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Cravat end

  • Place of origin:

    Brussels (made)

  • Date:

    1720s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bobbin lace worked in linen thread

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA2

Lace was a very fashionable accessory for men in the period when this cravat end was made. The showiest effects were achieved with lace at the throat and wrist, setting off the face and hands.

This lace was made in Brussels, but may well have been worn by an Englishman. English travellers often purchased their lace abroad, and Brussels lace was also readily available in London, at considerable expense. Lace for cravats could be purchased either by length or by the piece, made to shape, as this one has been. A matching pair of cravat ends would have been attached to a length of fine linen, or muslin.

Physical description

The design is symetrical to either side of a central axis, with a very dense pattern in several planes containing scrolling and unfurling leaves, stylised fruit, lace-like trails and a central heart-like shape. The work is very fine, with a variety of fillings. There is a very narrow footing.
The lace has been pinned at some stage down either side and there are small rusty marks with slight damage, where the holes were.

Place of Origin

Brussels (made)


1720s (made)



Materials and Techniques

Bobbin lace worked in linen thread


Height: 35 cm maximum, Width: 34 cm

Object history note

Purchased for £12.

Historical context note

At the beginning of the eighteenth century lace industries across Europe experienced a severe slump, particularly those producing heavy needle laces. The grand and elaborate dress of the French court began to be simplified, the high headdress known as the frelange disappeared, and lace cravats, ruffles and flounces were to a large extent abandoned. Such fashionable accessories were now of plain muslin. The gradual revival was led by the Flemish industry, which perfected a bobbin lace with the softness and draping qualities of muslin combined with rich patterns based on contemporary woven silk design, as can be seen in this cravat end. It left behind mesh grounds, and was now worked with patterned motifs closely juxtaposed, and open areas excluded. Its success was based on a combination of dense and complex design and exceptionally fine thread.

Two new technical characteristics were developed in Brussels lace in the early eighteenth century, the working of raised edges along some of the pattern parts, and the adoption of a distinctive delicate hexagonal mesh ground, known as drochel (although Brussels lace grounded with bars continued to be made).

Among the items of fashionable dress for which lace was used by men in the eighteenth century, cravats were a focus for the display of wealth and good taste. The bib-fronted cravat was a feature of formal dress until the middle of the century, and was also worn by women as part of riding dress. Designs for cravats were influenced by woven silk designs, but their size allowed enough space for pictorial motifs, which often included chinoiserie. The other important costume accessory often made of lace was the sleeve ruffle, part of both male and female dress.

Descriptive line

Cravat end, Brussels bobbin lace, 1720s




Bobbin lace


Lace; Accessories; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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