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All about taffeta

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TAFFETA


Detail of a c.1880 dress made of silk taffeta

Taffeta, archaically spelled taffety is a crisp, smooth, plain woven fabric made from silk or cuprammonium rayons. The word is Persian in origin and means "twisted woven." It is considered to be a "high-end" fabric, suitable for use in ball gowns, wedding dresses, and interiors for curtains or wallcovering. It is also widely used in the manufacture of corsets and corsetry: it yields a more starched-like type of cloth that holds its shape better than many other fabrics. An extremely thin, crisp type of taffeta is called paper taffeta.

There are two distinct types of silk taffeta: yarn-dyed and piece-dyed. Piece-dyed taffeta is often used in linings and is quite soft. Yarn-dyed taffeta is much stiffer and is often used in evening dresses. Shot silk taffeta was one of the most sought-after forms of Byzantine silk, and may have been the fabric known as purpura.

PRODUCTION

Modern taffeta was first woven in Italy and France and until the 1950s in Japan. Warp-printed taffeta or chiné, mainly made in France from the eighteenth century onwards, is sometimes called "pompadour taffeta" after Madame de Pompadour. Today most raw silk taffeta is produced in India and Pakistan. Initially, handlooms were widely used, but since the 1990s it has been produced on mechanical looms in the Bangalore area. From the 1970s until the 1990s, the Jiangsu province of China produced fine silk taffetas: these were less flexible than those from Indian mills, however, which continue to dominate production. Other countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East also produce silk taffeta, but these products are not yet equal in quality or competitiveness to those from India. The most deluxe taffetas, however, are still woven in France, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

HISTORICAL AND CURRENT USES

Taffeta has seen use for purposes other than clothing fabric, including the following:

On November 4, 1782, taffeta was used by Joseph Montgolfier of France to construct a small, cube-shaped balloon. This was the beginning of many experiments using taffeta balloons by the Montgolfier brothers, and led to the first known human flight in a lighter-than-air craft.

Synthetic fibre forms of taffeta have been used to simulate the structure of blood vessels.

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