by Glynis Ward
Brocade garments, historically, are "after five" wear. Elaborate designs were spun into beautifully lavish creations. Both men's jackets and women's cocktail or evening dresses and suits are the most commonly found vintage brocade today.
Brocode is a fabric that is made of a single color of silk thread was woven with two tensions to create a reversible design. Brocade is thought to have originated in the Shang Dynasty of China. Designing and making brocade fabrics for clothing became an art in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Various colors of silk threads were woven into elaborate patterns, often highlighted with metallic gold threads. A brocade jacket or dress was incredibly heavy, with yards and yards of fabric for the garments popular with the wealthy (who could afford brocade) and difficult to clean.
The machine age obviated the need for hand-woven brocade. Rayon began to replace silk brocade during the 20th century. Using rayon, manufacturers were able to make machine-woven brocade, which is often single-sided in pattern -- a sign of lesser quality, but still beautiful. It was much more affordable than silk brocade, and became popularly used in evening wear. Common machine-woven motifs include florals and leaf patterns, medallions and scroll work. During the 50s and 60s, abstract patterns became very stylish.
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