Men In Lace

  • Exhib_slideshow_15442_textiles5

    Jacobus Houbraken, England, 1698–1780, After a painting by Isaac Oliver. England, c. 1565–1617, Henry, Prince of Wales, Son of King James I, 1738, Published by I. and P. Knapton, London, England, Engraving, Gift of Frances M. Damon, 1969 (15442)

May 20, 2010 - October 10, 2010
The Textile Gallery (22)


Exhibition Overview

Lace may be strictly for women today, but 400 years ago, it was a manly accessory. Men in Lace, showcasing selections from the Academy’s exquisite lace collection, reveals how the textile was once the ultimate status symbol in Europe.


Men, as the holders of power and wealth, were consummate lace connoisseurs who drove a continent-wide industry. At one point, there was a domestic-help shortage because so many people were pressed into lacemaking. It’s a fascinating story, told through intricate lace fragments along with paintings, drawings and prints that highlight this extravagant accessory of fashionable European dress.

Italy and Flanders were the major centers for the early development of lace. Desired by kings and courtiers, the aristocracy and the clergy, lace was a symbol of wealth. In France, the elite spent such vast amounts of money on Italian lace that Colbert, the great French Minister under Louis XIV, forbade its use. Consequently, Colbert induced Venetian and Flemish lace makers to establish lace schools near Alençon in 1665. The textile was the perfect style accent during this period of frivolous, rich, and refined living.

The exhibition traces the evolution of lace in men’s collars, cuffs, ruffs, bibs, cravats, fichus, flounces, shoe roses, bootlaces and garters.—Sara Oka, Collection Manager of Textiles

Interact with the art: Continuing the Academy’s trend to present experiential exhibitions, the gallery includes a costume station where visitors can try on ruffs, collars and cuffs, as recorded Baroque music plays.