Delicate, intricate and beguiling – lace and fashion have gone hand-in-hand for hundreds of years. This special exhibition at the NEC presented by the Stourbridge based Lace Guild Museum, focuses on lace and lace making from the 18th to the 21st century.

Lacemaking was an essential source of income for many home workers both in this country and abroad. It is a fascinating tale of human skill and artistry which finally succumbed to mechanisation in the industrial age. Honorary Curator, Gwynedd Roberts, will present a unique insight on the Museum Collection and the items in the exhibition.

Lace in context: 19th century fashion in Julian Fellowes Doctor Thorne

The latest TV period drama Doctor Thorne, the adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s novel by Julian Fellowes set in the nineteenth century provides a prime opportunity to see how lace was used during this era to create fills, ruffles and bows on ladies’ bonnets and dresses.

With lace being a key addition to fashion during this period of time, seeing exactly how lace was incorporated into ladies and men’s outfits in this TV drama is fascinating.

Within the costume design for the programme, they incorporated both antique and machine-made lace, which would have started to have been made during the nineteenth century. Besides the difference in cost, the quality of different types of lace was apparent, with the more antique, handmade lace used for key leading role costumes.

Colleen Kelsall was responsible for the costume design on Doctor Thorne and she had this to say about lace: 

I tried to use antique lace whenever possible. I tend to use less expensive reproduction lace for the supporting artists when the camera doesn’t tend to get as close. It’s lovely to see that lace making is making a comeback.”

Although lace may have has been included in outfits in a more extravagant way during the nineteenth century, we can now see it being re-introduced into high street store fashion and home soft furnishings, with lace production being a quicker process.

More information about the lace exhibition a short history on lace can be found here.