What Is Brocade? The Truth Behind Royalty & High End Apparel


Brocade may not be the most popular fabric in the world. The brocade fabric is quite unknown to those with no experience in the industry, but the truth is this self patterned fabric is available everywhere. You will see it in fashion shows or in most stores, even if you have no idea what it is called. Patterns are impressive and garments are usually available in gold or silver. The fabric used may vary from one garment to another.

So, what is brocade after all? This decorative fabric used for various clothing dates back to the middle ages. Obviously, it has diversified a bit overtime. These days, it is associated with elegant and evening wear, yet this is not a general rule. Brocade patterns are quite varied and the design will complement particular styles. Here is everything you need to know about brocade patterns, types and uses in the fashion industry.


What is brocade?

Persian Silk Brocade

Brocade can be described as a jacquard fabric. It can be embossed or embroidered and it is designed with rich and intricate styles that will draw attention straight away. Despite the appearance, these designs are actually weaved in on a particular loom. They can be based on more materials, not to mention the wide variety of colors. You can opt for something simple – such as a flower or an animal. You can also opt for sophisticated details.

The fabric will most likely feature a thick background. It must be heavy and durable, so expect a lack of comfort if the garment is too tight. It could be satin, but twill is just as popular.

It is worth noting that brocade fabrics do not display the same graphics on the back. Instead, these patterns can be seen on the face only – no one really cares about the back anyway. From this point of view, the fabric is not reversible. As a matter of fact, this is the main difference between the brocade fabric and other similar jacquard fabrics. For instance, damask fabrics look almost identical on each side.

This type of design is achieved by inserting the thread in between. The weft thread is, therefore, discontinued. When it comes to small designs, you will see the design on the surface only, while the back has the base fabric. This type of technique saves both thread and time.

It is hard to tell where the fabric comes from, as there is not too much knowledge about its origins. By definition, some say it comes from Spain – related to the word brocado. Some others claim it comes from the Italian brocatto, not to mention the Kurdish rumor – brocar. One thing is for sure though – all these words refer to embossed clothes.


Types of brocade fabrics

Selvage With Bird Persian Silk Brocade

So, what is brocade? The truth is fibers are attached to pretty much any type of material. Textiles do not really depend on the brocade, but on the actual fabric the embellishment is attached to. The material varies widely.

For example, you can find silk clothing. Silk brocade is a stunning fabric that feels smooth, soft and luxurious. Obviously, silk fabrics will not come cheap at all. In fact, this is what the original brocade fabric looked like hundreds of years ago. Tailors back then would not settle for cheap materials, as the fabric was mostly used by the wealthy – most commonly associated with expensive accessories.

These days, cotton brocade is quite popular too, yet it was inexistent back then. The textile is not as sophisticated as silk. However, such items are well patterned too. Compared to silk, they are also a bit lighter.

Then, there are different types of brocades used in various cultures. In India, you can find Himru, Paithani, Balucar or Jamdani brocades. Himru is based on cotton silk, while Jamdani is fine and recommended for expensive clothes only. It is based on cotton, but it might be enhanced with zari as well.

The zari brocade is just as attractive, mostly because it looks shiny and luxurious. It can be fitted with gold or silver. Such patterns are mixed with silk in various colors to provide stunning threads and designs.

When it first came out, the zari brocade was based on 98% silver. Synthetic silver is also used these days, as real silver could skyrocket its prices. While some brocades are advertised to feature gold threads, those are usually gold polished silver threads. Such brocades are most commonly used in the Indian culture and their designs cover colorful styles, flowers and so on.


What to sew with the brocade fabric

brocade fabric

Brocade is not cheap at all. The origin, pattern, cloth fabric and precious metals can make it quite pricey. The fabric is most commonly used in the fashion industry – mostly related to clothes for special occasions. It is also suitable for the home décor industry. In the western world – such as Europe and the USA, brocade is most commonly used for special costumes. For example, religious vestments often feature brocade designs. You might as well find wedding gowns based on it, as well as high end dresses.

Dresses, jackets and other types of evening wear will most likely feature medium weight brocade. After all, designers have finally managed to understand the necessity of comfort when wearing formal wear. Patterns vary, but no matter what you are after, chances are you will achieve a luxurious appearance. Whether it comes to cover furniture or make curtains or you display a high end bag or purse, you will draw attention straight away.

You do not necessarily need to shine like a star in order to look elegant. Some designs implement subtle brocades into clothing – some of them featuring silver and gold. Besides, you will also find muted patterns, which do not shine or draw attention straight away, but will easily add to your elegance.

At the end, the technique is so diversified these days that brocades can come in all kinds of quality standards, styles and designs.


How to sew with brocade

Given the sophisticated appearance of brocade, you may find sewing with it a challenge – only a misconception. Some types of brocade – especially the heavy one – may look a bit overwhelming. However, as you start working with it, you will soon realize that the ground fabric is what really matters. Most commonly, you will be able to sew with no issues at all.

Brocade edges tend to fray, causing discomfort and irritations. In other words, finishing ends is a must once you are done. Threads also stick out at the back, meaning you will need lining. You will itch and scratch, so you risk damaging the fabric.

Interfacing is also a good choice. Avoid the fusible one, as you will need to iron it. Ironing brocade is likely to damage it. Instead, opt for sew in interfacing.

Finally, it is worth noting that while brocades are elegant enough and do not necessarily require any embellishments, you can add beads and sequins.


How to look after brocade

Do not attempt to clean brocade in a washing machine – instead, get it dry cleaned. If you do not have the right equipment, simply reach out to a professional service. You are less likely to use it for casual wear anyway, so it will not need cleaning too often.

If you do wash it at home, opt for a mild shampoo and dry it flat to clear out wrinkles. Wrinkles require special attention because they are semi-permanent. In other words, once they kick in, removing them will be a challenge.

Brocade fabrics are heavy, but you should still avoid ironing. If you have to do it, opt for the lowest temperature settings. The thread is soft and is likely to burn too.

Frequently asked questions

Still unsure about certain aspects regarding brocade?


What is brocade used for?

Brocade fabrics are most commonly used for special costumes, formal evening wear and vestments. They are also suitable for draperies, upholstery or furniture covers.


What does brocade mean?

While its origins are not clear, most assumptions lead to the same common aspect. Brocade is a referred to be a rich fabric featuring a raised pattern – most commonly, it will feature gold or silver thread.


What is the difference between jacquard and brocade?

Brocade could be described as a type of jacquard. Other fabrics in this category include damask, brocatelle, brocade velvet and so on. They are woven on jacquard looms. On the other hand, not all jacquards are brocades.


What is a brocade pattern?

Brocade features intricate patterns and designs on its face. They look like they are embroidered, but they are not. The brocade itself can be described as a pattern too, along with other similar patterns like brocadelle or damask. But then, all these styles are technically known as jacquard patterns.


As a short final conclusion, brocade may look interesting and appealing when you first hear about it. As you dig deeper, you will realize that you have seen such details and styles before. They are not unusual, but they are usually associated with special occasions or high end decorations.

Whether you want to implement them in your sewing experience or you need to learn more about them, the good news is brocade is easy to sew in and will add a bit of luxury to your projects.


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