In this age of mass production of clothing many traditional skills such as knitting, crochet, smocking or quilting are disappearing fast. Whereas in the past necessity forced women to recycle fabric time and time again into clothes and household items, we now have fashion readily available from supermarkets and the high street. One of the craft industries which was so important in the past for the UK economy was lacemaking, which was centred in Nottingham.
The Mary Portas Project
Retail guru Mary Portas recently had a successful series on television, where she tried to bring back clothing manufacture to the UK, using British fabrics and trimmings. She had immense difficulty in sourcing British made lace, as most of the lace trimmings used in garments is imported from the Far East. Small scale artisan lacemakers who produce lace by hand still exist, but their products are exceptionally high quality and the expense means it is uneconomical to use them on high street fashion items.
Lace collars, frills and flounces come and go out of fashion, and although lace trimming was the height of fashion in the 1980s, it is not as popular currently. One type of garment where lace has an enduring popularity is in lingerie, where it gives a soft, feminine appearance to the garments. Some items are made entirely from lace, whereas others such as the Eberjey chemise have lace trim to accent the main fabric of the chemise. The use of elastane in the manufacture of the lace for the Eberjey chemise also means it has a degree of stretch and is more flattering to the figure.
Lace has traditionally been made by hand rather than woven, using lots of wooden bobbins with thread which are twisted and knotted to make the lacy pattern. Learning to make lace is complex, and harder to pick up than other handicrafts such as knitting. As lacemaking is not as popular as these other crafts, there is an ever shrinking pool of experts who have the knowledge and expertise to teach others hoe to make lace by hand. The internet gives the opportunity to share knowledge through channels such as YouTube, but even with these new methods of learning, lacemaking is a dying art.
Fast fashion and large high street chains are here to stay, but the economic crisis has also seen an increasing trend towards vintage fashion, recycling and buying clothes from charity shops or car boot sales. Nobody wants to be seen wearing the same as someone else at a special event, and wearing vintage or recycled fabric lessens the possibility of that happening. Vintage pieces can be taken to pieces and the fabric, buttons and trimmings such as lace can be used for completely different garments. It seems unlikely that we will see a large scale return to weaving, fabric manufacture or lacemaking here in the UK, but lace as a fashion item will remain popular for decades and even centuries to come.
For an elegant, lacey, lingerie garment then look no further than the eberjey chemise, available from Plaisirs Boutique’s online store.