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Textiles that Changed Fashion Forever: Silk

These textiles revolutionized American fashion forever.


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Silk is a thin, but strong fiber that silkworms produce when they are making their cocoons. It can be woven into a very soft and smooth fabric. Silk fabric was invented in Ancient China and played an important role in their culture and economy for thousands of years. 

The Silk Road

The Silk Road was an ancient trade route that linked China with the West. It carried goods and ideas between the two great civilizations of Rome and China. Silk went westward, and wools, gold, and silver went east.

China received Nestorian Christianity and Buddhism from India via the Silk Road.


How did silk change fashion forever?

While most of us recognize silk as being soft and smooth, it can also be crisp and textured. This allows versatility in fashion. Silk fiber is woven and processed in many ways, which determines its appearance, quality and use. As the strongest natural protein fiber, it can also be blended with other fibers to create a sturdy and more versatile fabric. 

Silk Road

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Sericulture: the production of silk and the rearing of silkworms for this purpose.

The Legend of Silk

Legend has it that the process for making silk cloth was first invented by the wife of the Yellow Emperor, Leizu, around the year 2696 BC.

The idea for silk first came to Leizu while she was having tea in the imperial gardens. A cocoon fell into her tea and unraveled. She noticed that the cocoon was actually made from a long thread that was both strong and soft. Leizu then discovered how to combine the silk fibers into a thread. She also invented the silk loom that combined the threads into a soft cloth. Soon Leizu had a forest of mulberry trees for the silkworms to feed on and taught the rest of royal China how to make silk.

This lead to silk being known as a textile for the rich.