I use a variety of silk fabrics to create the many garments
and items and it is important to understand the difference.
The two basic silk categories are grouped into what I call
the casual silks and the luxury silks. Each silk has a completely
different feel, texture, and price value. Listed below are
the most commonly used types of silk and their differences.
I use a few different weights of habotai silk for the silk
wrap skirts, gypsy tops, hooded ruanas, and dance items such
as silk veils and bellydance skirts. Habotai is one of the
less expensive silks and makes a perfect choice for layered
silk clothing due to its light, airy quality. Habotai is known
for its distinctive rippling movement and is a popular choice
for dance veils and skirts.
“Habutai”, means ‘soft and downy’
in Japanese and was first used for making kimonos. If you
were to buy habotai in a fabric store it would be priced at
about $3.40/yard for plain white.
I use a variety of higher end silk fabrics for the items
listed as luxury silks. Listed below are the most commonly
used higher end silks. If you were to buy these types of silks
in a fabric store you would notice an increase in price per
Crepe De Chine
Used to make the colorful crepe ruanas. This is a sturdy
fabric with a matte, textured finish. On close inspection
it looks like a very fine velvet material. It is sensuously
soft and dyes beautifully. Crepe de chine is lightweight yet
durable and resistant to wrinkles. If you were to buy crepe
de chine in a fabric store it would probably cost about $14.60/yard
for plain white.
My personal favorite..charmeuse is probably one of the most
popular silk choices for designers as it can be used for more
elegant wear, evening wear, dressy suits, and luxurious lingerie.
Charmeuse silk has a shiny, glossy appearance similar to satin
but is buttery soft and smooth. Charmeuse has a beautiful
drape and a lustrous appearance. If you were to buy silk charmeuse
in a fabric store it would probably cost about $15/yard for
This is actually a mix of silk and rayon. The fabric patterns
are varied and appears as a velvet design on a see through
fabric. The velvet is very plush and soft. A popular choice
for ruanas and cosmetic bags. If you were to buy cut velvet
in a fabric store, depending on the pattern it would cost
$17-$23/yard for plain white.
There are a few types of hems for silk veils. The type of
hem a veil is finished with can affect the float, or the rippling
appearance, of the silk. For a dancer, it is normally our
goal, when dancing with SILK, to allow for the natural movement
of the fabric. Silk is known by dancers to possess a ethereal,
almost spiritual movement that other fabrics do not have.
Dancers will seek out silk for this purpose. Different weights
can affect how the silk breathes and ripples. A 5 mm silk
will allow for the greatest amount of air time, it will loft
slowly like a feather. A 8 mm silk will still have a beautiful
ripple, but will move more like a flag. A general guideline
is that larger silk veils, such as the special A'Kai Silks
large half circle wing veils, should be a 5 mm silk for lightweight,
easy handling, and minimal effort to create ripples. Smaller
veils such as standard size half circle veils are better at
a 8 mm weight for faster handling and quicker spins. 8 mm
silk is also useful for outdoor dancing.
Hems can affect the float of a silk veil and is most notable
in the lighter weight silk veils.
Flat Hems: these are carefully sewn, flat hemlines. If there
must be a hemline, as with the large half circle veils, a
flat, then ironed hemline is preferred as it won't interfere
with the natural movement of the silk.
Rolled or undisclosed "Finished Edges": Not recommended
for silk veils for dance. Rolled hems have a cumbersome feel
and appearance. On a very light weight silk such as a 5 mm,
the rolled edges will weigh down the silk. Many student dancers
may not realize this. Rolled edges may be useful for learning
how to dance with silk, however if your goal is to dance with
unhemmed 'magic' silk, it is recommend you start with unhemmed
silk and stick with it. Train your fingers how to work with
natural edges. Rolled edges are great on garments and silk
clothing, but are not recommended for silk dance veils.
Imagine silk without the hairspray and styling products that
can weigh it down. Imagine silk as a wild flame, or a flower
petal on the wind. A natural edge veil will perform with uninhibited
loft and float. Experienced dancers and silk purists will
dance with unhemmed veils and never look back.
If made and treated properly, the edges of the veil will
not unravel over time. As a dancer myself, I'm now in my eleventh
year of dancing with some of the very first silk veils I ever
made. Their edges remain flawless. If your veil does have
a loose thread, it is safe to snip it with a tiny pair of
sharp scissors. It is not recommended that you use fray check,
wax or soap to treat the edges as these methods will also
inadvertently weigh down the edges.
Be sure to ask what type of hem is used on the veil when
you are shopping.
Care for your Silk
Treat silk as you would treat your hair. No harsh
detergents, no excessive drying or heat. It is safe to
use Static Guard to control static cling. Hang your
silks over a closet door or towel rack and lightly mist with
Spot washing with cool water is recommended for silk dance
veils since they are dance accessories.
Hand washing is recommended for silk clothing items to
maintain the natural luster of silk's lifespan. You may
wash your silk clothing items in the washing machine with like
colors but the silks will last much longer if you wash them by
hand with a gentle detergent and hang dry.
An iron or steamer set on medium heat will smooth the
wrinkles from your silk. It is recommended you hang your
silks on padded hangers in a garment bag when not wearing.
Silk is a royalty fabric and should be treated as such :)