Honiton lace is a bobbin lace, usually characterised by floral and natural motifs held together by net and a fine network of thread. It is one of the finest and most delicate of laces, making it particularly fragile, but also particularly beautiful and suitable for wedding veils and delicate tea dresses.
It is thought that lace making was introduced into the Honiton region by Flemish immigrants to England during the Elizabethan era. Like many Elizabethan immigrants to England, they came seeking religious freedom, and were welcomed for their skills. England’s technology and arts, particularly in textile design and manufacture, benefited greatly from the country’s willingness to accept religious refugees in the 16th century.
By the beginning of the 17th century most houses in the Honiton region had at least one member who made lace, and in 1696 is was estimated that at least half of the residents of Honiton made their living as lacemakers. Lace making, in Honiton as well as in other regions around England and the rest of Europe, has traditionally been a craft that women and older members of a household could do around their other chores as a means of supplementing the household’s income.
Honiton lace was one of the most desired and valuable laces throughout the 17th, and early 18th century, particularly in France, but the late 18th century saw the introduction of machine-made Honiton lace substitutes, and the industry went into a massive decline. Queen Victoria attempted to revive the lace industry by commissioning an enormous piece of Honiton lace for her wedding dress.
Queen Victoria stated that on her wedding day she would make her vows as Albert’s future wife, not as the monarch. In reflection of this, she chose to wear a satin court train, bordered with orange blossom, instead of the crimson velvet robe of state. This romantic gesture, demonstrated in her choice of clothing, and the image of Queen Victoria as an adoring and innocent bride, really captured the public’s imaginationand this image and ideal spread quickly.
Red was a very popular color for brides in Victoria’s day, but the young queen broke with the status quo and insisted on a white gown.
Her wedding was the subject of many paintings, such as ‘The Marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Newspaper reports, affordable prints and souvenirs ensured that all levels of society were exposed to this model of romantic propriety.
While coloured wedding dresses were still common, the majority of the illustrations of blushing brides on fashion plates, Valentines cards and sheet music from then on were depicted wearing white. As a result, if a bride was marrying for the first time, and could afford it, a white wedding dress became the norm.
Victoria was not the first royal to choose white for her nuptials—several others, including Mary Queen of Scots in 1558, preceded her—but she is the one widely credited with changing the norm. Just a few years after her wedding, a popular lady’s monthly called white “the most fitting hue” for a bride, “an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.”
Alongside purity and simplicity, Victoria’s gown sent out two other important values. Thrift and that she supported domestic commerce by using only British-made materials (a tradition repeated, partially, by Catherine Middleton).
As a result of the Queen’s choice, Honiton became the most desired and sought after lace of the 19th century. Every bride hoped to have at least one set of handkerchiefs or a table mat such as this of fine linen trimmed with handmade Honiton lace in her hope chest.
Queen Victoria showed thriftiness by keeping pieces of her dress in her wardrobe for years to come (as most of her contemporaries would have done as well, often simply wearing their best dress on their wedding day, no matter the color or style). Victoria repurposed the lace from her dress again and again, even resurrecting it for her Diamond Jubilee 56 years later.
With its intricate design and stunning detail, this looks like the type of wedding dress most modern day brides would be proud to walk down the aisle wearing.
However, this gown is one that will never be worn – as it’s made entirely out of cake, and weighs more than 11 stone.
The tasty Weddible Dress, which stands 170cm tall, was fashioned by cake sculptor, Sylvia, Yvette Marner, 43, founder of Fun N Funky Cakes, and artist Ilinka Rnic, 17.
The impressive frock will be showcased at the two-day Cake International exhibition in Alexandra Palace, London which starts off on Saturday.
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