For hundreds of years, silk has been considered the creme de la creme of fabric, and with good reason! No other textiles can compete with the shimmering beauty that silk has. As well as being a stunning fabric, it is also incredibly strong and breathable. In fact, silk is the strongest natural fiber known to mankind! Think of the range of uses for silk: delicate slips, wedding dresses, medical suture thread, parachutes, and even artificial arteries!
The process of silk-making was originated in China and was closely guarded by the Chinese for many years. It was so rare and valuable that when the ancient city of Rome was attacked, the leader of the attacking Goths demanded gold, silver, and silk as a ransom!
Today, silk is still highly valued. It is often used for special occasions and specialized garments. Of course, the word “silk” simply describes the type of fiber…the fibers can be woven into many different types of silk fabrics. Here at Farmhouse Fabrics we love all kinds of silk-from stiff taffeta and dupioni to drapey charmeuse. Each type of silk fabric brings a certain style to a garment. Maybe you can recognize these fabrics in well-known wedding dresses or evening gowns: all very different and yet all silk!
Charmeuse: Silk charmeuse is often the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word silk. It has a gorgeous sheen and luxurious drape-making it ideal for bias cut evening gowns or delicate lingerie. If any of you are fans of Downton Abbey then you can remember Lady Edith’s beautiful wedding gown-perfectly reminiscent of the 1920s.
Dupioni: Silk dupioni is almost the opposite of charmeuse. Whereas charmeuse is slippery and drapes well, dupioni is stiff and crisp. Silk dupioni is often suited to a tailored look. It has a lot of “slubs” (a result of threads that are inconsistent widths) which add a fun texture.
Shantung: Shantung silk is very similar to dupioni and the two are often confused. In fact, shantung is a much more delicate fabric than dupioni. It also has fewer slubs, and the slubs that it does have are of a much finer thread width. Because shantung is a thinner fabric than dupioni, it drapes better than dupioni and is more suited to evening wear.
Taffeta: Silk taffeta is another stiffer fabric, but it is still suited to evening dresses and wedding gowns. Some very famous wedding dresses were made of silk taffeta, namely, Lady Diana Spencer in her marriage to Prince Charles and Jaqueline Bouvier in her marriage to John F. Kennedy. Taffeta has that lovely crisp look to it and yet it is flexible enough for some drape.
Organza: Silk organza completes our list today. Organza is a very sheer, lightweight fabric that is perfectly suited for bridal wear. It makes a lovely overskirt and adds an almost fairy-esque ethereal touch.
When you look at all these different fabrics you can understand why silk was (and is!) so highly prized. This one fiber can be woven into so many different fabrics and all of them are beautiful in their own way.