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Satin is a woven structure fabric that has been around for hundreds of years and can be made using silk and cotton yarns as well as the more modern man-made versions made from rayon, acetate, or polyester. It possesses a very smooth and silken surface with a sheen or a lustre that gives it a ‘special’ place in evening wear, dance wear and party wear.
Satin has a soft and beautiful drape but because of the long stiches on the surface of this fabric you will find that is can snag easily, so repeated use of a satin garment can soon lose its lustre. This is why it is mostly used on special event garments.
It is used for luxurious, sensuous and romantic garments, as well as for stage, screen and party wear. The modern uses of satin have increased since the invention of polyester satin and it is now part of most bridal gowns, ballet slippers, and evening dresses.
Satin is very popular in ladies’ corsets and lingerie, and as now found a use for men, on the backs of their dinner suit waistcoats, and for special event front panels of waistcoats to add a touch of gentlemanly luxury. It is also used for luxury sportswear like Jockeys racing colours.
Satin is best cared for by hand washing, but try not to wring or twist the fabric to remove excess water. To clean, just swish gently in soapy water and then rinse the same way. Don’t be tempted to use the drier on high heat. The lowest heat setting is best for satin sheets, removing them while still slightly damp and then hang them to air dry.
It is best to dry satin garments as flat as you can and away from sources of direct heat and out of full sunshine. You shouldn’t need to iron, but if a long skirt has become creased in the wardrobe, iron on a low heat setting over the reverse side of the fabric only and best practice is to use the damp tea towel method in between the iron and the satin. Then lift and hang the garment to allow the water vapour to escape, leaving a perfectly ironed and crease-free item.
Satin has traditionally been expensive to produce, using silk or fine cotton yarns. Legend tells that it originated in the Chinese port of Zaytoun, which led to it being called Satin. There are other legends that it may have been known as sztun during the Renaissance period, until Italian silk manufacturers re-named it saeta to reflect its very glossy surface.
It was invented over 2 thousand years ago by weavers in Ancient China as an expensive luxury fabric for the rich and the Royals. They kept their methods very secret, but the knowledge eventually spread into Japan, Korea, India, Thailand, and across the whole of southern Asia.
Satin was eventually produced in Europe during the Middle Ages, but only for high Church officials, the Royals and the Nobility.