What is Bombazine?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

As a fabric option that is created using a silk warp and a worsted weft, bombazine is both comfortable and attractive. Favored for use in the creation of twill material, bombazine enjoyed a couple of centuries of high popularity, but began to fall out of favor as newer synthetics appeared in the early 20th century. Here is some history on the development of bombazine, the more popular applications over the years, and how bombazine is still used on a limited basis today.

Bombazine may be used as a lining material in jewelry boxes.
Bombazine may be used as a lining material in jewelry boxes.

Originally a fabric choice that was made of silk fibers, bombazine appears to have derived its name from the French word bombasin, which had to do with silk and later with silk and cotton blends. Believed to have originated in the United Kingdom at some point during the reign of Elizabeth I, bombazine found its real niche as a mourning fabric.

Black bombazine appeared to have just the right amount of gloss to be considered appropriate for a widow and the relatives of the recently deceased. The twilled silk and worsted fabric design of the bombazine fabric made it possible to hold up well to multiple wearings and washings, so it was not necessary for the widow observing the one year of formal mourning to be outfitted with more than four or five dresses.

Bombazine also made its mark in the courts of England as a durable dress material for various women at court. While black bombazine seemed to be held back for uses related to mourning and funerals, other colors of the material were considered appropriate for formal evening gowns as well as the more simplistic day gowns that were to be worn in the light of day. Resilient and relatively easy to care for, bombazine made a good choice when the wardrobe had to last for a long time.

Today, bombazine is much less popular than in the days leading up to the 20th century. Still, the fabric is manufactured in a few places around the world, such as the United Kingdom, on a limited basis. Other uses have been found for bombazine which have helped keep the production of the material going. As an example, bombazine is often used as a lining material for the interior of caskets and jewelry boxes.

From time to time, the enterprising clothing designer will choose to incorporate bombazine in a new clothing line. In a few countries around the world, bombazine still reigns supreme as the fabric of choice for mourning dresses and wraps. While it is true that bombazine has never regained its old popularity, the fabric appears to have settled into a secure place as one of the minor fabric options in the modern world.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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