I recently went on vacation to Belgium where I was lucky to get a chance to visit the The Museum of Costume and Lace. So come along with me and take a behind the scenes peek at the lovely museum and its current exhibits.
Created in 1977, following the wishes of the authorities of the time to highlight the textile heritage of the City of Brussels, the initial core of the collection consisted of ecclesiastical vestments and Brussels lace.
Over the years the museum has developed a rich and varied textile collection of suits, ancient and contemporary laces, embroidery, original accessories, and more, from acquisitions as well as from generous private donations. While I was visiting, the costume part of the museum displayed a 70’s exhibit, whereas the lace part showcased delicate lace and a few lace dresses. And there was even an exhibit of gorgeous tapestries.
In the 70’s exhibit I discovered a glimpse into the bold fashion of the 70’s.
In Belgium, the 70’s were the period of the hippie movement, color, disco, glitter, and emancipation of women who were gaining financial independence. But it was also the time of the oil crisis, car-free Sundays, and an increase in unemployment. For the first time in history, the feeling of protest in the streets ultimately affected the fashion.
Social codes were truly revolutionized, with jeans becoming an essential wardrobe item for both men and women. Even designer Yves Saint Laurent came out with a jean version of his suit. New materials such as vinyl or synthetic fiber spread widely, alongside the flashy colors silver and rhinestones. The 70s styles have made a comeback in recent years: floral fabrics, pants legs, sequins and golden robes.
With symbolic creations like a dress of skin, a suit of lurex, and platform shoes, the museum shows how folks dared to dress in that decade. In the exhibit, boots are combined with short, chic dresses instead of shirt blouses, and it’s clear that bras became ever more discreet.
Since its inception, the museum has assembled a collection of rich and varied costumes, ancient and contemporary lace, embroidery and original accessories that are displayed alternately during the annual expositions.
In the large family of textile, lace is not weaving, embroidery or a net, or a macramé. It is an openwork textile independent of any support, adorning garments to enhance linen shirts and plush cuffs collars, skirts and blouses. The lace is often referred to by the name of the city from which it comes: Brussels, Mechelen or Binche for specific regions and each has its own characteristics.
The Brussels-crafted lace separately or jointly employs two techniques: needle and bobbin. Needle lace is made with a thread and a needle. Bobbin lace is made on a cushion with wire wound on bobbins, pins and a boss.
Many names designate Brussels lace and highlight its diversity since its inception in the sixteenth century until its inevitable demise after the First World War:
- Lace patches: bobbin lace for creating large sections by dividing the work into several parts, each pattern runs separately.
- Duchess lace: floral lace bobbin and needle medallions so named in honor of the Duchess of Brabant, the future Queen Marie-Henriette.
- Point of England bobbin lace on a mesh bottom needle.
- Gauze or pink: background consisting of a mesh from the needle and made using a single wire. This lace is also called dew point due to the rich floral decoration often made of roses.
- Rosaline Pearl: bobbin lace decorated with flowers with five petals and stylized leaves connected by flanges.
- The famous Drochel bottom: bottom hexagonal mesh of extreme delicacy made with bobbins and constituting the main set of shawls, collars and more featuring Louis XVI decorative elements that became smaller and pushed to the edges.
Tapestries were originally created to help reduce the cold, damp and draftiness of medieval rooms, and eventually evolved to become works of art.
These new works of art became increasingly complex and expensive over time, making them only affordable for rich families. The families at these estates often commissioned tapestries of their families.
As such Belgium quickly became the largest manufacturer of these tapestries in the world. Today tapestries are Belgium’s most famous export product.
I hope you enjoyed this museum adventure as much as I did. Be sure to visit the Costume and Lace Museum if you find yourself in Brussels (it only costs 4 euros!). Plus, their next exhibit, replacing the 70s items, will be all about punk rock.
Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to learn tips and tricks for hand sewing leather.