Never in the history of fashion has something so unattractive and just downright ugly had such an impact. I’m referring to the silk worm. The little insect that inspired an entire industry in fashion. Seeing the little creepy-crawly doesn't inspire the same love and passion as the bi-product of its creation. Silk is seen as a luxury product - both to the touch and to the wallet.
A Little History
Silk originated in China as early as 5000 B.C. and was traded along the Silk Road, which was a network of trade routes extending over 4000 miles throughout Asia and the West. China took great lengths to protect their silk trade by extending the Great Wall of China. But alas, their monopoly was brought to a screeching halt in 400 A.D. when a group of Japanese smugglers managed to get their hands on silkworm eggs.
And as a result, silk was, and is, produced throughout the world.
Benefits of Silk
So what has made silk such a demanding product throughout history? Well first, it is one of the strongest textiles out there.
Silkworms are the offspring of moths. The moths spin their egg-bearing cocoons which produce between 500 and 1200 threads, which are then woven into silk.
And it is in the organic nature of this process that gives silk its strength, so its applications stretch beyond just clothing.
Photo Credit: J. Crew
It occurred to me as I was writing this piece that there is parity to the topic of transitioning our fabrics from one season to the next. Like the ugly little silk worm that traditions into, well, an ugly grey moth, silk in its vast variety of weaves is one of the most transitional fabrics from one season to the next.
For example, Charmeuse, Habotai and Four Ply are heavier silks in terms of their weave. So they are wonderful for transitioning from summer into fall or vise versa. A Charmeuse blouse will provide a stylish yet extra layer of warmth when worn under a blazer or jacket on a brisk morning, yet is cool and comfortable when worn on its own on a warm afternoon.
Chiffon and organza have a much looser weave, which make them transparent and great summer fabrics. They too can be wonderful transition pieces. How cute would a little tutu skirt look with a leather bomber? And a breezy summer silk chiffon dress can easily be paired with a great pair of skinny jeans in the fall.
Ah yes, the ugly little silk worm has been producing the loveliest fabrics for thousands of year. It's shimmery, transitional and soft to the touch characteristics make it still one of the most sought after fabrics in the fashion world today.
Photo Credit: ShopBop.com