New England
Lace Group
"In Fine Style - The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion" by Anna Reynolds, curator of the exhibit in the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace until October 6, 2013. Book published in 2013 by the Royal Collection Trust, 300 pages, Hardback, ISBN 978-1-905686-44-5.

It would be nearly impossible to find and view this many portraits depicting lace as it was worn in this period of history all in one cohesive book.

Here we have, for lace scholars, historians, and costumers, a wonderful resource in print form.  The details are such that anyone unable to travel to London can have a wonderful walk-about with the erudite curator, in the comfort of home.

The text is fascinating, and photo enlargements of details so precise that they provide wonderful design inspiration. Lots of lace, in context. The book jacket front is unusual in that flecks of gold shimmer off the surface. Depicted is a view of a 1614 painting of Anne of Denmark's cloth-of-gold gown. Some of the lace she is wearing in the full portrait is shown on the book jacket. She was the wife of King James the I and VI - son of Mary, Queen of Scots. This Queen Anne was related to Christian IV of Denmark 1577-1648 (of the 2001 2-volume set of books about his laces, "Christian IV and Bobbin Lace" by Katia Johansen).

The jacket cover back shows a portrait of Mary of Modena circa 1675, wearing a riding habit that follows exactly the lines of a male wedding suit coat, which was worn by James II in 1673. The brown wool surface of this remarkable surviving suit is entirely covered in silver and silver-gilt embroidery, which appears to be intact, though tarnished. At the neck in portrait and reality, is a large needlelace cravat.

One puzzling jewelry detail in paintings of this period has been (to this reviewer) the black stones set in gold and sewn on clothing. This is explained. They were diamonds! The way they were cut did not optimize their light-reflecting abilities, and settings with foil backs caused this dark effect. Therefore, the method of painting them resulted in black-looking stones. At the time, diamonds were favored for their hardness and luster, rather than their brilliance. With 60-plus portraits, sometimes accompanied by surviving rare costume elements, there are many more treats in the book. Some information that jumps at you off the pages are: the explanation of needle and bobbin laces p. 61, an analysis of painting styles, an excellent description of how textile effects were achieved by artists p.143, cloth-of-gold explanation p.149, the relationship between dyes and pigments p.161, bleaching methods and how starch was made and applied p. 217, lace-like designs on suits of armor p.228.

The pages are paper, but this reviewer kept running fingertips over photographs, as if the textures could be felt! At the back, copious notes, costume glossary, and a bibliography that includes more books to order!

This book is so packed with interesting details it was savored slowly, like the finest wine.

Surely, the most beautiful book of the year.

Exhibit details are at

Jeri Ames in Maine, USA
Lace and Embroidery Resource Center
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