What is Damask Fabric: History, How its Made, Characteristics, Uses and Styles in Nigeria
Damask Fabric

What is Damask Fabric: History, How its Made, Characteristics, Uses and Styles in Nigeria

What is damask fabric? What’s it used for and how did it become quite popular in Nigeria? These and many more are answered in this detailed writeup.
Throughout history, fabric has become a very integral part of the culture of the people, and out of all the types of fabric we have today, one cannot help but notice the elegance and sophistication of damask. It has been in the plates of homes and part of people’s wardrobe for many centuries, giving any touch of class that it touches. Damask has also gradually gained its appreciation and recognition, becoming an inevitable part of Nigeria fashion and home textiles.

What is Damask Fabric: History, How its Made, Characteristics, Uses and Styles in Nigeria

What is Damask Fabric: History, How its Made, Characteristics, Uses and Styles in Nigeria

In this article, I would introduce you to damask fabric, its history, how it is made, what it looks like and how the Nigerian style incorporates it into fashion.

What is Damask Fabric?

Damask is one of the specific types of woven textiles characterized by the presence of diverse patterns. These patterns are established as the weaves are done therefore the patterns which are made are reversible by the face and the back of the fabric. The background is commonly non-glossy or anolis; by contrast, the pattern looks glossy and seems to shine. This is the reason that damask has this appearance and texture it does.

The name ‘damask’ has an origin to the city of Damascus that at the time of the Middle Ages was one of the chief centers for textile trading. The damask can be woven with a number of materials, for instance, with silk or linen, with cotton, wool, or synthetic fabrics. These factors show that the type of material determines the touch and feel of the fabric, and the appearance thereof.

History of Damask Fabric

Damask has a long and interesting history which dates back to at least four thousand years. The history of such forms of divination can be rooted back to some of the earliest civilizations, namely Chinese, Indian, and Middle East cultures. Some of the first classified elements comparable with damask appeared in China within the 3rd century BCE.

Old Damascus Fabric Store

Old Damascus Fabric Store

Thus, due to the lengthened trade routes, how to create the damask was adopted by other parts of the world, especially the east. The fabric came to be associated with Damascus, and for the Middle Ages, any material as complex as this was known as damask. Damask was originally a fabric imported into Europe from the East, but European weavers started weaving their own damast in the 14th century and it was regarded as a status symbol of the affluent.

Damask fabric came into Nigeria during the period of colonialism and is today acceptable and even considered as part of the Nigerian textile culture. The fabric has a rich pattern and touches rather opulent, which is probably why leisure wear clothes, formal wear clothes and outfits for festive occasions have it.

How is Damask Fabric Made?

The style of the damask fabric can be produced through a technique of weaving that is quite skillful and delicate. Originally the damask was invented and was woven using drawloom which facilitate the creation of the particular patterns. Presently most of the damask fabrics and produced using computerized jacquard weaving machines, as it is easier and allows more variance in the patterns to be used.

The weaving process involves using two sets of yarns: This is a weave where there is a set of yarns that run parallel to each and are also crossed by another set of yarns referred to as the warp (in the vertical direction) and the weft (in the horizontal direction). The pattern is thus formed based on the manner in which these yarns interlock in an actual way by undertaking these movements in an alternating pattern. Pile yarns are provided in areas where the pattern should be most apparent, which are the warp yarns. The weft yarns are dominant in the background.

This type of weaving gives fabric an appearance where the pattering on each side is reversed with a different color. For instance, if one side of the fabric has a light and a dark background, then turning it around will reveal a dark background with light on the other side.

Characteristics of Damask Fabric

As for the specific features of the Damask fabric, there are several traits that require to be highlighted.

They include the following:

  • Reversible pattern: In this case, it is printed on the front and on the back, which can be both useful for various creations.
  • Lustrous appearance: The pattern is commonly an enamel that has a streaked surface that gives it dissimilar appearance to the back ground.
  • Durability: Damask is usually well-enduring in strength and can maintain good long-standing, as it is closely woven.
  • Subtle texture: One can also be able to feel a kind of squeeze like feeling on the fabric especially when one is rubbing one’s hands on the fabric.
  • Variety of materials: Damask can be made of various fibers and these uses give the final product unique characteristics.
  • Wide range of patterns: As it will be highlighted later, the damask patterns can range from the most delicate floral patterns to such strict geometrical shapes as squares.

Damask Vs Brocade

Even though both represent some of the finest fabrics that are elaborate, there is a primary difference in them apart from the spelling: damask is usually weave while brocade is a type of. Damask has a reversible structure being produced by the weave while brocade has extra warps and weft arranged or embroidered on the base cloth to form a design. Brocade patterns are generally more threaded than damask patterns to give it that stereotypical, prominent feel.

Another difference is that the patterns of damask are usually more detailed and subtle as compared to the patterns of the brocade which are usually larger and more obvious. As for its flexibility, despite/common redecorating of ornament and similarity of the patterns in both types, damask seems more suitable for redecorating since it is reversible and has a more delicate pattern.

Uses of Damask Fabric in Nigeria

Damask is extremely beautiful and has very many uses; that is why it is used in many places:

  1. Home decor: Damask is frequently seen on table cloths, curtains, furniture upholstery and covers, and even on bedding materials.
  2. Fashion: Damask in Nigeria is especially used on traditional Nigerian clothing and very fashionable dresses used at night events as well as accessories.
  3. Accessories: Damask fabrics can be made in handbags, shoes, and even cases to mobile phones.
  4. Religious and ceremonial items: Many damask are incorporated in the altar cloths, vestments, ceremonial fabrics and the like.
  5. Wall coverings: Traditionally, the interior and especially bedroom interiors, were decorated with Damask wallpapers and fabrics used to make wall hangings.

How to Take Care of Damask Fabric

Just like with any other fabric, care should be taken to ensure that damask looks as good as new always. Here is how to do it:

  • One should always refer to the label at the back of the fabric, as each fabric requires different handling.
  • The prognosis for most damask is that it must be dry cleaned exclusively.
  • If washing at home, use cold water and avoid using a heavy or vigorous washing cycle such as fast spin, vigorous wash, etc.
  • Do not twist or wring damask fabrics as this greatly distorts the pattern weave of the fabric.
  • Iron when the fabric is slightly wet, and when ironing do it on low heat to avoid any type of burns.
  • Also, ensure that the items such as damask are stored flat or rolled to avoid creasing.

Damask Fabric Styles for Ladies in Nigeria

Damask is now very popular in Nigeria and is commonly used in fashion especially by women on occasions such as weddings. Some popular styles include.

Aso Ebi

Damask is used as a legal tender to pair up in beautiful attire worn by people in weddings, ceremonies and other related festivities.

Boubou or Kaftan

The loose and unrestricting form of the garment, complemented by the colors and material, is both practical and fashionable.

Wrapper and blouse

One of the classical pairs that look good in damask especially if combined in a specific layout.

Modern fusion

Many Nigerian designers in the present time have embraced the use of damask in fashionable designs while merging traditional and modern designs.


Headwraps (gele) made from damask cloth and quality handbags enhances the fashion worth of any female cloth wear.


Damask fabric is one of those materials that proved to be durable and has passed through the ages of time from a luxurious textile material to now being used in several parts of the world. One reason is that the material is highly versatile and has a long history, which many fashion aficionados and interior designers appreciate.
Specifically, the Nigerian culture has adopted damask and incorporated it into the widely diverse and colourful Nigerian textile culture, beautifying people and positioning the fabric decoratively in strategic places.

As we further look at the beauty and workmanship of damask, one can hardly fail to see why this fabric is still considered a favorite for many people in this world. And so we find that modern civilization is still proudly incorporating the beauty of damask in their mansions as curtains or in their choice of clothes for those royal occasions such as weddings and other ceremonies.


About Mfonobong Daniel

Daniel is a seasoned content writer and the content manager at Ankara. He is a lover of books, creative writing, with a penchant for poetry and music. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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