The author Liz wearing a floral open lace bralette with red silk piping by Chinese designer Pillowbook

Find your way with lace

What is Lace?

Lace is defined as:

a decorative cloth made by twisting thin thread in delicate patterns with holes in them

There are historically a number of reasons why lace is so popular in lingerie: it’s thin, so it hugs the body; it’s sheer(ish) so creates some mystery around what lies underneath, and is considered feminine. It also breathes, and because of the thinness of the material it works well for underwear.

There are generally 2 types of lace: bobbin lace and needle lace – and in the modern world the 3rd of machine lace.

Chantilly Lace

Coeur Sauvage balconette bra from ID Sarrieri (also with eyelash lace)

Chantilly lace is a bobbin lace known for being incredibly detailed, often with openwork flowers. Traditional Chantilly lace is made in black silk (though it started off on a creme colour), and can be traced back to the seventeenth century and the Duchesse of Longueville. Because the majority of the lace at that time was made on black, it was popular for mourning garb of nobility.

Chantilly lace, because of the craftsmanship required, was for a long time associated with French royalty, particularly around the French Revolution.

Back in demand in the 19th century, every fashionable woman had a Chantilly lace shawl. Demand died out at the end of the 19th century. [1, 2, 3, 4].

Guipure Lace

Bleu Parasol Bella from Princesse Tam Tam

Guipure lace is a lace with no ground (think crochet) with the pattern held together by bars or “brides”. [1, 2, 3, 4]  As defined by Goldenburg:

It was originally a kind of lace or passement made of cartisane and twisted silk. The name was afterward applied to heavy lace made with thin wires whipped around the silk, and with cotton thread. The word guipure is no longer commonly used to denote such work as this, but has become a term of variable designation, and it is so extensively applied that it is difficult to give a limit to its meaning. It may be used to define a lace where the flowers are either joined by brides, or large coarse stitches, or lace that has no ground. The modern Honiton and Maltese are guipures, and so is Venetian point. But as the word has also been applied to large, flowing pattern laces, worked with coarse net grounds, it is impossible to lay down any hard and fast rule about it. [5]

Raschel Lace

Raschel lace is a warp-knitted machine lace. They’re generally defined by an open construction and limited stretch.

Warp knitting is where the yarn zig-zags along the length, following adjacent columns, rather than a single column. “Since warp knitting requires that the number of separate strands of yarn, or ends, equals the number of stitches in a row, warp knitting is almost always done by machine rather than by hand.”(1)

The first warp knitting machine is credited to a man by the name of Josiah Crane, in 1775, who sold it to another man who then proceeded to patent the machine a few years later.

The Raschel machines generally work at higher speeds than Leavers lace, which means the majority of lace in the present day is Raschel lace. It’s also more adaptable than Leavers machines to synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester. (2) Generally Raschel knits are known by having a heavier, more textured pattern held in place by something much finer. (4) This is a flat, rather than twisted, lace. (Which, yes, I realise can describe pretty much any lace – here’s an example):

Raschel lace
By unknown photographer; scanned by Bob Burkhardt – McClure’s Magazine, August, 1906, p. 367., Public Domain,

Raschel lace was actually named after a 19th century French actress, Elisabeth Rachel Félix, who was known for wearing lace. (3)

Elkagye,, via Wikimedia Commons

Generally, if you buy lingerie with machine made lace (let’s be honest, most of it), it will probably be Raschel lace.

Coming Soon

  • Eyelash lace
  • Leavers lace
  • Lisbon lace
  • Any requests?

By liz

Lingerie, body confidence, books, tea, awkward hand placements and klutzy walks, big smiles, glasses and weightlifting - in no particular order a few random words about me.