In Search of Duchess Satin
I felt the need to write about Duchess Satin, alternatively known as Duchesse Satin, or just Duchesse. I felt this calling for several reasons. First, if one Googles Duchess Satin, you will be led to several websites offering Duchess Satin for $4.98/yard. Or for $6.95/yard. These are polyester satins. Nothing wrong with polyester, but it shows the corruption of the language. Duchess, in English, is high nobility, usually of royal blood. How often do you think Royals wear poly satin?
Even more alarming, was when Vogue Fabrics provided that "Duchess Satin is a soft, full bodied, polyester satin used in evening wear and special occasion garments." Or NY Fashion Center provided a silk/nylon blend for $111.99. One Hundred Eleven Dollars! It's not even 100% silk! And yet I know that 100% silk duchess satin exists because it was among the samples sent to me from my manufacturers. Burn tests confirm, 100%silk. In my searches, I saw one well known website (not cited here for discretion) that said duchess satin was silk satin, with no further disclaimer.
While it is certainly true that duchess satin can and is silk satin, that definition falls woefully short. We sell silk satin, and while it is certainly luxurious, it does not have the heavy hand of true duchess satin. So, how do the two differ? Back to Fairchild, "A highly lustrous, smooth silk or rayon fabric with a large number of ends per inch, made with an 8- to 12-end warp satin weave (p. 199)." As we learned in my post on Crepe de Chine, a large number of ends per inch means there are more threads on the warp than on the weft. 8- to 12-end warp satin is HIGHLY technical, but for a good breakdown of what that means, I refer you to this blog.
In layman terms, it simply means that this is a very thick satin weave, with a very lustrous face and a firmer hand than typical satin. So yes, duchess satin is silk satin, but not all silk satin is duchess satin. Duchess Satin is very suited for heavy beading in wedding gowns and other formal wear. This is because of the density of the weave and the firm hand it imparts.
How to tell the difference between duchess satin and regular satin (both in silk)? It's all in the hand. Duchess Satin simply FEELS thicker and more luxurious and thicker. Alternatively, silk satin, due to the finer nature of the weave, drapes better than the thicker Duchess Satin. So pick your satin to match your project, and you’ll be happier with the results.