Fashion Tidbits – Is Irish lace always Irish?

I always wondered if ‘Irish’ lace had to be made in Ireland and in looking for the answer I ran across this great 1911 advertisment for an Irish lace shirtwaist and a news bit about Irish lace from the following year:

Lace blouse by Irish Industries of Dublin, advertisement from Cunard Daily Bulletin published on board the R.M.S. Mauretania, Saturday, June 17, 1911

From The New York Times, March 19, 1912

“The designs used in the manufacture of real Irish lace are unfortunately unpatenable, so the industry in Ireland suffers from the competition of “Irish” lace made in France, Italy, Germany, Japan, and the United States.

For centuries, the principal motifs of design in Irish laces have been the shamrock and the rose. Lacemakers in that country refuse to incorporate any other motifs in their work, saying that they would not be characteristic of the country and the race. Therefore it is easy for men in other countries to adopt these two essential figures and call the product of their workers Irish lace.

They have used the same implements as the Irish workers, they have used the same thread and the same designs, but their laces are no more like the Irish product than their languages. They haven’t the body real Irish laces have. They haven’t the finish, and they haven’t the serviceability. Wash them once and the life is gone out of them. Real Irish laces can be laundered any number of times and are always the same.”

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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