Tag Archives: silk organza

Glossary: Silk Organza

Organza is a fabric made from silk, a natural fiber produced by silkworms. For more information, see the entry Glossary: Silk Fiber. Organza is commonly available today in synthetic fibers imitating silk, but it can also still be found in silk, in a range of weights and qualities. Essentially, organza is a name for sheer, plain-woven silk (or synthetic imitations) with a very crisp hand. Organza is not a term I have encountered in historical (pre-twentieth century) sources, though I have not researched it specifically.

“Gauze,” “tissue,” and “organdy” are all terms which may or may not be able to be accurately applied to organza-like fabrics in historical use; my research has thus far found conflicting reports about each of these terms. Further investigation is needed.

Silk organza has many applications for twentieth century vintage and modern use, both as a fashion fabric and for use in couture and tailoring construction for facings, linings, and interlinings. It is also popular for curtains, though synthetic and sometimes rayon or acetate versions are generally more common.

Definitions of organza and other crisp, sheer silks from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

Under the heading “silk” on page 13, there is a fabric sample which could be described as organza; it is sheer and very crisp, in this case with slightly thicker, darker threads woven through occasionally to create a textured stripe. On page 14, it is stated that “The sample shown here is appropriate for a fancy dress fabric, especially for the first two decades of the nineteenth century.” A specific period term for that type of silk is not offered.

On page 40, under the heading “mourning,” there is a swatch of what I would describe as a matte (fairly low-luster) black silk organza; in the text is is described as a “black silk organdy.”

  • Butterick Publishing Company, The. Vogue Sewing. Revised edition. New York: The Butterick Publishing Company, 2000.

On page 42, it is stated that “Pattern weaves are the glory of the weaver’s art. Delicate traditional coverlet designs can be created on a simple loom by an intricate order of threading. Other pattern weaves, such as crisp piqués, filmy curtain gauze, and patterns of flowers and scrolls in rich, deep brocades owe their existence to more complex variations on the loom.” Further, it states that “Leno weaves are used most effectively in lacy, open fabrics. A special attachment twists the warp yarns around each other in a figure eight as the filling passes through, imparting stability to fabrics with widely spaced yarns.”

On page 177, “gauze” is defined as “from ‘Gaza;’ very thin, light, transparent silk fabric.” Also on page 177, “grenadine” is defined as “thin, gauze-like fabric of wool or silk, plain or figured” and “grenadine barege” as “thin, gauze fabric.” On page 178, “ninon” is defined as “sheer, plain weave fabric, a little heavier than chiffon, woven from various yarns.” On page 179, “organdy” is defined as “fine thin muslin, plain or figured, often stiffened, used for dresses.” On page 180, “silk tissue” is defined as “fine, transparent silk fabric.” Also on page 180, “tissue” is defined as “fine, light, gauzy fabric, sometimes used for veils.”

There is no definition for organza, which is not surprising, because it seems to be a fairly modern term. On page 312, “organdy” is defined as “A fine, sheer cotton fabric of plain weave; a thin, transparent, wiry muslin that can be dyed, printed, or white.”

On page 246, “gauze” is defined as “A thin, light, transparent fabric woven in a crossed-warp technique. By extension, any sheer, open fabric.” On page 247, “gossamer” is defined as “A rich silk gauze, nearly as open as common gauze, but at least four times as thick and strong. It was used for veils and dresses. On page 248, “grenadine” is defined as “an open silk or wilk and wool textile used for dresses. Braun-Ronsdorf called it a lightweight fabric of a silk / wool mixture, plain or figured, similar to barege, while Peuchet, circa 1800, called it a superfine barracan.” Note that in several places in this book, “gauze” is referred to as being a weave, synonymous with leno weave.

The definition of “tissue” on pages 366-367 are very different from those in Marsh’s glossary (see above), and relate to decorative and ecclesiastical use. On page 366 it is stated that “The weaves often included silver and gold threads. Technically tissue was made with two sets of warp threads and at least two sets of shafts, and with one or more pattern wefts controlled by the figure harness on a drawloom.”

Online Resources:

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post like this one, which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Updated January 10, 2012

Glossary: Silk Fiber

Silk is a natural fiber which is the product of the silkworm. Many different fabrics are made from silk, including chiffon, organza, georgette, charmeuse, dupioni, taffeta, satin, velvet, and brocade.

“Silk is a continuous protein filament produced by the silkworm to form its cocoon. The silkworm is the caterpillar of the silk moth (Bombyx Mori), and its cocoon is the shell it constructs to protect itself during its growth from caterpillar, to chrysalis, to moth. A single cocoon is made of a continuous filament that the silkworm extrudes from its body and throws about itself, layer within layer, into a thick, smooth, symmetrical ball larger than a robin’s egg but smaller than a pigeon’s.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, pages 66-67)

“Silk is a product of the silkworm, most commonly Bombyx mori, which came originally from China. Silk is a filament fiber, meaning that it is extruded in a continuous length. It is this continuous length and smooth fiber surface that creates silk’s elegant luster. The silk fiber is also strong and warm. Raw silk was imported from China and Bengal to Europe, where it was woven into a variety of fabrics.” (Bassett, Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850, page 13)

“Beautiful, luxurious to touch; has a deep luster. Available in a variety of weaves and weights from sheer drapable chiffon to stiff rich brocades in brilliant colors and beautiful prints for dresses, suits, blouses, linings, lingerie. Found in fabrics such as crepe, brocade, satin, jersey, tweed.” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, page 50)

“The vast variety of silk weaves available in the early and mid-Nineteenth century is simply not present today. Care must be taken in selecting only those weaves and weights of silk that approximate textiles of that time. Taffeta, satin, faille, brocade, organza, batiste, broadcloth, bengaline, and velvet are all suited to period dressmaking, and are available in fine fabric stores and through some on-line merchants. Silks can be expensive, but durable when care[d] for properly. Silk dyes very well without losing its luster, so if appropriate weaves are found undyed, they can be custom colored for dressmaking projects.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Glossary Entries for Silk Fabrics:

Online Resources:

Print Resources: See the article Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials for a list of print resources.

Updated January 10, 2012