Taffeta (pron.: //; archaically spelled taffety) is a crisp, smooth, plain woven fabric made from silk or synthetic fibres. The word is Persian in origin and means "twisted woven." It is considered to be a "high-end" fabric, suitable for use in ball gowns, wedding dresses, and interiors for curtains or wallcovering. There are two distinct types of silk taffeta: yarn-dyed and piece-dyed. Piece-dyed taffeta is often used in linings and is quite soft. Yarn-dyed taffeta is much stiffer and is often used in evening dresses. Shot silk taffeta was one of the most sought-after forms of Byzantine silk, and may have been the fabric known as purpura. Taffeta was then woven in Italy and France and until the 1950s in Japan. Warp-printed taffeta or chiné, mainly made in France from the eighteenth century onwards is sometimes called Pompadour taffeta after Madame de Pompadour. Today most raw silk taffeta is produced in India and Pakistan. Originally this was produced on handlooms, but since the 1990s, it has been produced on mechanical looms in the Bangalore area. From the 1970s until the 1990s, the Jiangsu province of China produced some fine silk taffetas. These fabrics were less flexible than those from Indian mills, which now dominate production. Other countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East are weaving silk taffeta, but their products are not yet equal in quality or competitiveness to those from India. The most deluxe taffetas are still woven in France, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom. This fabric is also widely used in the manufacture of corsets and corsetry: it yields a more starched-like type of cloth that holds its shape better.
On November 4, 1782, taffeta was used by Joseph Montgolfier of France to construct a small, cube-shaped balloon. This was the beginning of many experiments using taffeta balloons by the Montgolfier brothers, and led to the first known human flight in a lighter-than-air craft. Synthetic fibre forms of taffeta have been used to simulate the structure of blood vessels.
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