Brocade or Damask?

There is a lot going on behind the scenes at Ecclesiastical Sewing. So many lovely things in the works.  Tonight it is time for a brief respite while the question is pondered: what is the difference between a brocade and damask fabric?  The terms brocade and damask are seen frequently in the descriptions of liturgical fabrics for use in the making of church vestments.  As one looks at photos of fabrics, a first glance might suggest there is no difference. Then the price comes into view, and that might appear to be the only difference. But the question lingers on, are liturgical brocades and liturgical damask fabrics the same, or are the different?

Let’s start with a definition of terms.

Brocade:  embossed or raised floral or scroll work design. Th e fabric is woven on a jacquard loom.  The back side of the fabric is easy to distinguish by floating threads. A wide variety of textile fibers are used, including metallic fibers. The fabric can be crisp and heavy, with a firm body. For liturgical purposes, it is suitable for use in making stoles, chasubles, copes, dalmatics, tunics, altar hangings, chalice veils, burses and so forth.


Damask: A reversible fabric, woven on a jacquard loom. The design is often elaborate, incorporating a variety of weaving techniques and patterns to create the fine, intricate detail in the pattern.  These elaborate designs may be woven in silk, cotton, wool, rayon, or other man-made yarns. The fabrics usually have the same color yarns used for warp and weft.  On occasion, gold or silver threads may also be used. The term Damask is derived from the city of Damascus. The variations in the satin and sateen weave of warp and weft create a satin background that is shiny and a more mat looking design or pattern. Light reflects on the variations of the weave, giving the resulting view of a rich and expensive fabric. Damask fabrics are sometimes flatter than brocade, lacking that “raised blister” look.


After having reviewed definitions and then looking at fabric differences, one can clearly see that brocade and damask fabrics are NOT the same.  There are differences.

Solo Dei Gloria

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