to sexy red and black dresses from recent catwalks. One of my favourites was a 1991 see-through, black, imitation Chantilly lace dress by Karl Lagerfeld which Linda Evangelista wore for a photoshoot for Vogue. I thought it was aposite to end the exhibition with examples of laser cut and laser printed lace as the story of lace has always been about adapting new technology to bring lace up to date. My only complaint was that there was no publication to accompany the exhibition.