It really is unclear when what we would today recognize as lace fabrics originated. However; what is known is that throughout history, as societies moved from hunting and gathering to organized agriculture several things happened pretty much universally as a result that likely led to some form of lace making.
For instance one thing that organized agriculture allowed was a more efficiency tax collection system that in turn led to a wealthier ruling class. Another group that came along with organized agricultural societies was what might best be described as a landed upper class and could afford to wear lace.
Now it’s important to understand the importance that this group of wealthy landowners played in the advancement of fashions of the day – that most likely included lace fabrics. This is because in feudal times it was uncommon for rules both written and unwritten to be in place concerning how people in general were allowed to dress.
That is the political elite, just as many leaders in religions still do, used their clothing as a way of projecting and promoting their level of authority. You see back then only the king and members of his court may have been allowed to wear elaborate lace fabrics and for a commoner to do so would have been seen as challenging the leadership.
Believe or not, it was the black plague of the middle-ages that may have done more to increase the use of lace fabrics more than anything else over the course of history. So how could a disease effect how people dress, and of all things in lace?
What the black plague did was kill off 50% of the population of Europe and that in turn led to a whole lot of abrupt changes in how societies functioned and how people dressed in them. For starters, it led to a huge redistribution of wealth because as people died off, the land they owned fell into others hands.
So when the plague ended there was a new class of people who came out of it who could easily be compared to today’s wealthy heirs and heiress. Folks who managed to fall into owning vast estates with huge homes on them, and also businesses like extended farming enterprises were all starting to wear lace.
Also at the same time, in all areas of Europe the black plague killed off a lot of the members of the established ruling class, along with the solders that they needed to maintain order, and their positions of power. So in short, in terms of wealth and fashion a lot of once common folk moved up the ladder as the ruling class moved down.
In simple terms what it all led to was that all over Europe following the black plague there was a lot of newly rich people who wanted to dress like the wealthy – including in lace fabrics. So who was the hip crowd they wanted to emulate with their fashions? Well in those days the king, his family and his court were the happening crowd.
So finally everyday folks could dress like royalty and not get in trouble with the king for it because he was too busy with other important matters following the black plague. Finally folks with the money to do so were able to buy lace fabrics which in turn led to an increase in development and production of lace.
Chris Tyrrell writes for Litmans who specialise in the supply of lace and other fabrics right across the world. Fabric suppliers