Learn How SIMPLE
Digital Patterns Really Are!

Sign Up to Receive
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sewing Patterns eBook + a FREE Skirt Pattern!


Polyester is for push-overs. When you want respect, you wear barathea.

Regularly appearing at such well-heeled places as West Point, English Court, Westminster Abbey and black tie events everywhere for the last 200 years or so, barathea began its illustrious career as a powerhouse fabric in the men’s formalwear world. Commonly found in black or blue-black, barathea’s soft, smooth, springy hand makes for one classy evening coat.

Though its typically associated with menswear, barathea is a perfectly acceptable choice for women’s coats and wintertime dresses. The 1950’s afforded two silhouette choices for women: you could opt to look like a big poufy flower from the waist down (a la Dior’s New Look) or you could choose to wiggle around in a pencil skirt, sometimes revealing more hourglass than you intended. Barathea was too heavy for most New Look dresses, but it was just right for pencil-skirted sheath (a.k.a “wiggle”) dresses. Because of its association with powerful, important men, barathea was paired with long sleeves and a double-breasted cut to confer a much-needed air of respectability to those clingy, revealing wiggle dresses.

1950’s notwithstanding, my favorite moment for vintage barathea is in 1966, when Yves Saint Laurent dropped the bomb known as “le smoking” on fashion. “Le smoking” was the first tuxedo suit (read: pantsuit) for women and it was made, of course, from of barathea. Folks were so scandalized by this gender-bending fashion statement that women donning “le smoking” were banned from many highfalutin restaurants on account of attempting to wear pants to a fancy establishment while female.


Can you even imagine that happening now? There have been a lot of proud days for barathea but I think that one takes the cake. In one fell swoop, YSL cut up some barathea and changed the way we view fashion possibilities for women forever. Yes, it took a while to catch on and yes, I’m as hesitant as the next person to call the pantsuit an “amazing legacy.” But, c’mon, it’s nearly impossible to imagine our world – hello, Hilary Clinton! – without women having the right to literally “wear the pants.”

Thank you, Yves Saint Laurent and thank you, too, barathea!


  • Holliebell_large

    Nov 25, 2010, 01.41 AMby freakusbzzz

    Army menwear Barathea pants and it rubs the hairs off their legs.

    3 Replies
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 26, 2010, 06.11 PMby eringilday

      yikes! duly noted. maybe a nice lining would help?

    • Me_pecks_large

      Nov 27, 2010, 06.10 AMby nessys

      Well girls – if you did decide to whip up a Barathea smoke suit it would appear you can then wave bye-bye to the beauty parlor for that leg wax then! ;)

      Cool suit and hair free legs – a winning combination!

    • Cali_large

      Nov 30, 2010, 09.44 PMby threadsquare

      Nessys – I was thinking the same thing! Two birds, one stone :)

  • Image_large

    Nov 25, 2010, 12.21 AMby loyl8

    wow I can/t believe I have never heard of this fab fabric> I’,m sure there are lts of stuff I don’t know and need to learn. Thank you!!! Researching tonight!!

    2 Replies
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 25, 2010, 01.49 AMby eringilday

      No problem, Loyl! Enjoy!

    • D12aca268f879dfb324a9c71704e376adbb49642_large

      Nov 29, 2010, 10.58 AMby nana2be

      Ditto…I am humbled, lol. Guess I need some reading too.

  • Me1_large

    Nov 24, 2010, 10.49 PMby fashionfreek

    HI. Great suit. Excellent designer.I remember wearing a suit and ties for work. My black pinstripe suit was the best.

  • Missing

    Nov 24, 2010, 10.42 PMby mollybermea

    ADORE vintage fabric/patterns. wish I could pull that look off!

  • A62fd3e168ca539f65b7abf0de881ccb60560d25_large

    Nov 24, 2010, 09.23 PMby eleny

    Nice pics!

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 25, 2010, 01.48 AMby eringilday

      Thanks, Eleny!

  • Profile_pic_large

    Nov 24, 2010, 09.14 PMby whalen

    My next goal at the fabric store is to find some barathea to touch. Although, I guess that may be hard, since it’s vintage? Is barathea easily available? Or where would I find some?

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 25, 2010, 01.48 AMby eringilday

      Hi Whalen! No, no, they totally still make barathea! I just used the word vintage because it was more commonly used before all those synthetics moved in and cornered the suiting market. I would think a better-stocked fabric store would carry it. I have it here at Fabric Depot. If you’re just looking to touch it, I would think a nicer men’s suit shop would be a sure bet. HTH!

  • Missing

    Nov 24, 2010, 09.11 PMby bytehaus

    These pantsuits are simply dashing…beautiful!! What a great fashion statement…I went through a short phase in high school where I liked to wear ties (and subsequently my girlfriends did the same…made for a very weird class picture that year, because we surely didn’t know to wear them with a stylish ensemble)…I think I should unearth that trend….

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 25, 2010, 01.45 AMby eringilday

      Oh wow, I would LOVE to see those pics!

  • Project_image_1_large

    Nov 24, 2010, 07.49 PMby Jamie Lau

    This is a great piece! I personally love wearing ties! Great YSL photos!

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 25, 2010, 01.44 AMby eringilday

      Thanks, Jamie!

  • Avatar3_large

    Nov 24, 2010, 07.30 PMby carottesauvage

    Funny you mention this… there was a programme on BBC radio 4 last week on how women in position of power (including Hillary Clinton as you mentioned) were more and more inclined to wear a pantsuit in order to be taken seriously by their male colleagues :(

    3 Replies
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 25, 2010, 01.44 AMby eringilday

      Yeah, somehow not surprised by this. I’m not aiming at positions of power but I ALWAYS wear pants to the hardware store. And I never wear pants usually…but it’s worth it so that I don’t get a lecture on how to use a hammer.

    • Avatar3_large

      Nov 25, 2010, 02.02 AMby carottesauvage

      pretty wise!

    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 27, 2010, 10.10 PMby eringilday


  • Missing

    Nov 24, 2010, 06.54 PMby oohlela

    I think its a great idea to use vintage type fabrics with todays syteles. It creates an entirely different look.

  • Missing

    Nov 24, 2010, 05.47 PMby hlh

    Yes! Vintage men’s wear inspired fabrics are lovely and can make a very modern look…Barthea. I’ve been thinking of a jacket design and that would be a great fabric to work with.

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 24, 2010, 05.54 PMby eringilday

      Ooo, I would love to see your final creation! Barathea and jackets are a match made in heaven.

    • This is a question
  1. Sign in to add a post


  • Editors' Pick
  • Pattern Collections
  • BurdaStyle Academy
  • Burda Challenge
  • Backstage Report
  • Fashion & Trends
  • DIY to Try
  • Tips & Techniques
  • Member Highlights
  • Sewing Projects
  • Outta Town
  • Contests & Competitions
  • Archive
  • Guest Columns
  • Videos
  • Meg's Magazine Mash Up
  • As Seen In
  • Podcast
  • Holiday