Lace Gallery – TimelineGo to Nottingham City Museums
Get to know the history that the dresses at Lace Gallery are about to tell you!
Lace for the Masses
Dress, 1866-67 (NCM 1992-350/1-2) | Black and silk machine0-made Leavers lace trimmings and chenille fringe contrast with the rippling purple silk.
Shawl, 1855-70 (NCM 1961-100) | Black Italian silk, machine-made Leavers lace shawl.
Cape, 1867-75 (NCM 1967-2) | White cotton cape with strips of lace and blue ribbon.
Lace became widely available to the expanding middle classes in the 1850s, when the increased production of machine-made lace coincided with the development of the department store. Made to measure ‘high-fashion’ clothes reflected the styles and colours in fashion magazines. Women also created fashionable garments at home, using patterns and sewing machines.
Nottingham lace manufacturers endeavoured to replicate handmade lace, seen as a sign of wealth and taste. Dresses often combined handmade and machine-made lace trimmings in the same garment.
The purple dress (NCM 1992-350/1-2) from 1866-67 shows some of the latest fashion trends to demonstrate wealth and taste, the silk is dyed with mauvine and the black lace looks handmade even though it is machine-made.
Wedding dress, 1879 (NCM 1987-166) | Blue and pink shot silk wedding dress.
Wedding dress, 1908-10 (NCM 1980-174/1-2) | Cream silk wedding dress.
Cape, c.19000 (NCM 1980-237) | Short yellow silk woman’s cape.
Evening dress, 1903-5 (NCM 1903-5) | Black silk Pusher and Leaves machine-made laces over plain silk and chiffon.
Ideas around fashion and femininity are always changing. In the 1880s, women’s dresses had tightly fitting bodices, high necklines and narrow sleeves often trimmed with lace. By 1893, wide shoulders were fashionable, with puffed sleeves and full-length, A-line skirts.
The ‘S-curve’ silhouette was popular in the 1900s, with tightened corsets that thrust the hips backwards and forced the chest forwards, exaggerating both. Frilly blouses were embellished with lace, ribbon and beading. Fashions began to change from 1910, as women strove for greater rights and freedoms.
The highly fashionable black dress (NCM 1982-211) from 1903-1905 with two types of machine-made lace was designed to be worn with corsets that thrust the hips backwards and forced the chest forwards, exaggerating both.
Evening dress, 1929-30 (NCM 1979-990) | Black and yellow dress made of machine-made Leavers lace over black rayon.
Evening dress, c.1924 (NCM 1979-990) | Leavers machine-made lace evening dress.
Dress,1924-25 (NCM 1965-70) | Made by JF Taylor, with black machine-made Leavers lace over white silk georgette.
Evening bag, 1920-40 (NCM 1978-811) | Black silk machine-made Leavers lace with a pattern of cherries and leaves.
Fashion reflected women’s new-found independence after World War One, with bobbed hairstyles and shorter dresses with dropped waistlines, embracing a more androgynous look. The ‘little black dress’ emerged, with the simple lines of a chemise or undergarment.
Lace was back in style, as seen in the knee-length ‘flapper’ dresses worn by fashionable socialites. Lace designs reflected the trend for geometric patterns and motifs, inspired by the art of China, Japan, ancient Greece and Tutankhamen’s tomb, discovered in Egypt in 1922.The 1950s–70s was a period of rapid change in fashion and society.
The end of rationing in the 1950s allowed for fuller skirts, creating an hour-glass silhouette that indicated a return to more traditional roles for women.
The very stylish short straight evening dress (NCM 1979-990) from c.1924 has machine-made lace of the new fabric rayon with a stylised pseudo-Chinese pattern. Decorated with a band of fur, and two silk ribbons with flowers, cats, masks and fans.
Femininity came back into women’s fashion in the 1930s, with slinky, bias-cut designs that skimmed over the body’s curves. Long, simple and clinging satin evening gowns with low scooping backs were popular.
World War Two led to severe fabric shortages and clothes rationing, with no lace or trimmings. Clothes were often home sewn and recycled. Designer Christian Dior introduced his ‘New Look’ in 1947, with longer, fuller skirts and padded hips, which must have taken many weeks of clothing coupons to replicate.
Wedding dress, 1947 (NCM 1996-81/1) | Dress worn by Mrs F Margaret Glover at her marriage to George Glover.
Wedding headdress, 1947 (NCM 1996-81/2) | Headdress worn by Mrs F Margaret Glover at her marriage to George Glover.
Wedding veil, 1947 (NCM 1996-81/3) | Ivory veil made from Cornelly machine embroidered lace in ivory floss silk or rayon.
Bridesmaid’s dress, 1939 (NCM 1996-80/1) | Silk and rayon bridesmaid’s dress of blue Leavers machine-made lace.
Bridesmaid’s headdress, 1939 (NCM 1996-80/2) | Flower headdress with blue velvet ribbon.
The brown and cream machine-made lace special occasion dress (CTLOAN 39/1-2) from c.1930 would have clung over the wearer’s curves in the feminine style of the day.
The 1950s–70s was a period of rapid change in fashion and society. The end of rationing in the 1950s allowed for fuller skirts, creating an hour-glass silhouette that indicated a return to more traditional roles for women.
By the 1960s incomes were soaring and young people sought out notably different clothes from their parents. Designers like Mary Quant aimed their fashions at this market, introducing the mini-skirt with its radical hemline. Lace featured prominently in both wedding dresses and evening wear.
The hour-glass silhouette of the wedding dress (NCM 1990-380/1) from 1956 using yards of lace, net and taffeta marked the end of rationing and the move towards more traditional roles for women. (See attached image)
Wedding dress, 1956 (NCM 1990-380/1) |Hour-glass silhouette wedding dress, with white cotton and rayon Leavers lace over rayon taffeta.
Evening dress, 1958 -62 (NCM 1988-168) | White and blue nylon lace evening dress, made with the high-speed Raschel warp lace machine.
Evening dress, 1965-66 (NCM 1984-709) | Esmerald green sleeveless dress, with rayon lining and nylon zip, made with machine-made nylon Leavers lace.
Evening dress, 1976 9 (NCM 1996-489) | Worn by Mrs H M E Price at the last Nottingham Lace Ball.
Nottingham City Museums Lace and Lace Machinery Collection has been ‘Designated’ by the Arts Council as being of national and international importance. This gallery is an important showcase allowing visitors from Nottingham, the UK and other parts of the world to see part of that collection. People can also visit the newly refurbished Lace Machinery Gallery at Nottingham’s Industrial Museum in the Wollaton Hall Stable block to learn more about the Lace Industry and its impact on people’s lives.