Although many people refer to the textile or fabric as a Jacquard print, the word Jacquard actually refers to the process of creating the fabric itself. The term Jacquard comes from the name of the man who invented the loom that could weave intricate patterns and 3 dimensional fabrics in 1801 (full story on Wikipedia). And here is a VERY interesting factoid. This was one of the first FASHION/TECH ties in history as the Jacquard Loom was the first machine in history to use punch cards, which was eventually used by Charles Babbage to create the first computers.
Patterns such as brocade, brocatelle, damask and tapestry-like fabrics are known as jacquard patterns and are usually 3 dimensional in texture – meaning the patterns are raised or sunken in the fabric itself. This tends to be more of a cool weather technique, creating heavier fabrics. When you see a fabric that reminds you of very fancy drapery, you are looking at a Jacquard-style textile.
But wait…that isn’t all. You know those awesome Christmas sweaters? You know the ones:
Yes. Something like that. These are referred to as Jacquard-style sweaters as well…characterized by their repetitive weave patterns.
Historically, I think of Jacquard style patterns as emerging in the 1950′s with bubble dresses and 1970′s with ski lodge sweaters. I researched this a little and found out that my relating this era with Jacquard is bang on. In 1926, the first motor driven jacquard loom was produced, allowing for more mass production of this very intricate and expensive to make fabric. The bubble dresses actually emerged in the 1940′s, pronouncing waists and bringing the ability to create those dramatic rounded shoulders (kimono sleeve) into women’s suiting. It was the über feminizing of the dress in the 50′s that really called for stiffer fabrics like taffeta and jacquards to be used to create that dramatic skirt. There is a very interesting paper here on the emergence of the knitwear side of things.
I feel sort of funny doing a post on Jacquard style fabrics in the summer as it is clearly a winter-wear textile, but I keep coming across super cute dresses and pieces, even as the weather warms up. The stiff fabric brings a sense of opulence to any evening dress, but the jackets can be gorgeously dramatic as well. Warning…it’s pretty much impossible to get budget jacquard – it’s still an expensive fabric to work with: