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When we use the phrase

The white robe was laced with black silk.

Do we mean that the black silk is making the robe tighter around the body, or does it mean something a lot more general? What are the possible meanings of such a phrase?

restrain or constrict by tightening laces, especially of a corset.

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laced, adjective

  1. Fastened or adorned with lace.
  2. Tainted with something, especially a drug.

Most likely the first meaning is intended here, but a particularly fanciful author might used "laced with black silk" to mean that the robe is constructed of white material with strips of black silk in places. This is probably not what they meant though. As always, more context would make this question easier to answer...

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Etymonline says the verb lace was used from early 14c. to mean

tighten (a garment) by pulling its laces. From 1590s as "to adorn with lace;" the meaning "to intermix (coffee, etc.) with a dash of liquor" (1670s) originally also was used of sugar, and comes via the notion of "to ornament or trim," as with lace.

A white robe with black laces to do it up sounds less alluring than one trimmed or ornamented with black lace.

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There is a phrasal verb "lace with" (usually in a passive participle/adjective "laced with") which means:

To mix some substance into another, to adulterate.

It is usually used about alcohol or drugs:

Her drink had been laced with a drug that made her blackout.

While it could refer to literal laces, or to literal lace in this case, it might also mean that the white cloth is "adulterated" with a small amount of black silk.

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