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by Katie Peachesa April 07, 2020 3 min read

By Ksenia Sobchak

It’s an easy choice, or so most people think. Cotton is cheap, practical and every day. Silk is for special occasions, it’s delicate, sensuous and definitely dangerous. Almost opposites.  So you’d probably be surprised if I told you that cotton is often the more expensive of the two, and when it comes to strength, silk usually wins hands down.

Of course there are many kinds of cotton, some combined with polyester and some just left relatively course. I’m betting you’ve had the experience of owning something crisp and cotton only to find the crispness gone when the fabric was washed. That’s because left to it’s own devices cotton is, or at least can be, very very soft. When it’s crisp it’s often because it has been sprayed with chemicals in manufacture. Washing removes the chemicals.

Cotton is derived from the fiber boll of the cotton plant and it the most common natural fiber in use in the fashion industry. It has been spun into thread, woven into cloth and dyed since before records began, but the Greeks only learned about it around the time of Alexander the Great and cotton didn’t become common in the UK until the 15th Century. In contrast the plant was cultivated in the Americas and has been found in Peruvian tombs.

Silk on the other hand is not grown, but farmed, as it comes from the cocoon of the silk moth. Legend has it that the fabric was discovered by the Empress of China when the cocoon of a moth feel into her tea as she sat below a mulberry tree. When she went to remove the cocoon she found that it unraveled and asked her servants to pull the thread out. They were amazed at the length of it and experimented with the creation of fiber and cloth. The fiber the cocoon is made from has a very odd triangular cross section, and this results in the wonderful sheen which has made silk fabric so famous and sought after that for centuries it’s production was regarded as a state secret.

But this does not answer the question. Which is better? As usual the answer depends. Silk and cotton absorb dyes differently. Silk accepts color well and can give great vivid colors which gleam in the light. Cotton on the other hand is matte and and although it dyes fairly well, never seems to become as vibrant. Printed cotton can be stunning, but hand painted silk may once again have the edge, since it manages to achieve a degree of subtlety and shading cotton lacks.

Both are ‘natural’ fibers which allow the body to breath, an important point when choosing nightwear or lingerie and both can feel wonderful next to the skin, depending on the type of fabric chosen. Cotton mixed with polyester for example can be very crisp, while cotton voile or cotton lawn are luxuriously soft. The same can be said for silk, where silk dupioni has a crisp texture while silk  charmeuse is wonderfully soft and light.

But in the 21st century women are all about practicality and for that reason silk will always be reserved for special occasions because as we all know, only cotton is a practical fabric.

But is that really true? There is a popular conception that silk is not washable. It is true that silk can shrink when washed, but actually so can cotton, and the shrinkage is usually very small. In fact most silks wash well even in a washing machine as long as they are treated fairly gently, the water temperature is low and no harsh chemicals are applied. Even silk dupioni can be washed, though it may loose some of it’s luster. Silk is actually a stronger fiber than cotton, and since it absorbs dye you can wash silk without seeing the same level of color fade as from printed cotton.

So choose you priority and choose your fabric. If you love silk but have always chosen cotton because it’s more practical, you might like to think again.

Katie Peachesa
Katie Peachesa

Katie Peachesa is a sex and lingerie blogger based out of the urban chic Wapping in the heart of East London, United Kingdom. In her spare time, Katie enjoys photography, yoga and fitness, a bit of boxing, traveling, keeping up with the latest fashion trends and mudlarking and exploring pastoral settings. You are likely to find Katie in an artisan cafe in Brick Lane on a Saturday afternoon furiously typing her next article on her laptop whilst she is sipping on her flat white and drawing inspiration from the hustle and bustle in the heart of creative London. Katie runs the "Fashion Life Mag" and has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Allure, Grazia, Tatler, Evening Standard and other popular media outlets.

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