Cope and chasuble; Brocade of Lyon. 19th Century
Silk brocade fabric, Lyon, France, 1760-1770.
Detail of hair-sash being brocaded on a Jakaltek Maya backstrap loom.
Large Yunjin brocade loom, Nanjing, China, 2010

Brocade is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in colored silks and sometimes with gold and silver threads.[1] The name, related to the same root as the word "broccoli", comes from Italian broccato meaning "embossed cloth", originally past participle of the verb broccare "to stud, set with nails", from brocco, "small nail", from Latin broccus, "projecting, pointed".[2]

Brocade is typically woven on a draw loom. It is a supplementary weft technique; that is, the ornamental brocading is produced by a supplementary, non-structural, weft in addition to the standard weft that holds the warp threads together. The purpose of this is to give the appearance that the weave was actually embroidered on.

In Guatemala, brocade is the most popular technique used to decorate fabric woven by Maya weavers on backstrap looms.

Ornamental features in brocade are emphasized and wrought as additions to the main fabric, sometimes stiffening it, though more frequently producing on its face the effect of low relief. In some, but not all, brocades, these additions present a distinctive appearance on the back of the material where the supplementary weft or floating threads of the brocaded or broached parts hang in loose groups or are clipped away.[1] When the weft is floating on the back, this is known as a continuous brocade; the supplementary weft runs from selvage to selvage. The yarns are cut away in cutwork and broché. Also, a discontinuous brocade is where the supplementary yarn is only woven in the patterned areas. Artisans worked extremely hard to produce these spectacular works of art. It often took years to make them.



The manufacture of brocade began during the Warring States period of China.[3] Many products of brocade have been found in tombs of the era.[3][4] Several distinct styles of brocade have been developed in China, the most famous being Yunjin (Cloud brocade) of Nanjing, Song brocade of Suzhou, and Shu brocade of Chengdu.

Southeast Asia

Songket is a type of brocade in the Malay world.


Dating back to the Middle Ages, brocade fabric was one of the few luxury fabrics worn by nobility throughout China, India, Persia, Greece, Japan, Korea and Byzantium. Woven by the Byzantines, brocades were an especially desirable fabric. From the 4th to the 6th centuries, production of silk was seemingly non-existent, as linen and wool were the predominant fabrics. During this period, there was no public knowledge of silk fabric production except for that which was kept secret by the Chinese. Over the years, knowledge of silk production became known among other cultures and spread westward. As silk production became known to Western cultures, trade from the East began to decrease. It was discovered by Byzantine historians that in the 6th century a pair of monks brought the secret of sericulture – silk production – to the Byzantine emperor. As a result, Western cultures were able to learn how to breed, raise, and feed silkworms. From this point until the 9th century, Byzantium became the biggest and most central producer for all of the Western world in the production of all types of silk motifs, including brocades, damasks, brocatelles and tapestry-like fabrics.[5]

During the Early Middle Ages, brocade fabrics were only available to the wealthiest of people as the Byzantine emperor charged extreme prices for the fabric. The designs woven into brocade fabrics were often Persian in origin. It was also common to see Christian subjects depicted in the complex weaves of the fabric. When these luxurious fabrics were made into clothing or wall hangings, they were at times adorned with precious and semiprecious stones, small medallions of enamel, embroidery and appliqués.[5]

The Late Middle Ages

The life of a noble during the Late Middle Ages was filled with entertainment: riding and hunting, music and dancing, and feasting. All of these activities became a stage for the display of fashion. Wealthy noblemen and noblewomen dressed in silk brocades from Italy, and velvets trimmed with fur from Germany. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Court of Burgundy was made known for their continuous fashionable tastes and luxurious dress.[6]

Renaissance Italy

The condotier by Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini

Brocades were also an important fabric during the Renaissance, and especially the Italian Renaissance. As wool and silk were the primary fabrics used by Europeans during the Renaissance, and despite the lack of documentary evidence, it is said that due to the increase in complexity of decoration of Italian silk fabrics of the 15th century, there must have been improvements in silk-weaving looms around this time. The complexity and high quality of luxurious silk fabrics caused Italy to become the most important and superior manufacturer of the finest silk fabrics for all of Europe. The almost sculptural lines of the fashions during the Renaissance were paired perfectly with the exquisite beauty and elegance of brocade, damask, and other superior silk textiles.[7]

The motifs remained Chinese, Indian and Persian in origin and were a reflection of the trading between the Far East and Italy. It is said that some Renaissance painters designed and sketched textile designs for fabrics production as well as incorporation into their paintings.[7]

Modern uses

Brocade fabrics are mostly for upholstery and draperies. They are also used for evening and formal clothing, for vestments, as well as for costumes. In India, Banarasi Brocade Fabrics are extensively used for women fashion in form of Sarees, Dress Materials and Dupattas. The use of precious and semiprecious stones in the adornment of brocades is not common but has been replaced with the use of sequins and beading as decoration. Brocade fabrics are now largely woven on a Jacquard loom that is able to create many complex tapestry-like designs using the jacquard technique. Although many brocade fabrics look like tapestries and are advertised by some fashion promotions as such, they are not to be confused with true tapestries. Patterns such as brocade, brocatelle, damask and tapestry-like fabrics are known as jacquard patterns.[8]


See also


  1. ^ a b One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Brocade". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 620–622.
  2. ^ brocade: EtymologyOnline
  3. ^ a b Ye, Lang; Fei, Zhengang; Wang, Tianyou, eds. (2007). China: Five Thousand Years of History and Civilization. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press. p. 410. ISBN 978-962-937-140-1.
  4. ^ Sullivan, Michael (1999). The Arts of China (4th ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21876-0.
  5. ^ a b Tortora, Phyllis G. (2009). Survey of Historic Costume. New York: Fairchild Books. p. 110.
  6. ^ Tortora, Phyllis G. (2009). Survey of Historic Dress. New York: Fairchild Books. pp. 147–148.
  7. ^ a b Tortora, Phyllis G. (2009). Survey of Historic Dress. New York: Fairchild Books. pp. 183–184.
  8. ^ Collier, Billie J. (2009). Understanding Textiles. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 303.

Further reading

  • Brocade paper (fragment), originally belonging to a sample book of J.M. Munck, Augsburg 1751 treasure 5 National Library of The Netherlands
  • Marypaul Yates. Fabrics A Guide for Interior Designers and Architects. W. W. Norton & Co.
  • Ventura, Carol. Maya Hair Sashes Backstrap Woven in Jacaltenango, Guatemala, Cintas Mayas tejidas con el telar de cintura en Jacaltenango, Guatemala, 2003.ISBN 0-9721253-1-0.

Media files used on this page

Jute nahtlos.png
Author/Creator: SoylentGreen, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Hessian Fabric made seamless. It will serve to create a normal map in Blender.
Batik Indonesia.jpg
Author/Creator: MartijnL, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0 nl
Batik cloth purchased in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
MacLachlan hunting tartan (D. W. Stewart).svg
Author/Creator: , Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
A representation of the Maclachlan hunting tartan. This tartan is the oldest tartan to bear the name MacLachlan. This tartan is referred to as the Old MacLachlan, MacLachlan, and Hunting MacLachlan. This sett was first published in Old & Rare Scottish Tartans by D. W. Stewart in 1893.
Thread count: Y6, W4, Bk32, G32, Y6, W4, R48.
Sources: MacLachlan Clan Tartan WR1710 MacLachlan Hunting Tartan
Brocade loom.jpg
Author/Creator: Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, Licence: CC BY 2.0

It takes a huge loom and two people running it to weave these fabric patterns.

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Brocart de soie français.jpg
Author/Creator: The original uploader was Yelkrokoyade at French Wikipedia., Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0

Description : Brocart de soie français, Lyon 1760-1770

Source :
Persian Silk Brocade - Shah Abbasi Flower - Seyyed Hossein Mozhgani - 1974.jpg
Author/Creator: Sialkgraph, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Persian Silk Brocade.

Persian Textile (The Golden Yarns of Zari - Brocade). Silk Brocade with Golden Thread (Golabetoon).

Texture Type: Lower Warp (Brocade Atlasi). Jacquard.

Pattern and Design: Shah Abbasi Flower, With Main Repeating Motif.

Brocade weaver: Master Seyyed Hossein Mozhgani. 1974 A.D.

Brocade Designer (Pattern Designer): Master Mohammad Tarighi. 1974 A.D.

Pahlavi Dynasty.

the Ministry of Culture and Art . Honarhaye Ziba workshop.
Author/Creator: ArtProf, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Detail of hairsash being brocaded on a Jacaltec Maya backstrap loom.
Paris - Cathédrale Notre-Dame - Trésor de la cathédrale - Ornements sacerdotaux -3.JPG
Author/Creator: MOSSOT, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Chape et Chasuble de l'ornement « Napoléon III ». Grand ornement Pontifical dans un brocard d’or, au dessin de feuillage sur fond de satin blanc broché, le décor est rehaussé de soies « nuées » aux motifs de fleurs, grappes de raisins et épis de blés. Provenance : commandé par le Mobilier de la Couronne en 1837. Ensemble de 2 chasubles avec accessoires, 2 dalmatiques, 6 tuniques, 16 chapes, 2 housses de pupitres pour l’Épître et l’Évangile, 1 grémial. Auteur: Grand Frères, fabricants d’étoffes de soie à Lyon, 1837-1839.
Giovanni Bellini - Portrait of Giovanni Emo - National Gallery of Art, Washington.jpg
The name of model is unknown, amongst versions were: en:Bartolomeo d'Alviano, en:Bartolomeo Colleoni, Giacomo Marcello and Giovanni Emo (supposed in 1980))
Isabelle De Strange, Brocade Costume, c. 1938, NGA 13643.jpg
Isabelle De Strange
, Licence: CC0
Brocaded patterns of the traditional hajong Argon.jpg
Author/Creator: Min Yu-Seok, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Brocaded patterns on an argon.
Boys riding goats, 15th-16th C.jpg
RH3564, Textile Panel. 9 x 14 in (23 x 34 cm). 15th/16th Century. Provenance Spink. A panel of silk brocade with ‘goat riders’ pattern. The brown ground is woven with a repeat pattern of boys riding on the backs of goats, bearing birds in cages suspended from branches of prunus blossom over their shoulders. $9,000