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Guide to Silk Fabrics: Dupioni and Taffeta

Updated on December 9, 2018
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

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Silk History

Silk is an ancient organic fiber consisting of a three-sided prism structure giving woven textiles a lovely sheen viewed from various angles. This natural fiber has been used for eons to create elegant home furnishings and clothing items. Even with the advent of synthetic fabrics the popularity of silk has never waned. Apparently there will always be something endearing about this magical fabric.

According to ancient Chinese legend, Empress Hsi Ling Shi discovered silk quite by accident. Having tea under a mulberry tree she was startled when a silkworm cocoon suddenly fell into her cup and unraveled its shimmering threads. Her husband Emperor Huang Ti was so impressed he ordered his people to cultivate the silkworms and spin the newly found fiber into luxurious textiles.

The silk trade expanded by way of the Silk Road which originated in the western Han Dynasty from 202 BC to 9 AD. It hit its peak during the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368). The route eventually stretched 4,350 miles from western China, central Asia and into Europe. The silk routes transformed into multiple branches to distribute silk, porcelain, salt, sugar, spices and tea.

Silk fabrics originated in ancient China.
Silk fabrics originated in ancient China. | Source

Popular Dupioni and Taffeta

Dupioni and taffeta conjure up images of old world opulence. Silk curtains with dressmaker details and plush interlined "petticoats" remind one of elegant ball gowns. If you're not one for formal attire you might envision a silk dress adorned with its fanciful ruching and sparkling beadwork.

The main difference between dupioni and taffeta silks are the slubs. Dupioni is nubby and a little more coarse than taffeta with its signature slubs found throughout the fabric. The bumps are an accumulation of raw silk as it is spun into yarn. The slubs stay within the threads and are woven into the fabric. Dupioni silk is widely made into lavish dresses, home furnishing fabrics and elegant curtains.

Taffeta's extra manufacturing process removes thread slubs to create a smooth finish as opposed to the less refined texture of dupioni. It also gives taffeta more luster and a crisper hand. Its additional processing makes it slightly more expensive than dupioni. Taffeta is mostly used for formal gowns and sumptuous bed linens and curtains.

This dupioni curtain is not quite as stiff as a taffeta panel.
This dupioni curtain is not quite as stiff as a taffeta panel. | Source
This gray taffeta skirt has a polished sheen that dupioni doesn't possess.
This gray taffeta skirt has a polished sheen that dupioni doesn't possess. | Source

What About Wrinkles?

As dreamy as silks are they inevitably wrinkle. So how do you go about smoothing out the creases? You can look the other way if your silk curtains have a few wrinkles. But a ball gown reduced to a mass of wrinkles is never in style. High heat damages silk fibers so using a hot iron is totally out of the question. Remove wrinkles with light steam--by either hanging the fabric in the bathroom after a shower or using a professional steam machine.

You can also try the steam setting on your iron. Steam the fabric by holding the iron at least 6-8 inches from the fabric. When using a steam method be careful not to let moisture condense on the silk. Water causes stubborn spotting which is difficult to remove. To be on the safe side take your silk creations to the dry cleaners. It may not be the cheapest route but it's the best way to preserve your investment.

These dupioni curtains are more wrinkle resistant than taffeta.
These dupioni curtains are more wrinkle resistant than taffeta. | Source
Although this taffeta gown shows a few wrinkles, it still looks fabulous.
Although this taffeta gown shows a few wrinkles, it still looks fabulous. | Source

Cleaning and Care

As delicate as silks appear, they are very durable textiles. However, there is a special way to clean and maintain both curtains and gowns to avoid permanent damage. Never try hand washing or treating stains at home. Leave that to the professionals. Find a dry cleaner specializing in fine fabrics to care of your precious silk items.

Silk and ultraviolet light do not mix. While your silk evening gown is safely stored in the closet your curtains are another matter. UV rays can ruin silk in just a few short years. Once the fibers become brittle and the color fades they're beyond repair. Make sure your curtains are lined and interlined to provide a barrier from the elements. It's also a good idea place blinds between the curtains and window or hang them in a room without direct sun.

These curtains are most likely lined and interlined to add volume and protection from the sun.
These curtains are most likely lined and interlined to add volume and protection from the sun. | Source
Silk gowns and curtains must be delicately cleaned and carefully stored.
Silk gowns and curtains must be delicately cleaned and carefully stored. | Source

Storing Silk

Giving your silk a well-needed rest once in a while is a good idea. Store it in a cotton bag or bin that will allow the silk to breathe. Be sure silk doesn't become permanently creased. The folds can become brittle and tear after being stored in place for too long.

Before putting silk gowns and curtains into storage make sure they're clean, completely dry and free of toxic chemicals. Store them in a cool, dry and dark space. Dry cleaning bags or PVC storage bags are sure death for any type of silk fabrics. Plastic traps ambient moisture resulting in mildew and discoloration. Don't forget moths love to munch on silk, so throw in cedar chips, blocks or balls to repel hungry larvae.

Be careful folding silk fabrics. The creases can dry rot if stored in a hot environment.
Be careful folding silk fabrics. The creases can dry rot if stored in a hot environment. | Source
Keep your silk garments in a cool and dry place to avoid damage.
Keep your silk garments in a cool and dry place to avoid damage. | Source

Which Curtain and Gown combo is your favorite?

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© 2011 Linda Chechar

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    • profile image

      ANGEL 

      6 years ago

      NICE LOVE IT

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you so much Molly! Yes, silk is a magical fabric! Thanks for your comment. Best, Linda

    • mollymeadows profile image

      Mary Strain 

      7 years ago from The Shire

      These are just lovely, Lindacee. It's clever to combine the drapes and the dress ideas. Nothing says Cinderella quite like silk! Beautiful!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      You are very welcome, linda. Good evening to you and now, good morning to you. God bless.

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for your kind words. Good evening.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      12/6/ night time.

      Hello, My friend, lindacee...YOU are most-welcome, but it was "I" who should be thankful, and I am, to have such a creative writer/friend as you. And you take care and have The Best Christmas EVER!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks for reading this Hub Kenneth! It was fun to research and write. Take care of yourself and best wishes for a wonderful Christmas season!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      12/6/2011...Excellent work, lindacee! Amazing presention and perfect grahics. Voted up and all the way on this informative, helpful and interesting work. I appreciate your talent and for following me. Forgive me for being so late in coming to your site to read your hubs. I have been trying to get out all the hubs I can before my health gets any worse. Have a Merry Christmas you and yours. Kenneth

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you, Christine. The fabrics speak for themselves!

    • ChristineVianello profile image

      ChristineVianello 

      8 years ago from Philadelphia

      Wow, I am completely impressed.

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Why thank you, sagebrush_mama! Happy to be following you!

    • sagebrush_mama profile image

      sagebrush_mama 

      8 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

      Oh, how pretty!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you Chandra! What a beautiful sentiment!

    • profile image

      CHANDER MEHRA 

      8 years ago

      Yantalizing! Silk worms and mulberry trees weave magic in divinity in your words.

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