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Ornamental openwork fabric formed by the looping, interlacing, braiding, or twisting of threads, originally primarily of linen. Almost all high-quality artistic lace is made by one of two techniques: needle lace involves a difficult technique that originated in Italy; bobbin lace is a more widespread craft that originated in Flanders. The art of lace is a European achievement. Fully developed lace did not appear before the Renaissance. By 1600 lace had become a fabric of luxury and an important article of commerce. The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century led to the use of machines to produce less-expensive lace made of cotton, and lace gradually disappeared from both men's and women's fashions. By 1920 the industry was dying. Fine handmade lace is still made in Belgium, Slovenia, and elsewhere, but chiefly as souvenirs.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lace, visit Britannica.com.