The History of Down Clothing

Keeping warm in the cold months while still looking great takes a lot of fashion dedication and down clothing is a great way to stay toasty while looking fantastic! Down jackets can be made from a variety of feathers including duck and goose. We know they are a great way to trap in the heat, but just how long have we been using this method of heat-retention in our clothing?

Early Uses

In the 14th century, down was used in bedding but it was reserved for the very rich, however, by the turn of the 19th century down bedding and clothing was a far more common sight. These types of beds were originally called feather ticks and were valuable possessions, often passed down through many generations through family wills. Geese and ducks became popular farm animals as their down was highly sought after and the increase of kept birds made down more affordable to the average person. By the 19th century, many families used down jackets but the first recorded use of down in clothing came in the 1500s when a rich Japanese ruler showed off his feathered jacket.

The original use of down in clothes and bedding took copious amounts of time to prepare and until the 20th century people had to air down in the sun and wind in order to reduce damp. Some chose to store their down in warm, dry spaces indoors but this preparation time is now handled by machines. For hundreds of years, eiderdown was tightly quilted by hand and what was labelled as being eiderdown was often actually goose down. This practice no longer happens as tighter laws prevent companies from false advertising and machines usually handle the stuffing of the down to create down jackets, bedding or other clothing.

What is Down?

The majority of down jackets or coats are made from duck or goose feathers and down is a specific type of feather that baby birds have before they grow their adult feathers. Down creates an insulated layer of soft feathers beneath the outer layer of the adult feathers and 90% of down is a by-product of birds that are killed for their meat. The most sought after type of down comes from a duck called an eider and these ducks live in cold climates such as Iceland. Currently, around 70% of down comes from China while Siberian goose down is also popular.

Down outerwear is used by men and women and thanks to today’s vibrant fashion world, down jackets are available in a wide range of sizes, styles and colours to ensure everyone can look great and feel warm and cosy at the same time. Many companies pad their down jackets out with non-down feathers or synthetic materials but the best down jackets will contain around 90% of down feathers for the best insulation. Down is a light material that is perfect for keeping warmth in without carrying a lot of excess weight from a large puffy coat.

Down Outerwear and Other Uses

Down coats and outerwear items have been around for centuries and they are now commonly used in a variety of other things as well. Here are some of the most common:

  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Bedding
  • Duvets
  • Down coats and jackets
  • Body warmers

Down coats have been popular ways to stay warm against the cold elements that Mother Nature often throws our way for hundreds of years. However, the last two decades has witnessed a big transformation in the technology used in down coats and other outerwear as companies increase their offerings from simple down jackets to down jackets that are generally more lightweight and use special heat technology. These types of clothing are popular with people who reside in cold areas around the world but they are also ideal for explorers looking to climb mountains or spend time in unusually chilly regions.


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