Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Lace lappets


Lappets are long strips of lace or fine embroidery that were attached to women’s headwear and generally fell down onto the shoulders. As a writer in 1849 noted ‘lappets give grace, lightness and elegance to the whole costume’. A pair of lappets was usually attached to the back or sides of a cap but they could also be fixed to a bonnet or hat. They were fashionable for a long time during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and during that time their size, shape and positioning changed as fashions altered. For example a one time it was fashionable to pin the lappets on top of the cap and at others tie them under the chin. I have found it impossible to find an image of someone wearing lappets, which seems odd as they were such an ubiquitous style for so long, but Heather Toomer in her book on white embroidery suggests that this is because they were generally used for formal wear and most portraits depict informal settings. Pairs of lappets are found in many museum collections generally as separate strips of lace because they are so beautiful and when the fashion for them eventually ended it was possible to remove them from the cap and store them easily, therefore many have survived. Some have also been repurposed as scarves and dress decoration. Several were displayed in the Great Exhibition of 1851 including some in black Chantilly lace and others in blonde lace made of white silk thread as well as lappets of silk and gold from Caen. In the Paris Exhibition of 1867 lappets of Brussels needlepoint lace were exhibited. That they were made in many different styles of lace, were fashionable for so long and have been kept and donated to museums means they are a great source of information for lace researchers.

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