A fichu covered the neck and shoulders. This one has been cut from a larger piece of needle lace. It may be related to a set of bed hangings, decorated with bees. (The bee was a Napoleonic symbol.) These bed hangings were originally made at Alençon in France for the Empress Josephine, consort of the Emperor Napoleon, in about 1809. They are now in the Brooklyn Museum, New York.
In the early 19th century the French lace industry largely depended on bobbin lace and machine-made net. Napoleon supported manufacturers of needle lace by making the wearing of French or Brussels lace compulsory at court.