Monday, March 1, 2010


I thank the age when ribbons were discovered.

Do you know that.....Ribbons appeared when civilizations began crafting fabrics. They are among the oldest decorative or adorning materials. When all textiles were handmade, items with the finest threads were the most expensive. But the simplest, most coarse textiles in plain colors could be made more elegant and individual with a bit of ribbon as decoration.

 In the Middle Ages, ribbons were so identified with luxury that, during the sixteenth century, the English Parliament tried to make the wearing of ribbons a right of only the nobility. They were also identified with certain orders of merit; the Knights of the Garter wear broad blue sashes to this day, and the Knights of Bath wear red.

By the seventeenth century, ribbons stormed the fashion world. Both men's and women's clothing of this period were extravagant, and every accessory from gloves to bonnets was festooned with ribbons in many forms. A length of ribbon could be given as a gift to decorate clothing, for use in braiding and curling hair, for ornamenting baskets and furniture, or for brightening linens. Ornately patterned household fabrics were further bedecked with ruchings (gathered ribbons), frills, and rosettes.

The huge demand for more elaborate ribbons prompted a manufacturing revolution in which Coventry, England, and Lyons, France, became hubs of ribbon design and generation.

This ribbon industry sprang from the silk trade. Merchants who traveled the "Silk Road" to and from Asia sold raw silk to middlemen in Europe who boiled, cleaned, and dyed the ribbon yarn and sold it in "twists" to weavers. The enormous demand for ribbon was one of the sparks of the Industrial Revolution.  

Peasant costumes of many lands are often distinguished by single or braided ribbons that are dyed bright colors, decorated with lace or beads, or patterned. Unique designs came to characterize cultures.  During the Napoleonic Wars early in the nineteenth century, the ribbon industry suffered a major decline because skilled weavers from England and Western Europe were recruited for military service.

The next ribbon "boom" occurred in 1813, when picot-edged ribbon (with tiny scallops along the sides) became a fashion must. Ribbon-weavers reaped the benefits for the two years picot-edged ribbon topped the fashion charts. Ribbons often followed fashion trends. Deaths at the courts of Europe stimulated the demand for black ribbon; military tapes, jacquards, and medal ribbons became symbols of military regiments and the highest awards nations could bestow.

The Victorian Era was the last to see a ribbon boom when the dresses, underclothes, coats and cloaks, and hats of Victorian ladies used yards of ribbon. Trade agreements between European countries killed the English manufacture of ribbon because cheap labor and ever-larger looms could not produce competitively priced products. 

The development of synthetics and paper fibers for use in making gift wrap quickly extended to the ribbon world in our times, and ribbon became as adaptable to modern living as other fabrics. Many types of ribbon today are colorfast, shrink resistant, and able to be washed or dry cleaned.

In the 21st century . . .  I use Ribbons for my Laso Collection.

***History of Ribbons by

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