How to Care For Brocade Clothes and Accessories

brocade
Michael H/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

What Is Brocade?

Brocade is a fabric woven with an elaborate raised design, often using gold or silver threads. While originally made of only of silk, brocade fabrics today can be woven from a variety of fibers.

The fabric is almost always thick and features a weave with floating threads to create a lustrous surface and sheen. Many brocade fabrics have different background weaves and often showcase an elaborate embroidered surface weave.

Brocades are not reversible like a damask weave on a tablecloth fabric. The back of the fabric can be smooth or show cut threads almost like a fringe.

You may find fabrics labeled as Imperial Brocade. These feature the gold or silver threads woven throughout or used to embellish a design. Heavy brocade fabrics used for upholstery are called Brocatelle. Brocade velvet features a raised pattern and a woven background.

History Of Brocade Fabric Weaving

Brocades from the Middle Ages have been discovered in China and Japan, Greece and Italy. These were all made of silk and hand-woven on looms by master weavers. Due to the intricate design and the hours needed to create the fabric, only the ruling emperors and the very wealthy could afford the fabric. It was often encrusted with jewels and hand embroidery for clothing and tapestries.

With the invention of the a loom in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard which used punched cards to represent lines in a pattern, brocade could be created in mass quantities making it more readily available to wider audience.

However, it still remained a fabric only used by the rich due to the expense of production and the care needed for cleaning.

Today, brocade fabrics are mainly used for home accessories like draperies and pillows. However, brocade is used for evening wear and for clerical vestments.

How To Clean Brocade Fabrics

First, it is essential to read the garment or accessory label for fiber content and care instructions.

Depending on the type of fibers used in weaving, some brocades can be hand washed, while others must be professionally dry cleaned. Because of the weaving method used to create the intricate patterns, brocade fabric often shrinks when wet. Dry cleaning is always the preferred cleaning method especially for expensive items.

If hand washing is suggested, always use cool water and a mild detergent. Never scrub vigorously or wring the garment. Extra care should be taken when laundering the fabric to protect the longer floating threads that form the design from breakage and give brocade its lovely finish.

How to Dry Brocade Fabrics

To prevent snags or pulls that could happen if the brocade is placed in a tumble dryer, avoid it completely and dry brocade garments flat.

How to Iron Brocade Fabrics

The temperature setting of the iron should be selected based on the fiber content of the particular brocade fabric. To prevent crushing or flattening the design, always iron on the wrong side of the fabric. Always use a press cloth or white woven cotton towel between the iron and the fabric.