An Extant 18th-Century Fichu…

In the last post, I mentioned a surprise Christmas present that reached me this spring. It is one of the most amazing gifts a historical costumer could ever get…. an extant piece of clothing.

In my case, it is an extant fichu with gorgeous lace edging. The friend who gifted me this amazing item had obtained it from the collection of a mutual friend who has been a collector of historical lace items for decades with great dedication. Needless to say, when I unwrapped the box, I nearly fell off my chair…

The fichu is made of fine white silk, the weight of a pongé, but with a much softer hand. The lace edge is a handmade Mechlin lace which is attached over an itty bitty rolled hem. Judging from the style and shape, it dates to the mid-18th century. (Just wow!) For its age, it is in nearly immaculate condition, minus a few age spots here an there. Needless to say I am still shaking with awe when I hold it in my hands now.I store it very carefully in an acid-free paper box and most of the time I only touch it with gloves. Though sometimes, I just have to stroke the light, smooth silk it is made of. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure. Below I have added some information about Mechlin lace, since it is a special kind of lace really worth looking into.

 If you would like to share the watermarked images in a community or on your page, you are absolutely free to do so. It would be great if this wonderful piece got some exposure.
Just I would kindly ask you to let me know and refer back to this post if you share.
Thank you!

And now, enjoy this pretty sight! :)

And here are a few facts about Mechlin lace for you: It is a bobbin lace that was popular from the late 17th until the early 20th century. This type of lace, also known as “point de Malin” is named after the Flemish town of Mechelen in Belgium, although it was also produced in Brussels and Antwerp. Historically, the Mechlin designs originated from Brabant lace. Generally, the name describes straight lace with continuous patterns. It is also very light and was often considered especially suitable for summer wear.

When I looked at the fichu for the first time, I thought I was dealing with tulle lace because of the super firm ground that feels almost like crinoline net. But this firm, hexagonal net, also known as the “réseau” is actually a typical feature of Mechlin. After the Industrial Revolution it was reproduced by machine, under the name Mechlin net. The lace was popular with the nobility. Especially Queen Anne of England was a big fan. This eventually led to the lifting of the import ban on lace to 18th-century England.

Drawing of the Mechlin net structure (réseau). Source: Wikipedia.

This article from the Lace Lover’s Diary offers some extra information and pictures of more extant laces from different centuries. The Wikipedia article I linked above is also quite informative and has some nice pictures, too. :)

While you enjoy this lovely fichu, I will sneak off on summer holiday for the rest of July. When I have time I might try to join this year’s CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) in August to get out some long overdue posts to you. Wishing all of you a great weekend, whether you are at Costume College or just enjoying some downtime.

 

Love, Nessa

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2 thoughts on “An Extant 18th-Century Fichu…

    • Nessa says:

      Glad to be of service! :) Lace can be tricky indeed. I only know a fair bit about this one thanks to its previous owner who is a real enthusiast. And what is even harder than knowing lace, is making it. I think I could never create something this gorgeous.

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