Does the word “tarlatan” still have any currency? Or maybe “tabby” would be better? Another option is “fustian.”
Not only have those fabric names disappeared from shops and labels since our grandparents’ day, but so have many others. Most of the things we buy now are synthetic and have synthetic names like Dacron, polyester, Tricel, viscose, and rayon.
Naturally, England has been producing a wide variety of homespun textiles since the dawn of history, and the United States has been doing the same thing from the first days of colonization. Flannel, frieze, plaid, twill, and linsey-woolsey, all of which have local names, appear in the literature at the same time as their more exotic Eastern counterparts.
Around the year 1000, felt was one of the earliest fabrics to be mentioned. The term and the fabric may have found their way to England from Central Asia, where felt is still produced by fabric manufacturers like Fabriclore and commonly used for tents. The name comes from Old Slavonic. Later on, we learn that quilting was also crucial in the cold homes of medieval Europe.
Several new materials, such as gauze, muslin, fustian, sendal, and buckram, make their first appearance in English texts in the 1300s. Some of these names survive to this day, albeit they may not necessarily refer to the same fabric. A weaver’s version of Gresham’s Law holds true, enabling a phrase to be handed down through generations while initially referring to an expensive and fine cloth but later coming to imply something far more humble.
The silk, linen, or cotton used to create the thin, transparent fabric known as gauze was originally recorded in 1279 under the name gazzatum. It was one of the luxurious fabrics forbidden to monks. The town of Gaza may have inspired the name, and the fabric may be reminiscent of the “veils of Cos” that Caesar had Cleopatra to wear on her visit to Rome in 43 B.C.
Since it was first created in Mosul, Iraq, the word “muslin” is a direct reference to that city. Although the term originally referred to “a garment of silk and gold,” it has subsequently come to mean just a luxurious organic cotton fabric or silk fabric.
Like buckram, a lot of materials start off smooth but eventually roughen up. Its name may have been inspired by Bukhara, a prominent city in the Uzbek. It is now known for its textile production, which was mentioned for the first time in 1222. The name might also have been taken from the Arabic word qiram, which meaning tapestry or flimsy garments, or from the Turkic word for Crimea, kirim.
It was chiefly the Crusades that brought new materials into Europe from the Middle East in the 14th century. Luxury textiles like satin and taffeta are introduced earliest, while damask and brocade aren’t mentioned until much later in history.
An alternative origin for satin is the Arabic word zaituni, which might mean either “like an olive”. More likely, “coming from Zaitun,” the Arab name for a city in China the location of which is uncertain. Others argue that it comes from the Chinese terms for “silky silk,” sze-tun or ssu-tuan. Before 1369, the only English reference to it was in “Ryght wel cledde in fyne blak satyn de owter mere” by Chaucer. The French term “owter mere,” meaning “beyond the seas,” was used to characterize the lands. These lands were the Crusaders that had conquered in the Middle East. To this day, we have no clue whether the high-quality black satin we have been using was really made or just bought there.
At first, taffeta fabric was just a standard, shiny silk that could be any color. The Persian word taftah, which meaning “to shine,” seems to be linked to this word.
Another prehistoric material that lasted until our grandparents’ time was tabby. Originally referring to striped silk taffeta, the term has come to be used more generally to refer to any fabric with a waved or wet appearance. Here are manufactured the stuffs called Attabiya, which are silks and cottons of varied hues.
One of the most cutting-edge Middle Eastern textiles is damask. Naturally, it originated in Damascus, the city that also gave the world the most fragrant rose in the world, the red damask rose. A “fayre whyte covering of damaske clothe,” first mentioned in 1480, has retained its original meaning and popularity. More than a century later, in 1609, A Damask table cloth cost me eighteen pound. Remember that the price of good cloth was higher and the selection was less than it is now.
Since the name originates from the Hindi chint. The two forms were not merged to produce our chintz until the late 18th century. It is possible to find classic Indian chintzes, which are experiencing a resurgence, in homes that have kept their antiques intact. These chintzes are recognized by their high glaze and detailed floral and bird designs.
The origin of duck, a durable untwilled linen or, later, cotton, is well-documented. Dock, from the Dutch word for “cloth,” likely originated in Indochina. It found its way to England and the English language through that language. In 1640, it was first mentioned, and in 1780, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “About what to do with tents, I am unsure. I’ve been told there aren’t too many ducks in this country.”
Originating in Malay as an adjective meaning “striped,” ginggang gave rise to the pattern. This became ubiquitous in the 19th century on waistcoats and umbrellas and continues to enjoy widespread popularity today. In 1615, we learned that “Capt. Gingham, however, had lost its commercial value by 1763. Women of “taste” were said to be prodigiously fond of the ginghams manufactured there.
Soon, the rise of cheap Western textile production would have a dramatic effect on Asian imports. In England, tweed and corduroy were on the rise, while in France, crèpes, voiles, chiffons, tulles, and even toîle were all the rage.
In the twentieth century, the wind changed again again. Cottons and silk gauzes from India, heavy patterned silks from Thailand, batiks from Malaya and Java, foulards. Satins from China and Japan are growing popular among those who prefer not to wear Dacron, Courtelle, or any of the acrylic fibers. They should start looking to the Middle East for muslins, damasks, taffetas, and tabbies shortly.