What is a Soutache?

Article Details
  • Written By: Alyssa Simon
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
In 2008, Mike Merrill became the first publicly traded person, allowing shareholders to control his life decisions.  more...

October 23 ,  1983 :  Suicide bombers killed nearly 300 US and French military troops in Beirut.  more...

A soutache is braided trim used to decorate clothing, fabric upholstery or drapery. When worn on a military uniform, it often signifies the wearer's rank. It is also a bookbinder's term for the thin braid applied to the top and bottom of the inside of a book's spine to secure its pages.

A soutache is most commonly braided in a herringbone pattern. Two threads are placed on opposite sides of a cord and, starting with the left thread, it is placed over the middle cord and right thread. Then alternating with the right one, the pattern continues until a braid is formed. This design is called a French herringbone pattern. A Dutch herringbone pattern is when the threads are placed underneath the cord and opposite thread.

The braided trim may also be used to hide a seam in a piece of clothing as well as for decoration. Some modern uses for a soutache braid include covering the hem of a bridal veil or making loop or flower patterns on a piece of fabric. To make a loop pattern, the threads that wrap the cord are unraveled and the cord is pulled down with one hand while the threads are pushed up with the other hand. This is done until a loop is formed. The design may be repeated and then sewn to the fabric by hand or with a sewing machine.


Soutache is a French word thought to have been first used in the mid 1800's. It comes from the Hungarian word sujtas, which means braid used for trimming. Another word for soutache is galloon, which is also French and comes from the 16th century. It is derived from gallonner and means to embellish or adorn with lace.

The threads used to make a soutache come in many colors and are often made of natural fabrics such as silk and wool. Synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers such as rayon may also be used as well as metallic threads of silver or gold. As military styles go in and out of fashion, the decorative braids may be seen adorning jackets and coats as well as epaulets, fabric or metal trim sewn onto a garment's shoulders.

Cotton caftans and tunics often have soutache embroidery as well and have been traditionally worn by people all over the world, including Russia, West Africa and Morocco. Mariachi uniforms, worn by musicians who play the music originating from Jalisco, Mexico, are known for their colorful soutache braided designs as well.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 6

I make soutache jewelry and it is challenging and rewarding. Mexico was ruled by France for awhile in the mid 1800s so that's how it got to Mexico. The Mariachi tradition is connected to this period since they were musicians for 'marriage' the origin of their name.

Post 5

If you have a chance to visit Mexico picking up some of their colorful soutache work is a must. While you probably have seen it in the Mariachi uniforms as mentioned in the article, you can also pick up various pieces of clothing and beautiful hats that have the same look as the uniforms.

Most of the clothing that is sold to tourists is quite inexpensive and light so it is comfortable in the hot local weather. It is often hand made and you can check the label or ask to make sure it is locally produced. Buying soutache detailed products is a great way to support the locals and also get a great souvenir.

Post 4

If you are looking for an elegant and unique look, getting a soutache on your bridal veil could be just the ticket. I find that the delicate braided trim can look gorgeous when done in a silvery color or simple white.

If you are not sure about this look you should head into your local bridal shop and ask them to show you some veils with the soutache trim. Usually they will have a few in the shop.

I chose this look for myself because not only did it look clean, but also the slight weight of the soutache seemed to make the veil hang better.

Post 3

@qwertyq – It’s my guess that it came from Hungary, since the French term is derived from a Hungarian word, as described in the article. If you’re wondering how the soutache has made its way all over the globe, even showing up in Mexico, which is far from France, I have a theory.

France, like many European countries, used to explore the world in search of new riches and lands to conquer. While they explored, they taught their beliefs and traditions to the people they met or defeated. It’s very possible that soutache was distributed around the world in this way.

Post 2

@smartypantz – Thank you for mentioning the jewelry. I just looked it up online and you’re right; it’s very beautiful!

The article says that people in several countries wear soutache on their clothing. That makes me wonder where it came from in the first place. Since the origin of the word is French, did it come from France?

Post 1

Did you know there is also soutache jewelry? I have tons of it! Soutache jewelry is so elegant and beautiful and intricately designed, it’s the only jewelry I’ll wear. The best part is that nobody else in my city wears it, so I get compliments all the time!

My favorite piece in my collection is a silk necklace. It has shiny glass beads embedded in the part that goes around your neck. The front is a majestic flower, made completely out of soutache! A pendant dangles from the flower, too.

I have no idea how anyone can make such a beautiful, amazing work of art, but I love my soutache jewelry so much!

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?