A comprehensive discussion on brocade fabric

brocade featuerd

Brocade is a gaudy fabric. Fine brocade fabric is a traditional wear of many different cultures. The fabric finds its way into the gold-threaded Indian saris to the silk robes of Chinese nobility to the elaborate blouses woven and worn by the Mayan women of the Central American highlands. In this article, we will explore every detail of this dazzling fabric with a beautiful pattern.

Brocade has hundreds of years of rich history. The embroidery has been mentioned in the Vedic literature. The weaving industry of brocade textile saw its maximum during the rule of Mughal emperor Akbar. Brocade has also caught the attention of Britons. But they found the fabric heavy. Today, brocade fabric becomes versatile around the world.

About brocade fabrics

brocade_1Brocade is a posh jacquard fabric with sophisticated designs on its surface. The design looks as if they are embossed or embroidered. The patterns can be as simple as like scrolls, flowers or animals or can be complex. The fabric has a twill or satin background and is usually thick and heavy.

In its early days, brocade was only made of silk fibers. But now it is woven from a variety of natural and synthetic fibers. The fabrics can easily be identified by their regal look.

The patterns or designs are visible only on the face of the fabric. The back side of the fabric has floating yarn. Brocades can be additionally be decorated with sequins or bread. However, without any extra décor, they are gorgeous.

Impact of brocade fabrics in contemporary fashion

Impact of brocade fabric in contemporary fashion is quite extensive. It moved into the mainstream fashion and become a popular fabric due to its skin-friendliness, quality and availability at a reasonable price. It is widely used in making stoles, scarves, dress materials, curtains, cushion covers and many clothing products.

Its global appeal has been augmented by the use of sequins and beading as decoration. Many detailed and intricates designs are possible in recent time because brocade fabrics are now mainly woven on a Jacquard loom. It is popularly used in stage shows costumes and the heavy decorative fabrics looks great during a play or concert.

In southern Asia, particularly in India, phulari is a common pattern that is seen in elaborate Saree borders. Animals and human figures also appear in some brocade design.

Types of Brocade Fabrics

brocade_2There are different types of brocade. These are as follows:

  • Silk Brocade
  • Zari Brocade
  • Cotton Brocade

Silk brocade

silk_brocadeSilk brocade is a beautiful fabric which is soft, smooth, and splendid. A traditional silk brocade comes with metallic thread embroidery. Silk is the most popular and is used to craft several favorite south Asian wedding attire, for example, wedding sarees, bridal lehengas, and party-wear salwar kameez. The fabric keeps the shape, wrinkle-free and drapes perfectly.

Zari Brocade

This is another popular fabric of Indian sub-continent. Use of gold or silver Zari is the main distinguishing feature of this type with others. Gold or silver zari is used along with colored silks to create different complex motifs in this fabric. Traditionally, zari was made of real sliver of 98 percent purity. But in a practical sense, weaving is not possible with pure zari. So, synthetic zari is used instead. Common patterns found in zari brocade are floral bouquets, flowers, stars, and the moon, betel leaf etc

Cotton Brocade

cotton_brocadeThis brocade features subtler patterns and is lightweight than the silk brocade. There are various types of cotton brocades. Jamdani, Balucar, Paithani, Himru are all belongs to cotton brocade type. Among them, Jamdani is a very fine brocade. Himru is a mix of cotton-silk brocade. Cotton brocades come with a flawless finish with an appealing and attractive design.

A brief contrast among these three

Silk brocade feels smooth and looks shiny and aesthetic. Zari brocades utilize threads of silver, gold or copper to offer dazzling designs. This type is the most luxurious. Cotton brocade is airy and light-weight feel. It has an elegant and delicate appearance.

Color Variations

Brocade fabrics are fancy. They come with a variety of colors with intricate patterns and scenes. Their use is not limited to any specific geographic location. Below are a few color variations of brocade fabric:

Black brocade fabric

Black brocade fabric has a very rich, detailed look. They are wonderful for curtains, table covers. They are used internationally for home decorations. They are also used in special occasions like weddings.

Gold brocade fabric

Gold_brocade_fabricGold brocade fabric is one type of Jacquard fabric. This type is perfect for church décor. They are also used for manufacturing stylish jackets, skirts and more.

Green brocade fabric

brocade_3These are medium weight metallic fabrics. They have a wide variety of uses. They are gorgeous when used for wedding and party décor, including table skirts, table runners and chair decorations.

Imperial brocade

Imperial brocade fabric is one that is woven with gold or silver yarns.

Important features
  • Intricate patterns

  • Elegant and very delicate
  • Floating threads on the back of the brocade
  • Expensive to manufacture
  • Used in dresses, suits, and upholstery

 Brocade and Jacquard fabrics: A contrasting overview

There is a confusion regarding whether brocade and Jacquard fabrics are the same. While the appearance of brocade remains almost same throughout history, but the way it is being crafted changes drastically. And this is the point from which confusion arises. Below short discussion will clear the confusion.

Prior to 1801, master weavers crafted brocades on hand operated draw-looms. They created an elegant pattern. Manufacturing of brocade saw a dramatic turn in 1801 when Joseph Marie Jacquard invented “jacquard loom “. The revolutionary device made it possible to weave intricate patterns sparing extra effort. Since then, modern brocades are woven primarily with a jacquard device. So, one can safely say all modern brocades are jacquards, but not all jacquards are brocades.

Because jacquard looms are used to produce other weaves, such as brocatelle, damask, and tapestry. Below is a comparison table that differentiates among four types of fabrics manufactured with jacquard loom.

TypeDescriptionDresses made from the fabric
BrocadeA non-reversible patterned fabric with a gorgeous embossed effect. It is usually embossed with golden or silver colored threadsBridal gowns, evening dresses, skirts, jackets, richly looking coats.
DamaskA fine patterned fabric made with several folds. The ground fold is usually plain, twill or sateen. The other folds feature design.Skirts, tops, blouses, ties, evening dresses.
TapestryIt is thicker than brocade and damask and imitates vintage tapestries.Outwear, heavy jackets.
BrocatelleIt is more like a brocade fabric but comes with a heavier weight with a very raised pattern.High fashion apparel.

Uses of brocade fabrics

Brocade fabric has been used for centuries. Once it was worn by affluent people. But these days, the fabric is much more affordable. Below are a few common uses of brocade fabric.

Special occasions

Brocade is a rich fabric and definitely an eye-catcher. It ensures that you will never get lost in the crowd of beautifully dressed guests. It is a great idea to attend a party wearing dress made from brocade fabric.


Wedding dresses made from brocade fabric look great. They are pretty useful for a colder season like fall or winter. White or ivory silk brocade is really bold. A red brocade dress during wedding may appear shocking to some of us, but looks stunning. Brocade is also used for a bridal jacket or cape.

Office wear and casual wear

Excellent office suits are made from brocade fabric. The fabrics are also used for making formal or semi-formal dresses. They are also great for casual wear. But for casual wear, wear simple design without metallic yarn.


Drapes made from brocade are elegant and formal. They are commonly used in living and dining rooms or master bedrooms. They are usually made of silk and lined. They can be heavily patterned or subtle. Floor-to-ceiling brocade draper that has the same color with the wall creates a sense of grandeur even in a small area.


Brocade pillows are glamorous. They are lustrous and work any bedroom whether large or small. Place a few oversize brocade floor pillows in a living room to make the room looks something different.

How to sew with brocade?

Brocade is not a difficult fabric to sew. Some heavyweight fabric with zari may appear challenging, but they too cut and sews like any other normal fabric. The lining is a necessity with brocade because pattern’s thread sticking out in the back of the fabric. This can result in itch or irritation and the thread will sang and the fabric will be damaged. For a long-lasting garment, use a lining or underlining.

Misconceptions surrounding the uses of brocade fabrics

Brocades have been around us for centuries. The fabrics have evolved over the years. with its long history, the fabric created some misconception among mass people. Below are a few wrong ideas of the fabric and our accurate clarification:

  • Perception (wrong): designs on brocade fabrics are embroidered
  • Clarification: The patterns are woven into the fabric.
  • Perception (wrong): Brocade is jacquard
  • Clarification: The term jacquard actually refers to the design woven into the fabric. It does refer to the fabric itself. Brocade fabric may have a jacquard pattern or a number of others

How to keep the fabric in neatness and order?

Durability of the fabric depends on proper care. Below are a few maintenance tips:

Cleaning the fabric

Cleaning of brocade depends on the fiber content of the fabric. Depending on the types of fabric used during manufacturing, some brocades can be hand-washed, while others require dry cleaning. Brocade fabric often shrinks when wet. So, dry cleaning is always safe. Especially, for lined or expensive clothing.

When hand-washing, use cool and a mild detergent. Do no scrub forcefully, wring or twist the garment. Remove all the wrinkles and dry flat.

Drying the fabric

When hand washed, lift the heavy wet fabric gently. Lie the garment evenly on a thick, cotton towel and roll to remove most of the moisture. Roll it several times with dry towels until the fabric is no longer dripping water. Put it on a flat surface away from direct heat or sunlight and let it air dry. Never hang it because the weight of the wet fabric can cause threads to break. Also, do not use tumble dryer because it can cause snags or pulls in the fabric.

Ironing the fabric

Although the fabric is heavy, you cannot use high temperature while ironing it. Soft thread can burn from high temperature. Set temperature of the iron according to the fiber content of the fabric. In order to keep designs in shape, iron only on the wrong side of the fabric. Place a press cloth or white woven cotton towel between the iron and the fabric to prevent snags and pulls.

Availability of the Brocade round the world

Brocade fabrics are manufactured around the world. Most popular types among them are golden, silver, metallic, solid or multicolor as well as rare lame and tweed brocade. All these are high-quality fabric and are manufactured by European manufacturers such as

  • Carnet (Italy)
  • Jakob Schlaepfer (Switzerland)
  • Luigi Verga (Italy)
  • Ruffo Coli (Italy)
  • Sfate & Combier (France)

Thanks to online fabric shops, purchasing brocade fabric is easy. But ordering some sample is a good idea before purchasing a lot because it gives you a chance to touch the fabric, measure its thickness and see the color in reality.


In its early days, brocade fabric was made of silk and handwoven on looms by master weavers. They feature intricate design and weavers spent hours to create the fabric. So, it was an expensive garment and only the ruling emperors and the very wealthy could afford the fabric.

But today the fabrics are much more affordable and have versatile uses. They are used for home accessories like upholstery, draperies, and pillows. Due to their elegant look, they are used in a wedding dress, formal evening wear, clerical vestments and much more. Brocade fabric is popular across the world.


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