Silk padding through history

News, traditions and finds for an endless history

The use of silk padding to protect the body against the weather as well as to increase the healthy feeling that a garment can provide or enhance what in this day and age we call active comfort and/or thermal physiological comfort is part of our history and of the history of mankind.

Italy

  • The history of Italian silkworm farming started around 1,000 years ago.
  • The first processing techniques (twisting and spinning), dating back to the 14th century, were the work of Ludovic the Moor (so named from scientific name of mulberry, bombyx mori).
  • Between the 1700s and 1900s, Italian silk production was among the leading in the world for its quantity and ranked first in terms of quality.

Italy’s history of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century abounds with evidence of the use of silk materials (especially less valuable and marketable ones) inside blankets, regarded as the first silk padded duvets.

 


Yet we can certainly go well far back in time through history…..


China

  • Sericulture developed way back in the late-Neolithic culture of Liangzhu, which flourished in China between 3300 and 2200 B.C..
  • The silk produced in China (158,400,000 kg – 2016 figure) accounts for 82% of global production.

China’s history is rich in legends, traditions and finds that enhance the characteristics of Silk also used as padding: padded garments belonging to emperors, the custodians of their secret for thousands of years, tapestries, quilts and clothing for ceremonies. The uniforms of the former Chinese Red Army and then the People’s Liberation Army, located in the coldest areas of the empire, were padded with silk.

 

silk padded garment1970 – Legend has it that a number of will-o’-the-wisps drew the attention of the people living in the Hunan region (south-western China); recalling the stories of the burials of ancient kings who once lived in this place, excavations were started which brought to light the royal necropolis of Mawangdui. It is considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, compared in quality and importance with the Egyptian discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Funerary objects were found belonging to noblemen of the HAN dynasty, who reigned between the 3rd century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D. in the ancient State of Changsha, called the country of silk and ceramics.

The tomb of Li Cang, the marquis of Dai, who died in 186 B.C., brought to light finds, mummified bodies, jade jewels and a large number of science texts and medicinal recipes.

Of incredible interest for the history of padding and silk in general was the discovery of silk garments of exquisite quality and craftsmanship, including a silk padded garment with ornamental damask motifs symbolising longevity, which probably belonged to the marquis Li Cang himself.