Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Silk & Fiber Snobbery

Today's silk-based outfit got me to thinking about fabric & what me & my historical costumer friends jokingly call "fiber snobs." Some of us (bec., yes, I'm a bit of one now) are rather picky about what kind of fabrics we use in our costumes -- they must be as close to historically accurate as possible. This means natural fibers, no polyester, no synthetics, no blends. And the farther back in time you go, fabric choices get even more limited. For example, while cotton is a natural fiber, it was only sporadically used in Europe during the medieval & Renaissance period & didn't become a common & fashionable fabric for clothing until the 18th century. You have to do your research to understand what was used when & where.

However, I'm a cheapskate & have varying income available to spend on my crazy hobby. So for a long time, my motto was "nothing over $10 per yard!" Which can rule out a lot of really authentic fabrics. About 5 years ago, when I was buying materials for a big group costume project, I literally hyperventilated in the store over the $15/yard embroidered lace, on top of the $12/yard silk, both of which I needed 10 yards of for a huge hooped skirt! But my friends held my hand, I made the gown, & our group won Best in Show at the final competition.

Since then, I've been less reluctant to buy the good stuff. I know how much it matters to use accurate fabrics, even when they cost more. This year, I bought $38/yard raspberry damask silk for a Venetian courtesan gown, but it is the most amazing fabric I've seen, the sheen & drape are fantastic, & I know the gown (which my friend Sarah is making) will be absolutely perfect for the period.

What does this have to do with everyday clothes or gothic fashion? Well, quality fabric matter here too. I'm just not a fan of 100% synthetic materials next to my skin anymore. They're sweaty & sticky & can feel gross. A natural fiber or a blend is more comfortable throughout the day. They drape beautifully & reflect well on you. I also prefer leather shoes over PVC & other plastic materials bec. they will fit better as the leather conforms to my foot. Leather shoes last longer & can be repaired more easily.

Funny coincidence, Sal of Already Pretty wrote today about fiber choices in clothing, & she hits on some of these points too. Worth a read!

What I'm wearing:
Black & grey striped dupioni silk jacket, made for me by Donna | Black cotton T-shirt, Old Navy | Plum silk charmuse skirt, Newport News via Lisa | Black cotton-spandex tights, Calvin Kline | Black leather ribbon-tie pumps, Clarks | Plum glass & gunmetal tiered necklace, NY & Company | Black & gunmetal cocktail ring, Icing | Silver cross earrings, Berkeley street seller

What type of fabrics to you prefer to wear? Do you care at all?


  1. Love your jewelry, especially your layered necklaces. :)

  2. I really prefer natural fabrics, especially cotton, silk and leather (if you can call leather a fabric!).

    Lovely skirt. I can't wait to see your new gown with the fancy expensive fabric!

  3. I love the combo of this beautiful patterned jacket with the plum skirt. Love your style!

    I've only become a fabric snob as I've grown older and realised with time that quality fabrics are a better long-term investment. In winter (here now), I have to wear wool. Nothing else is as warm! I also love angora (I know, bad) and wool blends.
    When it comes to summer, I love lenin. These are what I prefer on my skin, then for layering I'll wear synthetic blends or whatever else; I'm not fussed. If I'm making something, I love sateen. It's so easy to sew, affordable, and has that 'party on the outside/business on the inside' versatility.

  4. I definitely agree with you there. If you make a historical costume you should use the right fabric. Its amazing what sheer woven fabrics they could achieve by hand weaving at that time. I know how difficult it is to strain the warp evenly. I also try to buy clothes in good quality because it pays in the end. I have jerseyknits that is 10 years old, but looks like new. Clothes in wool is really hard to find today I think, in decent prices.

  5. I'm also a massive fibre snob...I don' wear leather though.
    The colour of your skirt is fantastic!

  6. I prefer natural fibers, or blends. I made a rule recently that my shoes have to be natural - no more PVC or polyu. It's been tough, but I rather my shoes last 5 yrs than 6 months.

  7. Mmmm... leather ;-) And I'll definitely post pix of the new gown, in about a month when it's done.

  8. Yep, fabrics are worth the investment!

  9. Oh yes, leather shoes last so much longer!

  10. I think fiber snobbery comes naturally from using better stuff. I used to talk a pretty good game about how great many modern acrylic yarns are and how it is just pretension to insist on natural fibers, until I made my first wool sweater. I will save up, use smaller quantities, or knit at a finer gauge (thus taking longer to complete each project) rather than use crap. It's just a waste of time and kind of an insult to one's work, given that if you use crappy materials the finished product will never be great no matter how talented the crafter.