Lace has been worn as an adornment since the 15th Century and it was first created in Italy and Flanders. Since its creation, lace had been held in high esteem. Due to its handcrafted nature, it was very quite expensive to make, and thus available only to the clergy and nobility. The handwork of lacemaking has largely been done by women over history, though the patterns were frequently drafted by men. Even today, the secrets of handcrafting exquisite lace are held by nuns, particularly in Belgium, who have retained their skills despite the rise of machine made lace.
The glamorous Hollywood styles of the 1930s called for less ornamentation, but lace did make an appearance on bridal gowns in limited applications. As Coco Chanel wrote: “unlike many other precious objects which, owing to industrial progress, have lost much of their luxurious quality, lace, adapting itself to the economic and industrial requirements of our age, has kept its main characteristics: precious elegance, lightness and luxury”
The lace craze was again set off both by the new availability of luxury materials following WWII and by Hollywood in 1950s. In the film "Father of the Bride" Elizabeth Taylor wore a satin and Chantilly lace bridal gown that immediately became the style which every bride tried to emulate. The iconic dress was designed by costume designer Helen Rose, who would create another important 1950s wedding gown, that of Grace Kelly in 1956.
A few years later Queen Elizabeth II made an appearance at a Windsor cocktail party in 1959 wearing a lemon lace two-piece.
Today some lace is still produced in Europe, especially Belgium, but much of the world's machine made lace comes from either Asia or New Jersey. Many of these laces, in particular the domestic ones, retain the beautiful designs and fine workmanship of the originals. The beauty of lace had ensured that its popularity for wedding gowns remains constant. No matter what trends come and go, it is a certainty that the luxury and romance of lace will secure its place as one of the most cherished embellishments of all time.
And if you cannot always afford the Belgium delicate lace creations, you can always resort to your grandmother's curtains :)
"I have stolen your granny's net curtains, and I won't give them back!" - Moulin Rouge dancer in Paris in 1926