Brocade; beauty At Its Best

In the realm of fabrics, there are many choices, but the fairest of them all is arguably brocade.  Brocade refers to a class of fabrics woven of colored silks, sometimes with gold and silver threads.  Throughout history, it has been deemed as one of the most luxurious fabrics and has truly stood the test of time.


Brocade is far from a new fabric.  In fact, it dates back to the medieval period where it was among the luxury fabrics of Greece, Korea, China, Japan, and Byzantium.  From the 4th to the 6th centuries, wool and linen were the hot commodities of the day while silk was virtually non-existent.  The only people who had knowledge of silk fabric were the Chinese who kept it under wraps.  However, as is the case with many good secrets, knowledge of silk production was exposed and gradually spread to several cultures.  This eventually led to a pair of Byzantine monks bringing the secret of silk production to the Byzantine emperor in the 6th century.  This, in turn, resulted in the elevation of Byzantium as the leading producer of silk motifs, including brocade, damask, and tapestry-like fabrics.

Brocade Courtly Cape:

Brocade Courtly Cape

In the Early Middle Ages, brocade was pretty much exclusive for the wealthiest of people because the Byzantine emperor placed an enormous price tag on this fine cloth.  The complex brocade designs woven depicted Christian subjects and were often Persian in nature.  Adornments like medallions, precious stones, and embroidery could also be seen on brocade, especially when made into clothing or wall hangings.  During the Late Middle Ages, brocades became the popular fashion of the nobility class, sported at entertainment events, riding, dancing, and feasting.  In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Court of Burgundy gained a reputation for their fancy dress, which contained a great deal of brocade.

As time progressed forward, wool and silk advanced to the front lines of fabrics used throughout Europe, especially during the Renaissance period and brocade became an especially important fabric during the Italian Renaissance.  As fabric complexity of decoration increased in Italian silk in the 15th century, so improvements in weaving looms also occurred.  This gave Italy an edge and it was given a claim to fame for being the top quality manufacturer of silk throughout all of Europe.  From this epicenter, elegant fashion emerged in the vein of brocade and other rich and beautiful fabrics.

Courtly Green Brocade Dress:

Courtly Green Brocade Dress

In modern times, brocade fabric makes its way on the scene primarily in upholstery and draperies, as well as in formal wear.  Rather than the adornment of olden days, sequins and beading have taken the place of the precious stones.  Due to top of the line looms nowadays, brocade fabrics boast of more complex tapestry-like designs than ever before and this cloth is still in demand.


For our collection of brocade clothing, including coats, pants, and dresses, go to:

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