From Hats To Underpants: What You Need To Know About Grosgrain Ribbon

The history of textiles is nearly always more fascinating than you would think, due to the very large impact that different types of clothing and clothing ornamentation have had on the human race. But few textiles come with the (somewhat ironic) history and multitude of modern uses that grosgrain ribbon does. The chances that you’re wearing some right now (whether you’re young or old, male or female) is so high that it just might be a good idea to learn about this humble yet ubiquitous ribbon — so here’s what you need to know.

You know more about it than you think

If you’re not interested in clothing, and your crafting skill amounts to making a square-knot lanyard at summer camp, you may not realize that you already know what grosgrain ribbon is. It’s actually the fairly common “ribbed” ribbon, known for its corded texture.Grosgrain ribbon was traditionally silk, but today it can also include those ribbed, corded ribbons made out of wool or nylon.

Its uses in clothing have differed wildly

Grosgrain fabric was once used as a sort of social climbing tool, meant to look high-quality at an affordable price. It decorated the hems and bottoms of jackets, dresses, etc. in order to give an air of sophistication and style to an otherwise plain garment. Often, the silk-imitation fabric was used to decorate hats in an effort to make them look a little higher-class.

After it fell out of fashion in the Roaring Twenties, grosgrain fabric turned to its most popular incarnation — grosgrain ribbon — and began a resurgence in clothing culture. Grosgrain ribbon isn’t just used for ornamentation anymore (though it makes up the vast majority of decorative bows); it’s found a home in the hems of polo shirts, to t-shirts, to even underwear. There are thousands upon thousands of uses for grosgrain ribbon in DIY projects because of its structural integrity and interesting texture.

It’s not just for clothing anymore

The human race is prone to taking something and using it for an entirely different matter than it was intended for — and it’s no different for grosgrain ribbon. What was designed to be used for hems in clothing has a place in more mundane utilities, like book binding (for structure), packing material (for cushioning and helping soft objects to keep their form), and even in the construction of percussion instruments like drums (as a sound dampening agent).