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What is Chantilly Lace?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 21, 2024
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Chantilly lace is a style of expensive fabric that originated in France in the 1600s. It is usually woven by hand using spools of silk and typically features intricate floral designs. It is often woven out of silk thread in a variety of colors; black is one of the most common. Chantilly lace was extremely popular for a large part of the 1800s, and less expensive machine woven versions became available in the second half of the century. It has a variety of uses. There was a popular American song with the name Chantilly Lace in the late 1950s.

Chantilly lace is named after the town where it was originally made, Chantilly, France, located north of Paris. Lacemakers in Chantilly were weaving lace by hand as long ago as the early 1600s, and the silk floral lace that is considered to be the typical Chantilly style originated in the 1700s. This style rose to popularity quickly, particularly in the color black.

When woven by hand Chantilly lace is created in the bobbin lace style using twisted strands of matte silk. The complex, delicate designs are woven around numerous pins stuck into a pillow following a prearranged pattern. Each thread is wound around a long handled spool called a bobbin, and some designs can use more than 50 separate bobbins. The bobbins help the weaver to manage the multitude of threads and keep them from tangling. The silken threads are woven together by twisting and braiding them in intricate patterns held in place by the pins until completion.

Chantilly lace has enjoyed considerable popularity through time. It was particularly popular during the 1800s, when Chantilly, France was an important lace making center, creating primarily white, black and blonde, or natural colored, lace. The lace was exported from France to countries all over the world, and black Chantilly was quite popular among fashionable women who used it as a clothing embellishment for undergarments and shawls. Hand-woven lace was prized and quite expensive, but less expensive machine-made versions were also available after 1840.

Still popular today, with its soft, silky feel and attractive floral patterns, Chantilly lace is used for a variety of items in modern times. There was even a song named after it in the 1950s by an singer who performed under the name of "The Big Bopper." The range of colors is much wider now, and more lace is produced by machine, although hand woven lace is still available. White is in high demand since the lace is a common adornment for bridal gowns as well as wedding veils. The lace in a variety of colors is also used on women's undergarments, especially bras.

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Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On May 19, 2014

A friend of mine had a lace veil that had re-embroidered chantilly lace on the borders. It was exquisite. I'm not sure where she got it, but I know it had to cost a mint of money. My veil was really simple and was $90, so I know that veil had to be $200 or more. It was beautiful, though.

By Pippinwhite — On May 18, 2014

My wedding gown didn't have a lot of lace on it, and I'm not sure what kind of lace it did have on it. It might have been in the chantilly lace style, but I know it wasn't the real thing.

Maybe by now, chantilly lace refers to the basic design of the lace, and not the actual manufacturing method.

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