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Brocade is one of the several shuttle-woven fabrics with intricate patterns that often include a selection of flowers, plants and other natural images. Usually woven with a selection of various types of silk that are accented with metallic threads as a means of adding texture and visual interest, this fabric is used in a number of different applications around the home, as well as a desirable element in formal wear and stage costuming.
A draw loom is usually used to create brocade. Employing both a standard weft and a supplemental weft during the weaving process develops the detail of the pattern. The two-fold approach gives the finished product an appearance that is not unlike a piece of fabric that has been embroidered. The double weft technique also often provides a level of stiffness to the design, and also helps to make the material sturdy enough for use in applications that require a heavier fabric.
Brocade for many years was a favorite choice of fabric for upholstering formal pieces of furniture. While the practice declined after the middle of the 20th century, it is still considered an ideal option when restoring antique sofas, chairs, settees, and chaise lounges. Along with use as upholstery, brocade has remained a desirable textile for window treatments. Draperies created from this fabric are understood to provide a hint of formality to living space, and are often employed in formal living rooms and as part of the curtains for a canopy bed. Wall hangings that are constructed with silk brocade are often used to add color and visual interest to a room or hallway.
The fabric is also a popular option as material for wedding dresses, especially designs that wish to recapture the luxury and opulence of the Victorian era. Brocade may also be used to create cummerbunds for tuxedos. In the entertainment world, it continues to be a desirable option for costuming for stage shows, such as plays or concerts. Essentially, brocade is an ideal fabric option when clothing that is both elegant and sophisticated is desired, and is meant to focus attention on the wearer.
Even though brocade is a beautiful, durable fabric made with silk, it is not ideal for everyday apparel.
Brocade is a thick, heavy fabric. In a society where we favor comfort and function over form, cottons and man-made fabrics, like polyester, are lighter, more breathable and easier to clean.
In addition, the interwoven metals can make this material itchy and uncomfortable.