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Abstract

This paper traces the history and use of gimp, lace and braid on academical gowns within the United Kingdom. Academical dress in the United Kingdom is unique in having a long history of using lace for decoration. The laces used are significant and their meanings depend on the gown on which they are used. Some universities, such as Cambridge, use laces to indicate a special status whilst others, such as Leeds, use it on their gowns more generally. The older versions of lace developed from earlier versions of decoration that had evolved over time and continue to be used up to the present day. Other laces appeared more recently—in the past hundred years or so—most of which were used simply because they were available at the time, and some have since disappeared through lack of use. Two of the main issues that affect the life expectancy of a particular type of lace are its availability and its use in practice. If a lace is used frequently and on many gowns, then the lace tends to survive for a long time; if the lace is confined to a single gown which is rarely used, however, there is a danger that it will disappear. This paper traces the history of each lace, gimp and braid, showing which are extant and which have disappeared.

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