Many sources claim the origin of the word is derived from the French corde du roi or “the king’s cord.” The fabric was supposedly used to clothe the servants of the king in medieval France. However, there are no written documents to credit this etymology. It is more likely that the term originated in England, from a fabric called “kings-cordes,” which is documented in records in Sens, France, from 1807. Another possible origin of the name may be from the English surname Corderoy. This spelling was used in reference to the fabric as early as 1789 in America in a newspaper advertisement from a corduroy weaver in Providence, Rhode Island.
Corduroy is a durable fabric that is woven with three sets of yarns and has vertical ribs, or wales, that are formed by cut-pile yarn. The third set of yarns, which is generally loosely spun, is woven into a plain or twill weave backing in the filling direction to form floats that run over four or more warp yarns. A corduroy with a plain-weave backing may be referred to as “tabbyback,” and a twill-backed corduroy can be called a “Genoa-back.” Twill backing is more durable because the weave is denser and the pile tufts are held more tightly. The floats are cut after weaving to form ribs through the use of specialized machinery. The uncut fabric is run through the cutting machines once for ribs that are widely spaced apart and twice for closely-set ribs. The ribs are rounded with the longest floats in the center and the shorter floats on either side. After the pile is cut, the fabric is often singed and brushed to produce an even-ribbed finish.
Corduroy may be piece-dyed or printed in patterns and is named according to the number of wales per inch. Variations of corduroy include featherwale, pinwale, medium wale, thick-set corduroy, broad wale, wide wale, and novelty wale corduroys, in which different widths of wales are arranged in patterns.
Corduroy is used for trousers, shirts, jackets, skirts, dresses, and in home furnishings such as pillows and upholstery. Developments in the production of corduroy include the addition of spandex to provide more stretch in the fabric that is used for close-fitting garments.
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