From ancient Chinese nobility to your local shop












Brocade. When I say that word, what springs to mind? Most people have no idea what brocade is (myself included), and even if you do, you’re probably more used to seeing it on upholstered fabrics and draperies. If you did think of clothes, ancient China may spring to mind. So what exactly is brocade, and why am I wearing it on my chest?


Brocade is a technique of interlaced woven fabrics, (usually coloured silks) often embellished with gold or silver threads. The name comes from Italian broccato which means ‘embossed cloth’. The technique has traditionally been practiced on old-school weaving techniques, like a loom, and has been practiced across the world spanning hundreds of years.


In the middle ages, brocade was THE fabric chosen by the upper classes throughout China, India, Japan, Korea and Byzantium. When these luxurious fabrics were made into clothing or wall hangings, they were at times adorned with enamel, precious stones, small medallions, embroidery and appliqués. People used to go ALL OUT. During the Italian renaissance, brocade made a resurgence in Europe but kept it’s ‘eastern’ feel, and was still associated with places like China, India and Byzantium. However, even today the association with China and the east remains.  As the technique became more widespread, the use of stones and metals was replaced with sequins, and metallic coloured fabric. Modern brocades can be made with more up to date technology and can have intricate designs and patterns that would have taken months on something like a loom.


I wanted a brocaded top for myself. Something silken, cool and that screams luxury. I chose a traditional maroon silk brocaded shirt from reclaimed vintage, but I wanted to make it less traditional and more modern. Update the fabric a little. I paired the shirt with really cool khaki trousers from ASOS. I opted for trousers with contrast pockets, to give it a different edge. A little flare never hurt anyone. I love Converse shoes as well. I chose burgundy Converse shoes to tie the shoes and shirt together, and make the look more cohesive. The fabric itself was incredibly light, which was perfect for the spring day, and the brocade itself was masterfully done. I always love it when you can watch people on the tube or on the street, really focussing in on your clothes. Eyeing up the details.


What about you? Do you have any brocaded clothing that you love?