In centuries past, the rich adorned themselves with delicate lace, expressing their wealth and celebrating their gentle natures. Lace represents the genteel ideals of grace, sensuality and delicate charm.
Lace Tattoos: Body Art with History
Although lace making is a centuries-old practice, true lace making only began in the 15th and 16th centuries. This was when the lace that we know and recognize today was born. This lace is created without a backing cloth and is not cut from a pre-existing piece of material. Instead, the lace patterns are created with fine threads to create a delicate fabric design. The finer the lace, the more feminine it appears.
In the 16th century, lace was made with silk and sometimes silver or gold threads. These expensive materials were chosen as a way of displaying a person’s wealth. Trimming your clothing with beautiful lace made out of fine gold, silver or silk threads meant that you were both wealthy and worthy of such excess. Modern lace is often machined out of cotton or synthetic fiber and is readily available at low prices. Although lace is not so highly valued in our modern era, it is still appreciated for its delicate beauty, with hand made lace fetching a higher price than machine-made lace.
In the early years of the 19th century, a practice called tatting emerged. This activity used a shuttle and/or a needle to create knots and loops that could be used to create a pattern. Ladies and common women both began creating a delicate “tatted” lace that found its way into every part of the women’s wardrobes. Tatted lace was used for collars, hats, gloves, dresses and even to decorate accessories such as handbags and fans. Tatting is often referred to these days as lace, even though it is a different product from true lace. Tatting is sturdier than lace and is often used in lace tattoo designs because the spaces between the knots and loops give the tattoo artist more freedom in the design.
Lace hasn’t always been a strictly feminine adornment. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, men also wore clothing trimmed with lace. Wearing such a fine, easily damaged accessory was a sign that a man did not need to perform heavy labor or carry out duties that would damage his delicate clothing. By the Victorian era of the late 19th century, men no longer wore lace, preferring fabrics that were more suited to outdoor pursuits such as riding and sports. Lace had by now become a ladies’ fashion, and this preference by women for the intricate patterns of lace is reflected in the art of tattoos as it is generally only women who choose lace as a tattoo design.
The Femininity of Lace Tattoos
Lace hasn’t been popular in modern fashions, though it appears to be making a comeback. For the past two decades, lace was used almost exclusively in undergarments, sleeping wear and lingerie. As this delicate decoration shyly makes its way back into women’s fashions, it is also appearing in tattoo art.
Lace tattoos are an excellent choice for girls and women who want to celebrate their femininity. The lacy designs can be placed around ankles and wrists or even as a collar around the throat. Lace designs can be used to decorate existing tattoo designs to add a level of femininity to other tattoo designs. In many ways, lace tattoos are used to decorate a woman’s body in the same way that lace cloth is used to decorate clothing.
A lace tattoo can include other symbols of women’s fashions and femininity such as ribbons and bows. Lace patterns can also be incorporated into tattoos of corsets or garters, both of which are clothing items that are associated with femininity. Garter tattoos are lacy, feminine designs that can be hidden under skirts as a secret for a lover’s eyes only.
For intricate tattoo designs like lace, an ink color that has a high level of contrast to the skin tone works best; dark tattoo inks for light skin, white or pastel tattoo inks for dark skin. However, for a subtle, feminine effect, an ink just a few shades lighter or darker than the skin can be used to give the illusion that real lace has been inserted under the skin.