Lace Collars

Figure 1.--This boys wears a huge collar in a photograph taken in the 1890s. Notice the adult looking suit worn by his older brother. Lace collars could be quite expensive. A less expensive alternative for a boy was a ruffled collar.

Lace collars and cuff and hem trim were widely used in men's clothing during the 17th century. Van Dyke's paintings of French and English aristocrats show the elaborate lace work. The French king Louis XIV and the English king Charles I dressed with elalobarate lace collars and trims. We note both boys a girls wearing lace collars. And we see lace being used in the 18th century, even the early-19th century for both men and boys--at least the well-to-do. At mid-century, male dress became more more plain. We continue to see women and girls wearing lace collars. For a time in the late-19th century, lace collars were especially popular for boys as part of the Fauntleroy craze. We notice lace collars in many different shapes and sizes. Perhaps because of the cost, ruffled collars were more common., but we still see a number of lace collars. his was especially true of americ where the fauntleroy Craze was so pronounced. In other countries lce collars were more of decidelky feminine garment element.


We are not sure about the foreign language terms for lace collar. The French term is Col de lacet. We believe that in most languages, like English and French that you just combine the words for lace and collar. In Spanish that would be cuello de encaje, although a search engine suggests cordón. Other foreign language terms would be: German (Spitzestellring), Italian (collare del merletto), Portuguese (colar do laço). Hope fully our HBC readers from these countries will help refine the foreign language terms.


Lace trim in clothes was revived in the Victorian era. It was used in women's clothes and to a lesser extent dresses for little girls and boys who were still outfitted in dresses. Boys also wore lace collars with tunics at other outfits at mid century. Alfred Lord Tennyson's boys, Hallam and Lionel, for example, often wore lace collars with their tunic outfits in the late 1850s and early 1860s. The lace collars worn during this period tended to be rather modest, much smaller than those to be worn by the next generation of boys with velvet Little Lord Fauntleroy suits.

National lace industries

Handmade laces are primarily producedin England, Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy. In the U.S. most lace is produced by machines which utilize a combination of ordinary weaving and the bobbin technique of lacemaking. Such machine-madelaces are used chiefly for making curtains and for adorning women's undergarments.

Historical background

The most ancient specimens of lace in existence are knotted hair nets and breast nets from the tombs of Thebes and other parts of Egypt, some of which date as far back as 2,500 B.C. Several of these nets are adorned with tiny porcelain heads and figures strungamong the meshes. Bobbin laces and embroidered laces have been recovered from Egyptian Coptic tombs of the 3rd to 7th centuries A.D. Other remains in the Coptictombs indicate that the bobbin laces were made, not on a pillow with pins, but on awooden frame with pegs to hold the threadsapart. In the 12th and 13th centuries A.D.some lace garments were made for churchmen high in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but it was not until the 16th century that the useof lace became widespread. From the middleof the 16th century until well into the 18thcentury, churchmen, and men and womenof the nobility, wore lace as a matter offashion; lace ruffs, collars, sleeves, and shoedecorations were common. Women wore lacescarves, known in Spain as mantillas; men had lace trouser cuffs, and wore lace garters.The manufacture of lace during this periodwas encouraged and subsidized by European kings, such as Louis XIV of France, and theimportation of foreign laces was prohibited in many countries to protect native lacemakers. Just after the middle of the 18th century, the first lace machine was introduced. Lace, though now out of fashion in men's wear, has had a much wider marketand distribution since the introduction of cheap, mass methods of production. Expensive handmade laces are still being made by skilled craftsmen, and find a market because of their artistry and individuality.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

It was Francis Hodgson Burnett's book Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1886, however, that popularized a revival of elaborate 17th century fashions for little, and not so little, boys. One esential part of any Fauntleroy suit was a blouse with a elaborate lace collar or a lace collar attached to the jacket. These collars were worn through the Edwardian period strarching into the 1910s. Subsequently, open necked ruffled collars began to replace the lace collars boy's velvet suits.


The term lace comes from the Latin laqueus meaning "noose". It is an ornamental fabric consisting of a decorative openwork of threads. The appreciation of lace dates back centuries. Lace was derived from the very humble origins--restitched fishing nets. It has evolved, of course, into a textile of great elegance.


Lace is considered by many to be one of the wondrous of textiles. It tugs at the heart-strings of true romantics. Ingrandmother's day, it was customary to garnish bedrooms and dining rooms with lace. Today, lace shows up in every room of the home. It livens up any setting because its so versatile and has no boundaries in terms of where or how it can be used. A luxurious Venetian lace cloth will turn a plain Jane dining room into a regal space, while a simple crocheted heart adds just the right sentimental note to a bookshelf or writing table. It was used in clothing as a decorative embellishment for collars, cuffs, and hems. In the Victorian revival in the mid-19th century it primarily was used on womwn's clothes, until the publication of Francis Hodgson Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1886, after which a geberation of American and British boys were also dressed in lace embellished velvet suits.

Figure 2.--This older boy wears an elegant eyelet lace collar with a large bow. The collar is an acessory to the jacket and not part of the blouse. The bow is light colored, but I'm not sure what the color was. The large lace cuffs match the collar lace. His hair has been carefully done in ringlet curls. The double breasted Fauntleroy jacket suggests the photograph was taken in the early 1890s.


Lace is made from several differet materials. Lace is generally made of threads of linen, cotton, or, less frequently, of silk. Threads of gold or silver were alsooccasionally employed, and synthetic fibers, such as rayon, have recently come into use.

Lace Types

There are several different types of lace, based primarily on how the lace was made. Occasionally laces are made by knitting, crocheting, or tatting. However, the finestlaces are made without use of a background fabric; these are bobbin lace and needle pointor needle lace.
Fine net: The simplest form of lace is a fine net. Most laces have more complex patterns, varying from geometrical designs to ornate pictorial scenes.
Drawn: Handmade laces have been introduced into the body of a fabric for many centuries by withdrawing certain weft threads and using decorative stitching on the warp threads thus exposed; such laces are known as drawn laces.
Cutwork: Another method long in use, known as cutwork, consists of cuttingholes in a fabric, embroidering the edges of the smaller holes, and working lacy designs of threads over the larger spaces. I think this may be another term for "eyelet" lace.
Filet: Another ancient type of lace, called filet. It is made by embroidering designs on a net fabric.
Buratto: Buratto lace is made by filling in designs on coarsely woven cloth.
Bobin Lace: Bobbin lace, also known as pillow lace, is so called because the instruments used are several spools, or "bobbins", around each ofwhich a thread is wound, and a long stuffed pad, or "pillow". The pattern to be producedis drawn on a piece of parchment or paper, and pins are inserted through the parchment, along the course of the pattern, into the pillow. The loose ends of the threads on the bobbins are looped about selected pins, and the bobbins are then passed under, over, oraround each other, plaiting, interlacing, and twisting the threads as desired. Fine, delicate bobbin laces are produced by using very thin threads; heavy laces, known as guipures are made from thicker threads, or from the braiding together of fine threads. A famous fine bobbin lace is Valenciennes lace, characterized by a square or diamond-shaped mesh.
Needle-point lace: Needle-point lacemaking utilizes a needleand thread, and a piece of parchment or paper with a cloth backing. As in bobbinlacemaking, the pattern is drawn on the parchment. The initial stitches are madethrough the parchment and cloth, and delineate the border, and sometimes the essential design, of the desired piece of lace. All stitches thereafter are made using the original stitches as supports, without piercing the parchment and cloth, so that, when thelace is finished, merely slitting the original stitches is sufficient to remove the backing. Occasionally a thin net is basted onto the backing, and ornamented in similar fashion. Needle-point lace, often called "needle point", is made with a variety of stitches. One common modern stitch is the buttonhole stitch, closed stitch, or feston stitch, which is used to finish border and ragged edges; another is the mesh stitch, which is made by passing stitch after stitch into the same region until a compact mass of fabric, forming a heavydesign, is produced. The thin background fabric in needle point is known as the ground;heavy supporting stitches, called brides, are often wrought between the patterns on aneedle point to interconnect them and give strength to the fabric. Famous needle-pointlaces include rose point, characterized by a pattern of raised flowers, and Alen (on point. However, the term "point" in the names of famous laces refers to bobbin lace as well as needle lace. The term "needle point" is also applied to a type of embroidery.
Crochet lace: Lace could also be crocheted. The authots believe that crocheted lace was most likely to have been made by a boys mother or other family member.

Figure 3.--While difficult to confirm, these two California children appear to be brothers. Notice the lace collars on their identical dresses. It appears to be crocheted lace.

Collar Types

While there were many different types of lace there were only three basic types of lace collars. Please note that these are categories se have created based on the lace collars we have observed. We welcome reader comment or alternative categories. The first type was the pin-on lace collars. These were collars that were entirely separate from any other garment and just pinned on another garment, usually a jacket. These were very adaptable collars as they could be used again and again over a period of years. Often when a boy received his first adult-looking suit, he might wear a lace or ruffled collar with it for a few years. Large floppy bows were also often added. The second type of lace collar was the drape on style. The collars were so large that they did not need to be pinned on. They werr normally quite large, cobering all or most of the shoulders. This type was most common for younger children. The third major lace collar type was the collar on fancy blouses which came already attached. These were less adaptable garments and could only be worn while the blouse was stillthe right size for the boy. The blouses often were made with ruffled rather than actual lace.

Boys' Garments

While Fauntleroy suits and blouses were the most common boys' outfit with which lace collar were worn. They were not the only outfit. Lace collars were also commonly worn with dresses and tunic suits as well as less commnly with other outfits such as kilt suits and even sailor suits. In some cases, mothers simply pinned a lace collar onto whatvever suit a boy wore. Other outfits were made to be worn with lace collars or with lace worked into garments. The conventions concerning the outfits with which lace collars were worn varied from country to country. Lace appears to have been particularly popular in France. Lace was a common trim for children'sd and adult dresses in the later part of the 19th Century. Both boys' and girls' dresses used lace trim. Late was especially common for Fauntleroy dresses or jackets and blouses worn with a kilt skirt. These kilt suit could be converted into proper Fauntleroy suits by simly switching the kilt skirt for kneepants. As specialized dresses for boys developed in the late 19th Century, lace came to be used less commonly as a trim. Also it was not commonly worn with the kilt suits, except for the ones made in the Fauntleroy style. Lace collars for boys were primary trim worn with Fauntleroy suits from their appearance in the 1880s throgh the first decade of the 20th century. The lace collar was a critical part of the Fauntleroy suit. In fact, some suits were worn with such a large collar and matching wrist trim that it was hard to see the suit itself. Afterwards the turn of the century, especially by the 1910s, lace was less commonly worn and ruffled collars became more common. I'm unsure as to the reason for this shift, but one factor was probably the cost of lace. Most of the original lace collars appear to have been on fancy blouses worn with small jackets. Subsequently separate lace collars and cuffs appear to have been attached to the jacket, but were not part of the blouse. While lace collars were most common on Fauntleroy suits, they were worn on many other garments as well, including sailor suits and other types of suits.


We note both boys and girls wearing lace collars. The boys we see wearing lace collars were mostly in the 1880s, 90s, and very early-1900s. We see girls wearing lace collars over a much wider time period. During the time period that boys most commonly wore lace collars, we see boys wearing them more than girls and also wearing the larger collars. A good example is a Canadian boy, Francis Allan, about 1900. We do see some girls with lace collars. A factor here is that true lace, rather than cut-out lace, is very expensive. Thus a full lace collar as opposed to a little lace trim on a large ruffled collar was both expebsive and not very practical for chuldren's clothing. We do see boys wearing lace collars as a result of the huge popularity of Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, but ruffled collars were much more prevalent. Cost has to be the major factor. We tend to see larger collars for boy than girls during this period. Overall, lace collars were more common for girls, but during the Fauntleroy Era it was boys who nore commonly sported lace collars and larger lace collars.

Chronological Trends

Lace was heavily employed on wealthy and aristicratic men's clothing in the 17th century. Portraits of monarch and other important personages show large amounts of lace being ised for adornment, not only at the neck, but also wrist trim as well and in some cases adornment at the hem of knee breaches. Boys of comparable rank once breached would be dressed in the same fashion. The lace collar as a specifically boys's fashion did not come about until the late 19th century. Some boys wore elaborate collars, both open and closed, with skeletiob suits in the late 18th and eraly 19th centuries, but these appear tonhave been more commonly ruffled rather than lace collars. We begin to notice lace collars on boys in the mid-19th century. At this time they were generally small modest size collars. The size of the colars and the popularity began to grow in the 1870s. The fashion became very popular of course after the publication of Little Lord Faunrleroy in 1885, especially in America. Boys began to be seen with huge lace collars. Many but not all boys also wore large bors which tended to cover up thei lace collars. By the mid-1890s, less expensive, but still large ruffled collars began to replace the lace collar for boys.

Figure 4.--This boy wears an elaborate lace collar and carefully styled set of ringlet curls in a photograph taken about the turn of the century.


I have very little written information on the lace collars worn by boys. An examinatiion of the available photographic evidence, however, offers some basic information on the characteristics of the lace collars worn by boys. Some of the few written references we have stress only that boys were not to fond of these collars. Lace collars varied greatly in size. Some were quite small, about the size of an Eton collar. Many were quite large covering much of a boy's shoulder. There were all kinds of sizes in between these extremes. Collar materials varied. Some of the collars were purely made of lace and the boy's jacket was visible under the lace. Many other collars were made of linnen, chambrey, or other materials. Often these blouses had large collars that were trimmed in ruffles and lace. True lace collars lay flat. They came in many shapes. Some had a modern boy's collar or Eton collar shape. More commonly they were rounded like a large Peter Pan collar. Other collars have irregular geometric shapes. One popular version was a star like shape with points radiating out in all directions. Lace collars came in a wide variety of types and sizes. The one constant was that they were all white. Many of the available images unfortunaely are not clear enough to fully access the collars pictured. Boys' lace collars were almost always white. This was in part because they were usually worn with dark jackets and thus the white lace provided some contrast. Women might occasionally wear black lace, but I do not recall boys wearing anything, but white lace.

Figure 5.--Fauntleroy lace collars could be quite large. This one is the largest I have seen, it not omly covers the boys shoulders but also hangs down his arms. It is dificult to see what kind of jacket he is wearing.

National Trends

Lace collars were worn in the 17th century and were an important part of the outfits worn by the aristocrcy as part of the cavelier look. This was a pan-European style worn in England, France, and other countries. The kace collar appeared agin in the late 19th centurym in sharp contrast to the realtively small collars worn at mis-century. They were widely worn by boys still in dresses and wearing Little Lord Fauntleroy suitsm as well as other garments. We believe that the popularity of the style varied from country as did the style of the collar and the garments upon which lace collars were worn, although we are just beginning to access this. Lace collars seem to have been very popular in America, especially after the publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1885. Lace collars wwere also widely worn by European boys. We have not yet been able to detect important national differences, in part because most of our available images are American. We are, however, beginning to acquire some European images and hope tpo assess differences in style, lace type, neckwear worn, and other aspecys of lace collars.

Collar Bows

Most Fauntleroy collars were worn with large floppy bows. This was particularly true in the United States. It was somewhat less common to wear true of real lace collars with large bows. Presumbaly because a bow would detract or cover the lace. As lace was quite expensive and highly prised by the Victorians, some mothers elected not to add bows to a boys Fauntleroy outfit. Most other Fauntleroy collars were worn with bows of varying sizes.

Matching Wrist Ruffles

Some lace collars came with matching or coordinated wrist ruffles. This was most common with Fauntleroy vlouses, but we see then with other suits as well. A good example is an American boy, Roy Chapman Hodgson during the 1890s.


Lace collars were primarily worn on fancy party suits and blouses. Many Fauntleroy suits were worn with penned on lace collars rather than a formal blouse. Children during cold weather would wear a generally plain coat over their party suots and dresses. The coats were generally styled the samer for younger boys and girls. While these coats were mostly plain, some mothers could not help but pen a lace collar on hem as well.

Modern Collars

The lace collar as boys wear is generally associated weith historic styles such as the Little Lord Fauntleroy suits of the late 19th century. The lace collar, however, has never completely disappeared from the younger boys' wardrobe--especially for formal wear. A boy serving as a ring bearer or attending other formal events might still wear a lace collar.

Interesting Links

Careful these links will take you away from the Boys' Historical Clothing Website.

Antique lace: Actual antique lace has considerable value

Bedfotdshire bobbin lace collars

Lace collars

Crochet lace collar (1850)


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Created: April 17, 1998
Last updated: 6:40 PM 3/13/2019