Haute Historian: Brocade – A Fabric of Richness

September 17, 2012 • Haute Historian, Magazine

Spring has sprung, or at least the spring 2013 ready-to-wear collections made their debut during last week’s New York Fashion Week. Among the bright colors and festive prints that graced the runways, a fresh take on brocade looks is an updated trend to look forward to next spring. Designers including Jill Stuart, Suno and Helmut Lang featured brocade-made garments in their spring ready-to-wear collections.

A fabric that is now predominately used in upholstery and curtains and occasionally in formal gowns, brocade was originally used as fine cloth for garments. Brocade is a decorative, loom-woven fabric, most likely made from colorful silk threads. Before there were designer labels and name brand clothing lines, the main way for people to show their wealth through clothing was to wear garments made of expensive and elaborate fabrics. Brocades, with their rich and intricate woven patterns, were popular among the wealthy nobility for that exact reason. The origin of brocade dates back to the middle ages, with nobility in the east having their garments made of the silk fabric. Its popularity moved west when monks of the Byzantine Empire learned the Chinese tradition of keeping silkworms. The Byzantine Empire became the lead producer of brocade fabric and because of it they were able to charge a large amount.

Gone is the heavy brocade fabric that was once popular. Instead, with the new updated trend it has been modernized and has an all-over lighter appearance. Jill Stuart’s and Helmut Lang’s tailored brocade jackets are a perfect way to introduce brocade into an everyday wardrobe and Suno’s fashion forward geometric-styled garments are for those willing to be a bit more daring. Brocade is definitely something to look forward to this spring.

Photos: (left to right) Brocade Wedding Dress 1730-50, nyhistory.org; Suno Spring 2013 RTW, style.com: Helmut Lang Spring 2013 RTW, style.com; Jill Stuart Spring 2013, style.com; Byzantine Two Piece Brocade Costume, osfcostumerentals.org

– Bonnie J Brown

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