Spiral Lacing in Costume
One of the most common styles of lacing in Medieval and Renaissance times was Spiral Lacing.
This style of lacing uses only one length of lace to hold a garment together and to tension the piece. This is different from crossed lacing, which can use a single lace, but both ends are used to draw the two sides being laced together.
This lacing style gives the impression of a zig-zag, across any gap between the two sides of the garment being closed.
Spiral lacing can also be used to attach a removable or changeable sleeve to a garment at the armhole. While it is only used for a few styles of garment (Elizabethan arming jacks being one style, because the sleeves wore more quickly than the bodices), it is a secure way to do this. If the holes are close enough together, spiral lacing will leave no gaps.
Examples of Spiral Lacing.
Examples of this lacing style can be found across many countries, from the 12th to the 16th century. The style seems to have fallen into less regular use from the 17th century onwards, as corsetry became more restrictive and needed the extra tension of crossed lacing to hold corsets together.
It may also be that the style simply fell out of fashion.
Common uses for this style are in Elizabethan bodices (all lacing placements), almost any style from the European continent in the 15th century and - most decoratively - in the wide-laced High German (Landsknecht, above left), and middle-class Flemish styles of the early 16th century (above right). They are also to be found in many 15th Century Italian paintings (below right), and in Franco-Flemish styles such as the one in the statue (below left).
How to do Spiral Lacing
Most examples of this style are seen as front, back or side-back bodice closures on both womens and mens clothing. You will need a lace 120cm long to complete the distance from waist to neckline, but will probably find that 80-90cm is sufficient to lace side-back closures (waist-to-armhole, pictured), or sleeves.
My diagram shows hole placement. It is very important to have an even number of holes in between the top and bottom pairs, because you must start and finish on the inside of the garment.
For side-back lacing, start your lace at the top (left or right - mirror for each side of the garment).
Take very careful note of your reference picture when tensioning your lace, and ask the following questions:
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