Monday, December 17, 2012

The Textile Corduroy


  Corduroy is a woven material that uses cut weft (crosswise) yarns to form velvety ridges. This composition creates a warm and durable fabric with a distinct appearance. It is typically composed of cotton or cotton blend yarns. 

  The first known usage of the word "corduroy" is sited by the Online Etymology Dictionary  to 1780 in American English. There are disputing theories as to where the term came from. A popular theory is that the word is an amalgamation of the French term "corps du roi" meaning "body of the king." Nobility wore jacket-like garments called "pourpoints" and corduroy was a stylish textile to have these garments made from because of it's appealing characteristics: warmth and durability. However, the French used the term "velours colete" for the fabric, so it is unlikely that theory is valid. A more likely theory is that the word comes from the term "deroy" a durable, coarse fabric available in England in the 18th century, and that "cord" was added onto the beginning to describe and distinguish the two fabrics. 
  Corduroy is a descendant of an ancient textile called "Fustian." This velvety, twill fabric was constructed in El-Fustat, Egypt, a current suburb of Cairo, as early as 200 AD. At first it was used primarily for laborers clothing, but it became a popular exotic fabric among Europeans during the 12-14th centuries with the growth of the cotton trade. By the 17th century, fustian was being manufactured in Ireland and the UK using blends of cotton and wool or cotton and linen yarns. During the 18th century different versions and grades of fustian were being used for everything from King Henry's pourpoint to military garments to ladies dresses. After the close of that century, corduroy became the working-class person's textile because its inflexible nature made it undesirable for use in Victorian fashions. 

  In the 20th century corduroy was used for children's clothing first, and then military garments during World War I. After the war, corduroy was the perfect material for the new sporty fashion trend, but it goes out of main-stream style once again by the 1950s. In the 60s and 70s it became the fabric of choice for the anti-establishment counter culture in the United States, and following that decade the corduroy pant remained in closets as a fall/winter staple. 

  My favorite current use of corduroy for women is a skinny jewel tone cord pant paired with a flowy silk crepe top in a neutral color, a chunky, knit scarf and a pair of feminine, pointy-toed stilettos. For men, a corduroy vest with and oxford shirt, tweed blazer with a pocket handkerchief, a pair of slim, twill pants and distressed boots.

  Jacqueline Jones

Photo Editor: PicMonkey
             Textiles: Concepts and Principles, 2nd Edition by Virginia Hencken Elsasser
             V is for Vintage blog: A History of Corduroy