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Corduroy Fabric History and Facts

Learn about the history and factual details of corduroy in this Fashionhance article. Here, we shall also tell you about its characteristics, the many fields it is used in, and its evolution from 200 CE.
Fashionhance Staff
Did You Know?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known mention of the word 'corduroy' was in the year 1774.

The name corduroy is derived from the French word "corde du roi", which means 'the king's cord'. The other names of corduroy are Manchester cloth, cord, rib cord, rib velvet, corded velveteen, pin cord, and elephant cord. It is popularly used for making skirts, caps, trousers, jackets, drapes, blankets, sportswear, and upholstery. The reason it is used in making garments is that it is hard-wearing, warm, and easy to dry.
What is Corduroy?
A fabric that is soft and made of cotton or cotton blended with polyester or rayon. Also called the poor man's velvet, it has a pattern of ridges called 'cords'. The most unique feature about this textile is the way it is stitched. It is woven by putting together twisted fibers, in parallel, thereby forming cords. These cords have channels between them. The size or width of the cords is often referred to as 'wales'. The smaller the wale (or the width of cords), the thicker the fabric is.
Corduroy that is used to make upholstery and blankets has wider wales, whereas, the one used for making garments has narrower wales. There are different types of these ribbed velvets, and they vary according to the number of wales per inch. If the textile has narrow wales, it is known as pin-wale corduroy, whereas, the ones with wider wales are known as wide-wale corduroy. The 11 inches wale is regarded as the standard wale and is also available in many colors. The dyed and printed variety is known as printed corduroy.
Evolution of Corduroy Fabric
✦ In 200 CE, corduroy was manufactured and used in the city named 'Fustat' in Egypt. Therefore, the textile was named as 'fustian', by the 12th century.
✦ From the 12th to 14th century, corduroy was made out of cotton, so its demand and popularity grew with the growth in the cotton trade. This was also the period when the fabric was greatly desired by all the royal and affluent Europeans.
✦ From the 14th to 16th century, impersonated fustians were fabricated and used throughout Europe. During this period, all the textiles which looked like the original woven product of cotton, were known as fustians.
✦ Gradually, from the mid of 16th century, fustians were woven, using a blend of cotton and wool, or linen and cotton. These varieties were manufactured and distributed all throughout Ireland, Norwich, Lancashire, and London.
✦ It was 'Naples fustian', which was first worn by King Henry VIII in the 16th century. This version of the textile was expensive and was obtained after brushing the true-cut fustian for longer intervals.
✦ The cheaper fustians were not only used in the military, but also in making sports garments, and servant's livery.
✦ The royal French servants, in the 17th century, were known for wearing silk-based fustian fabrics.
✦ It was in the 18th century that the ribbed variety of fustian made its way into the market. It was similar to the one available these days and was known as 'cotton velvet' and 'corduroy' in England. The idea behind changing its name to 'corduroy', was to promote the fabric as a royal symbol of French prestige.
✦ In the 19th century, during the Victorian times, it was popularly used to make uniforms for the urban working men, students, and artists. This was because of the durability of the fabric, and its incapability in being incorporated for fashionable tailoring.
✦ In World War I, corduroy was used in making uniforms for the military soldiers. The Ford Model T, in 1918, incorporated corduroy upholstery.
✦ The corduroy has since seen good and bad days, it became popular in the rebellious '50s and '60s, while it fell out of favor after that.
✦ In the late '70s, it was thrust into the fashion limelight once again when it was incorporated in jeans. In 1982, fashion house Versace introduced men's clothing in corduroy. The last decade of the 20th century saw the advent of stretch corduroy, which prompted a renewed interest in corduroy as an informal fabric.
Over the years, there were many instances when corduroy went in and out of style. But every time it made a comeback, there were appreciable changes and upgrades in its quality and appearance.