WHAT IS 'BROCADE'?
Brocade is a shuttle woven fabric (typically made out of silk) that can include glimmers of gold or silver thread. The material, which harks back to Ancient China, can be incorporated effortlessly into a look to give it a dimension of rich romanticism and elegance. Many layers are combined in order to produce the dense structure that brocade is known for, resulting in creasing being prevented. This means it is ideal for any occasion, with an opulent and steadfast appeal that makes any wearer feel regally fashionable.
A SHORT HISTORY of BROCADE
Brocade emerged as a coveted, fashionable fabric for nobility during the Middle Ages, becoming an increasingly prevalent indulgence throughout the world. Its global nature is reflected in India, for example, where brocade is commonly used in saris, the national dress for Indian women that can be worn for many occasions. As well as silk, brocade patterns and designs can also be created using organza, a richly woven fabric that is constructed with the warp and weft technique.
During Italy’s Renaissance (14th-17th century), the material was viewed by much of the population as an elegant fabric that denoted the wealth and prosperity of the wearer. For this reason, brocade’s use expanded across the upper classes and, due to Italian perseverance in learning the technique of creating the material, into tapestries and furniture coverings for the wealthy in society. Throughout the Renaissance period, the material acquired a slew of new connotations, with artists identifying a fresh way of preserving the history and wonder of the time. Naturally, then, over time brocade has been increasingly linked to the power and splendour of the aristocracy.
ACCENTING: CASUAL BROCADE
Just as colours have the ability to transform an outfit, adding a single brocade piece into your everyday ensemble can increase the level of sophistication in your overall look. Nothing dresses up a plain pair of jeans and a white t-shirt like a bold brocade jacket. Alternatively, a plain, muted top can also be dressed-up by pairing it up with brocade trousers. Brocade trousers are not, however, limited to being paired with a simple top: a cashmere jumper echoes the luxuriously regal feel of the brocade and transforms the outfit into a classy look for work. Brightening up your wardrobe with this vibrant brocade fabric will indicate that you’re not afraid of being noticed, whilst maintaining a high-end and graceful feel. Accents of brocade can thus lift a drab and subdued outfit into new realms of fashionable poise.
ACCENTING: BROCADE at NIGHT
Although brocade is a fabulously innovative way of dressing up a day-to-day outfit, its reach extends into that of evening glam, which only serves to illustrate the versatility of the fabric. It has even made appearances down the aisles of fashion-forward brides in recent years! Any gold thread brocade dress accompanied by gold heels is a match made in heaven, while silver thread brocade dresses can be styled with silver heels (or any colour that is complementary to the brocade fabric) for an evening occasion.
The fabric is a statement in itself and therefore doesn’t need to be greatly embellished in order to have its impact. This is perfect for gorgeous evening wear as it means the outfit speaks for itself without unnecessary fuss. Following this rule, then, brocade trousers worn at the office during the day can be styled up simply with a pair of earrings for the evening.
Whilst many of us dress in colours that complement each other, there’s a significant number who fail to realise that the same can be achieved with patterns like brocade. Dual brocade moves away from a simple aesthetic and instead counterbalances tweed, cashmere and cord. Whether this dual pairing is formed of matching brocade (made of the same fabric pattern and colours) or of patterns that are contrasting yet coordinated, they make a bold and powerful statement. Dual brocade can be created by simply wearing a matching jacket and trouser ensemble, a corset and boots, or a top and skirt. As the threads used to make brocade fabrics are usually gold and silver, any brocade material you choose will always retain and reflect elegance, swimmingly matching due to their metallic-coloured bond. The colours can also be paired across the materials themselves, with warm colours like oranges, reds, browns, and even dark greens, trimmed with golden threads, all complementing the other. Cooler colours, such as blues, whites, greys, and some purples, paired with silver threads make an effective combination. Either choice of styling matching brocade pieces will imbue you with an air of confidence and power, suggesting that you have given a lot of thought into your outfit with minimal effort. Dual brocade is perfect as both work and party armour.
Although tasteful clashing may not be to everyone’s taste, it is a creative technique that helps to demonstrate your distinctive style. Whether clashing with different brocade patterns or with different materials, it is a playful way to experiment and familiarise yourself with your own fashion sense. Clashing is all about being rebellious and creating your own rules when it comes to your clothing choices: pairing together gold and silver brocade is one way to rebel against the rigid rules of fashion, combining a red and black sequin top with a gold-thread, floral skirt is a magnificent example of powerful clashing and pushing back against the status quo of style. These powerful clashes help you stand out from the crowd, exuding liveliness whether in a professional or private setting, captivating those around you, and maybe even inspiring others to confidently play around with their fashion choices. Tasteful clashing also has some practical benefits, especially in winter where you want rich layering, colour combinations, and fine detail that will keep you warm whilst also remaining fashionable.
If starting to incorporate brocade into your wardrobe and outfit choices seems a little too bold or frightening, styling with brocade accessories is a great way to begin your relationship with the material. These accessories sprinkle elegance upon a simple, classic outfit. Nothing – not even a pair of statement heels – complements a little black dress like a pair of showy brocade booties or a dazzling brocade bag. Accessorising with brocade allows this historic fabric from the Middle Ages to appear fresh and modern, especially when the glitz and glamour of a brocade bag or pair of trainers are carefully styled into an outfit to spice up a casual, everyday look.