Lace and high society

Innovation and networking from the 16th to the 18th century

The development of bobbin lace and needlepoint were among Europe’s most important innovations of the early modern era. Until that time, most technical achievements in the field of textiles had been taken over from the East – lace was a technique mainly developed by women which, starting out from Italy, conquered the fashion of the European elites. However, the production of lace did not only revolutionise the fashion of the upper strata of society but also the social status of tens of thousands of women who produced lace in the cottage industry while also being a driving force of industrialisation.

The exhibition traces the development of lace in the context of the strictly regulated courtly fashion from the early 15th century to the end of the 18th century, when changes in taste, the beginnings of industrialisation and the French Revolution, in particular, had a dramatic impact on lace production. Dress codes controlled fashion, and thus the use of lace, well into the 18th century.

It is difficult today to ascribe individual items to certain production centres in Italy, the Netherlands or France. For this reason, the exhibition chooses the perspective of the courtly environment as the consumers who determined taste, and dominated and shaped fashion: Hapsburg Spain (16th century to mid-17th century) and Bourbon France (mid-17th century to the late 18th century).

Curator: Barbara Karl

26. October 2018 - 10. February 2019