Spiral lacing – how Elizabethans actually closed their bodices
You will find many people at renaissance festivals lace their bodices and corsets with a X or cross pattern. This seems logical, and is used in many other modern applications including tying your shoes. But the Elizabethan’s did it differently. They used spiral lacing.
Spiral lacing uses one single cord to pass through eyelets in, well, a spiral shape. Examples of this lacing style can be found across many countries, from the 12th to the 16th century. In the renaissance, it was used to lace bodices tightly closed, or even loosely closed with the laces making a fashion statement in the Flemish style. Spiral lacing was used to close men’s garments as well. Anywhere with a lace, spiral lacing was used.
No matter which variation you use, stagger your eyelets so that they are not directly across from one another, and on an angle. If your holes are in the same place on both sides, the spiral lacing will make your garment edges not meet correctly at the top and bottom.
Why is it better?
Aside from historical accuracy, there is really only anecdotal evidence that we can take from personal experience. Reasons given by our group members:
- Faster to do.
- Easy to master.
- Much less likely to come undone under pressure.
- Way easier to do side, side-back or back lacing by yourself.
- Looks cool! Everyone does it the other way, so do it this way and you’re automatically unique.
- Jen Thompson. “The Zen of Spiral Lacing“. Festive Attyre Historical Costuming. Retrieved 7/29/13.
- Elizabeth Elwell-Cook. “Spiral Lacing in Costume“. Homemade Costumes from History. Retrieved 4/2/14.