Mulberry silk is a rare and luxurious fabric that has been prized for centuries. It’s made from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm (Bombyx mori) and has natural resistance to dirt and stains, which makes it both strong and comfortable to wear.
The mulberry silkworm spins its silver-gray silk in a series of fine strands known as filaments , each strand measuring about one kilometer in length! Weavers also make use of the fibers created by the moth when forming its cocoon.
The long, cylindrical threads are twisted together into ribbons or woven into cloth . This method allows weavers to create heavy materials such as satin. The more threads required for weaving, the finer the silk cloth will be.
For example, 40 threads per centimeter results in habutai silk, while 100 threads per centimeter is taffeta . The most luxurious form of Chinese silk is known as pongee , which requires 500 or more filaments to create one square centimeter of fabric.
The secret to mulberry silk’s strength lies in its naturally occurring crystalline regions. These are sections within the natural protein where the hydrogen bonds are highly aligned and form a pattern similar to that of an organized grid. This gives the fiber the ability to resist stretching and tearing forces.
However, heat causes these regions to separate into pleats that can irreparably harm mulberry silk garments. Store your fine fabrics away from radiators and sunny windowpanes to ensure they last for decades.
The high value of mulberry silk during ancient China led to an increase in the amount of money spent on garments. A light purple-colored silk, known as Nubian , was reserved exclusively for members of the emperor’s family.
However, even these classes were restricted from wearing yellow or green clothes. Emperor Tang Tai Zong’s wife Wu Zetian was particularly fond of mulberry silk robes and had 3,000 costumes made each year using only the finest material she could find!
Empress Dowager Cixi had her own pick of some 20,000 bolts of fabric up into clothes every year. The extravagance of mulberry silk garments continued all the way until the Qing Dynasty, when a new breed of Chinese weavers had gained enough skill to produce cheaper replicas.
After a long history of being a symbol of wealth and power, mulberry silk has become an increasingly popular fabric for today’s clothing designers. In 1998, Yves Saint Laurent designed a dress from gray-and-white mulberry silk shantung that boasted one million hand-placed stitches.
At $50,000, it sparked a new trend in haute couture that saw many other designs follow suit with similarly eye-watering price tags! One of these dresses was even said to be worth more than three times as much as some houses.
These days, mulberry silk is still a highly treasured material because it’s strong, luxurious, and comfortable to wear. While similar fabrics such as modal and polyester might be much cheaper, they cannot compare with the softness and luster that only mulberry silk can provide.
Is mulberry silk better than regular silk?
No. Mulberry silk is similar to regular silk, which is made from the cocoons of the bombyx mori moth. Both types come in various different qualities and can be woven into yarn or used to create fine fabrics.
However, mulberry silk has more luxurious properties that are said to include being stronger, softer, lighter, and more resistant to heat damage than regular silk.
What is the best grade of mulberry silk?
Mulberry silk has many different grades depending on the number of filaments needed to create one square centimeter of fabric. Up to 40 threads per square centimeter are called habutai while 100 or more filaments are a higher standard known as taffeta.
The finest form of mulberry silk is pongee, which requires 500 or more filaments for every square centimeter. However, these forms of mulberry silk are not commonly used for clothing because they tend to be very expensive and difficult to make.
In garments, mulberry silk can come in a range of different qualities from less than 25 threads per square centimeter to over 50 threads per square centimeter.
The most common types fall somewhere between 33 and 38 threads per square centimeter. These are some of the best quality mulberry silk garments you can buy
Is mulberry silk ethical?
As with many luxury materials, the ethical implications of mulberry silk are complex. On one hand, the best quality mulberry silks can be more comfortable to wear than other fabrics and breathe better in hot weather.
However, their strength is also what makes them so valuable. A single bolt of fine fabric has only enough mulberry silk to make a few exquisite garments that require thousands of hours of laborious work each. If you’re looking for an ethical way to enjoy the luxurious feel of mulberry silk, look for affordable pieces made from lower grades of fabric or even synthetic alternatives.