The History of Plauener Spitze

…and how the tradition of quality and good design endured through two WWs, wild swings in economies, and 40 years under Communism.

Plauen’s tradition as a center of proficient production of all types of textiles of high quality, started with hand spinning and weaving in the 15th century. Hand-made lace and embroidery began in the early 16th century, mainly for the vestments of clergy and nobility. The popularity of lace increased rapidly, and soon hand-made lace became a cottage industry in Plauen, plus most of Europe, and the United States, lasting well into the 19th century.

- Location of Plauen in Germany (click map to find Plauen in Germany with Google Maps) -

The innovation that led directly to machine-made lace was the introduction in 1857 of hand-operated embroidery machines. Since lace can be embroidery without the heavy cloth backing, early in the 1880s entrepreneurs in Plauen began machine production of lace. In 1900 machine-made lace from Plauen won the Grand Prix at the World Exposition in Paris. And Plauener Spitze became synonymous with beautiful lace of highest quality.

Left: The type of a hand-operated embroidery machine that started machine production of Plauener Spitze (about 1857-1910)
Middle: Manual pantograph embroidery machine type VOMAG (about 1890-1925),
Right side: Automat that replaced the pantograph on the left part of the machine by using punched cards (after 1914)

Plauener Spitze production quickly became the largest source of income in Plauen, where population reached its maximum of 128,000 in 1912. More millionaires lived in Plauen than in any other city in Germany. Plauen even had an American Consulate due to the large exports to the United States.

World War I and its aftermath quickly changed that. In 1923 Plauen had the highest unemployment rate in Germany. Then the worldwide depression started in 1929. The economy improved starting in 1933, but by 1945 the WWII bombing of Plauen destroyed at least 80% of the lace industry, and the city was under Soviet occupation.

In 1950 lace and embroidery production restarted in Plauen, now in Communist German Democratic Republic, commonly called East Germany. At first small, family-owned companies were allowed to operate on their own until 1973, when most lace production was nationalize.

With German reunification in 1990 came a return to private ownership. Formerly family-owned factories were returned to their owners, including the family of Andreas Reinhardt, now the fourth-generation owner of Modespitze. In addition new private companies soon entered the industry.

The machines left by the Communist were old and in very poor condition. And the new owners had neither their own capital nor the credit to buy new machines. But the tradition of highest quality Plauener Spitze endured with the employees that lived through the 40 years of Communism.

Eventually more credit was extended and by 2000 significant production resumed.

Middle: These large modern machines very efficiently produce Plauener Spitze. But the complexity of these machines and the lace making process
requires highly trained employees with much manual dexterity as well as lot of needlework.

The Plauener Spitze and Embroidery Association now owns the trademark Plauener Spitze ® that is registered in the US (download certificate - PDF). Only member companies that adhere to the Association’s strict standards of high quality, good design, local production, and rigorous training of employees are allowed to use the Plauener Spitze ®.

Today a robust industry in Plauen and surrounding Vogtland makes modern German lace proudly labeled Plauener Spitze ® for a global market seeking beautiful lace of highest quality.

Click here for our catalog with an extensive listing of Modern German Lace made in Plauen and proudly labeled Plauener Spitze ®.

Click here for information about Modern German Lace (PDF flyer).

References courtesy of Plauener Spitzenmuseum and Willy Erhardt’s “Das Glueck auf der Nadelspitze”, Plauen 1995, and Otmar Schreiber, Chatham, NJ, USA

Email Us! For orders or a consultation call Elke 770.355.9181.