The Lace Museum

I had recently read about a fashion exhibit at the Lace Museum in Calais. I checked the train schedule and Calais was an hour and forty minutes from Paris and the fares were reasonable.

We arrived about 11:30 and walked through the quiet, working class city to get to the museum. Most people know Calais for its ferries to England, but it is also the lacemaking capitol of France. The lacemaking industry started in 1816 coming from England and the original factory is very close to the museum. The Calais International Centre of Lace and Fashion was inaugurated in 2009 and resides in two buildings, one a former factory connected to a newly built modern building. Besides being a museum, it is the center for the lacemaking industry with classrooms, seminars, and an auditorium for presentations.

Before we took in the fashion exhibit we toured the permanent collection. There is a room where with lacemaking looms and every hour on the hour is a demonstration of how the machines work. I never knew lacemaking was such an intricate and complicated process and the heavy machinery is also very noisy. We moved into the next room, which had more looms, sewing machines, threading machines, and other industrial devices for lacemaking.

The next rooms had mannequins with lace fashions through different decades, starting with long lace dresses from the late 1800s, then old fashioned lingerie including corsets and full slips from the 1920s, moving to modern day lace gowns and dresses from designers like Jean Paul Gaultier. The room has had other lace accessories including hats, fans, and shawls.


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