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A Brief History of Corduroy: from kings to workers via the Lancashire mills

Women's Land Army workers tilling the fields during WW2

My latest pieces are made with some very special corduroy, made in the last remaining corduroy factory in the UK, which has been going - in the same building in Lancashire - for 150 years! Corduroy was invented in the cotton mills of Lancashire, where its durability and warmth made it perfect for the many factory workers in the area. It's thought that the name "corduroy" comes from an English transliteration of the French ‘corde du roi’ or ‘cloth of the king’, and although the cloth was part of the uniform of the servants in the King’s and Queen’s palaces in the 18th and 19th centuries, this moniker was most likely a marketing ploy by some clever mill owners in the north of England, a way of imbuing this special cloth with some French sophistication. Corduroy has more yarns per square inch than most fabrics, so it is sturdy and protective, like cosy armour. The ridges in it, known as wales, probably came about as a means of strengthening the fabric and extending its lifespan. In the 19th century, thanks to this dependable sturdiness, corduroy became a symbol of working-class identity and political radicalism (Friedrich Engels’ father owned a Salford textile mill!), and in WW1 Lancashire corduroy was used to make soldier’s uniforms and the breeches worn by the Women’s Land Army (also in WW2) – I love the photos of those groups of women, always looking cheerful and determined!

I’ve chosen corduroy in rich red and blue for my winter waistcoats. I’m proud because I know these pieces will last years and keep you warm and strong for a good long while, just as this same fabric did for those Manchester factory workers and Land Army women moons ago.

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