Fabric Dictionary: What is Silk?

Silk is a luxurious natural fabric with beauty, strength, and durability. Wearing silk is both comfortable and elegant. With a nickname like “the queen of fabrics,” you can see why using silk in your brand may show your customers that you are serious about producing high-end designs. In this fabric dictionary post, let’s find out more about silk, its history, and how you can use it in your fashion business.

What is Silk Fabric?

Silk is a natural material that is created by insects. Silkworms, honey bees, bumblebees, weaver ants, and more insects create silk for their nests or cocoons. Most of our silk comes from silkworms, or bombyx mori larvae, which live on mulberry trees. Silk has an important global history, as it was often sought after and traded for. Even today, the cost of producing silk and its luxurious properties make it an expensive and desirable fabric.

Properties of Silk

Silk fiber is naturally soft and shiny. It is also the strongest natural textile ever, which is not something you normally think of when you see a beautiful silk dress. This simple fiber, created by a lowly insect, contains some of the most useful and lovely attributes of any natural material on earth:

  • Durable and strong
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Breathable
  • Absorbent
  • Flexible
  • Very soft
  • Shimmering
  • All-natural and biodegradable

Pros and Cons of Using Silk in Your Fashions

There are so many lovely aspects of silk. Let’s begin with the pros of using silk:

  • Because it is so durable, this natural fiber won’t wear out quickly, making your fashions long-lasting.
  • The feel of silk is so silky, smooth, and soft. Other fabrics feel rough in comparison.
  • Silk fabrics drape around the figure in lovely ways because of its natural elasticity.
  • The prism-like structure of the silk fibers creates a shimmering effect.
  • It’s an absorbent material, which means it will wick moisture away from the skin, creating a cool, comfortable feel.
  • For people with skin allergies, silk is an excellent option because it is natural and hypoallergenic.

When you’re using silk, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Silk will shrink, which means it should be dry-cleaned only, or the fabric should be washed before it is sewn.
  • Silk is known for static cling.
  • The color of silk fabric fades in the sun and can stain from water.
  • Silk is expensive, so your production costs will be high.
  • Some people view the making of silk as unethical.

The History of Silk

This fabric has a very long history, dating back to China in 5000 BC, and possibly even earlier. It’s no surprise that silk began as a luxury item, available only to Chinese Emperors. In fact, the Chinese kept their prized silks to themselves for a long time. It became an indicator of status within Chinese culture.

Eventually, silk made its way to other cultures through trading. In fact, important trade routes were established in Asia and Europe because of silk trading. The route that led from Western Europe to China was called The Silk Road. For centuries, China kept how to make silk a total secret. Other nations learned the Chinese method in the first century AD. From then on, silk production grew and grew worldwide. Today, the fabric is still prized and considered a standard for elegance.

How Silk is Made

Silk production begins with the cocoons of silkworms. The cocoons are harvested, and the silkworms inside are killed with high heat. It is this part of the process that some people find unethical. Next, the cocoon is unraveled by a silk worker or a machine. The strand is wound onto a reel and attached to the next strand, so it becomes one very long strand. Then, the strands are twisted together. The resulting yarn is rolled for a uniform texture. At this point, it is dyed the desired color. Finally, the silk yarn is woven into the fabric.

When to Use Silk in Your Brand

Interested in using silk and taking advantage of its luxury appeal? Here are a few popular items that employ the use of silk fabric:

  • Scarves and ties. You can achieve beautiful, rich colors and creative patterns. Makers of scarves and ties love the durability and strength of silk.
  • Formal wear. Evening gowns, suits, and wedding attire all look more elegant and feel more luxurious when they are made of silk.
  • Summer clothing. Silk’s ability to wick moisture away from the skin makes it ideal for wearing in high temperatures and humidity.
  • Lingerie and men’s undergarments. The clothes closest to your skin should also be the softest and most comfortable!
  • Pajamas and robes. Silk sheets are popular today because of their supreme comfort level. It makes sense to sleep in silk pajamas, too.
  • Eastern folk costumes. If you’re trying to create a look that has ties to Eastern styles (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian, among others), you may consider using silk for authenticity.
  • Shirts. The silk shirt is a classic high-end fashion item for both men and women. If you’re okay with the initial expense, then a silk shirt is a fairly reliable item to sell.
  • Dresses. A dress doesn’t have to be evening wear to be silk. The comfort and softness make it a go-to item for many women.
  • Purses and wallets. A beautiful silk dress deserves matching silk accessories!
  • Shoes. Create unique dress shoes and slippers using the durability of silk.

Silk Fabric Dictionary Closing Thoughts

Because silk’s history goes back so far, there are plenty of ways to create vintage looks, if that is part of your fashion brand. Google “antique silk fashions” and see how wide and varied are the silk fashions of the past! Part of the charm of this fabric is its timelessness. A silk outfit looked outstanding on Chinese nobility 5,000 years ago, and silk is still at the height of fashion today. Can you say the same thing about any other fabric in the world?

We hope this fabric dictionary entry on silk was educational and fun to read. As you consider adding silk items to your fashion brand, try to take advantage of its biggest benefits. Your target audience will love feeling pampered with soft, comfortable, luxury items made from natural silk.


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    • Casey Cline

      I’m glad you liked it, Lizzy!

    • Casey Cline

      Glad you liked it, Miriam! I think the history of silk is pretty fascinating. 🙂

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