"Lace is not a Luxury": Strategies to Sell Belgian Lace in the U.S. during WWI

Wendy Wiertz

Research output: Contribution to conference typesAbstractpeer-review


Belgian handmade lace has been a luxury product for centuries, loved and cherished by the elite and longed for by many others. American tradesmen imported the delicate fabric in their country, whereas collectors and tourists would often come to Europe and personally would buy the laces at towns such as Bruges, Brussels or Malines. In 1914, the Belgian lace industry, like other economies in Western Europe, collapsed due to the German invasion at the start of the First World War. During the almost four years of occupation following the invasion, around 50,000 laceworkers as well as their craft only survived due to the help of the Commission for Relief in Belgium (C.R.B.), presided over by U.S. president Herbert C. Hoover (1874-1964). This American organization provided the workers with wages and materials and predominantly sold the finished lace products in the U.S. To keep the Belgian lace industry and its makers alive, the sales needed to rise. One of the applied strategies was to diminish the aspect of luxury, launching slogans such as ‘Lace is not a Luxury,’ thus making handmade lace seem available for everyone. I analyze what other strategies were used to enhance the sale of Belgian handmade lace during the First World War, starting from a close examination of the lace products over different sales locations to specific publicity campaigns.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event46th Annual Conference of the Midwest Art History Society - Cincinnati Art Museum/Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, United States
Duration: 21 Mar 201923 Mar 2019
Conference number: 46


Conference46th Annual Conference of the Midwest Art History Society
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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