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Serge is a type of twill fabric that has diagonal lines or ridges on both sides, made with a two-up, two-down weave. The worsted variety is used in making military uniforms, suits, great coats and trench coats. Its counterpart, silk serge, is used for linings. French serge is a softer, finer variety. The word is also used for a high quality woolen woven fabric.
Etymology and history
The name is derived from Old French serge, itself from Latin serica, from Greek σηρικός (serikos), meaning "silken". The early association of silk serge, Greece, and France is shown by the discovery in Charlemagne's tomb of a piece of silk serge dyed with Byzantine motifs, evidently a gift from the Byzantine Imperial Court in the 8th or 9th century AD. It also appears to refer to a form of silk twill produced in the early renaissance in or around Florence, used for clerical cassocks. A reference can be found in Don Quixote: "I am more pleased to have found it than anyone had given me a Cassock of the best Florentine serge" (The Curate, Book I, Chapter VI).
From early Saxon times, most English wool ("staples") was exported. In the early sixteenth century it went mainly to a Royal monopoly at Calais (then an English possession) and was woven into cloth in France or the Low Countries. However, with the capture of Calais by the French on 7 January 1558, England began expanding its own weaving industry. This was greatly enhanced by the European Wars of Religion (Eighty Years' War, French Wars of Religion); in 1567 Calvinist refugees from the Low Countries included many skilled serge weavers, while Huguenot refugees in the early eighteenth century included many silk and linen weavers.
- Images from World History: Early Byzantine history (7 - 11th c. A.D.)
- A Brief History of Southampton
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