The word “passement” is an early French word for lace, derived from the 16th century Renaissance era.
The word “passementeries” is used today as a general term describing trimmings for clothing and soft furnishings. These trimmings include gimps, braids, lace edging, pompoms, rosettes, fringes, elaborate cords and tassels. If one visits the medieval castles of Europe, traditional (and often the original) passementeries can still be seen on curtains, bed canopies and furniture. The more elaborate the trimming, the wealthier the occupant.
Originally made by hand, many trimmings are now mass produced by clever machinery. However, there is still a great industry in hand-made passementeries, with China, Spain, Belgium, USA and the UK leading the way.
Generally utilised in more traditional décor, passementeries can consist of varying materials such as silk, cotton, polyester fibres, beads, crystals, wood and buttons; lace is far less popular these days. These trimmings are employed to enhance soft furnishings by adding another dimension, texture or colour. Styles range from the very simple monochromatic gimps used to edge the inside of lampshades or pelmets to stunning beaded fringes containing crystals or scalloped fringes with silk ribbon fibres that add the wow factor to a bespoke curtain.
Having declined in popularity in recent years, passementeries appear to be making a comeback as consumers are embracing more decorative window coverings and leaving behind the minimalism of the past. Today’s passementerie designs offer the traditional fare we are generally familiar with, together with a more contemporary range, to include leather, jute, feathers and products containing Swarovski crystals. The sky is the limit!
Passementeries are not simply decorative. Tassel tiebacks conveniently and effectively hold a drape off the window by “embracing” the curtain. They are a softer alternative to metal holdbacks and, due to their size, can generally accommodate a large curtain satisfactorily. Simpler trimmings are employed to hold a fabric in place to cover rough edges/seams, such as fabric joins on armchairs or the like. Some use passementeries to add length to a curtain that may by itself not be long enough to reach the floor. Similarly, long fringes (called bullion fringes) are often utilised at the base of chairs, sofas and ottomans to cover the legs and prevent one from seeing underneath the furniture.
The recent restoration of the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath. NSW, has seen the daring use of wonderful passementeries, reflective of a bygone era. It is with projects such as this that the consumer is motivated to seek similar products for their own home.