Cap back and lappets
Linen bobbin lace
Brussels, Flanders and Valenciennes, France
The cap crown, or cap back, and lappets were worn together as part of a lace headdress.
At the beginning of the 18th century, fashion favoured fine muslins over lace for accessories. This was until skilled Flemish lacemakers brought lace back into favour, using exceptionally fine Flemish linen thread to fashion creations so delicate they looked like muslin from afar.
Lace accessories could in fact cost up to twice as much as fabric for a dress. Exceptional fineness of thread and delicate workmanship indicated the quality of the lace and thus its likely expense. Fine lacework signified the wealth and good taste of the wearer. Delicacy and semi-transparency were qualities particularly sought after for lappets, which were intended to flutter loosely around the face.
The Valenciennes lappets are so finely made that the intricacy of the pattern is only discernible on close proximity. The exceptionally fine linen thread and time it took to make this delicate lace inflated the price - only around 1.5 inches of this kind of lace could be made in a 15-hour working day.
The process of making Brussels lace used in the cap was described in 1756 by Mrs Calderwood of Polton: ‘The manufactory of the lace is very curious; one person works the flowers, and they are all sold separate… The merchants have all these people imployed, gives them the thread to make them, then they lay them according to a pattern, and give them out to be grounded...’
The distinctive floral design of this cap crown is set against a regular net pattern known as droschel or vrai reseau. The density and intricacy of the lappet design rivals popular embroidered muslin fabrics of the period.