All About the History of Ribbon and Ways It Was Used

All About the History of Ribbon and Ways It Was Used

What’s not to adore about ribbon? It’s vibrant, lush, and comes in many colors, styles, and materials. Its versatility calls for usage in craftwork, fashion, and home décor everywhere, making it an exciting resource with eternal purpose. As curious beings, it’s only natural to wonder about the creation of ribbon and how it came to what we know today.

Who invented the fabulous crafting material? When did ribbon make its grand appearance? These are all pressing questions that will find answers as we explore all about the history of ribbon and ways it was used.

Origins and Meaning of “Ribbon”

The word itself went through some grammatic transformations throughout time. The term "ribbon" derives from the Middle English words “ribban” and “riban.” However, the word also has ties to Old French terminology, with "ruban" being its predecessor.

Despite various spelling variants throughout history, the word's meaning remained the same, referring to a long, narrow strip of textile used in decoration or binding. Often, the thin cloth includes selvage on each side to help maintain its form.

Humble Beginnings

Middle Ages

Ribbons are some of the oldest adorning and decorative materials, with prominent usage dating back to the Middle Ages. Peddlers traveled throughout Europe, selling ribbons to wealthy patrons wanting to decorate clothing.

Ribbons were associated with luxury, so English Parliament motioned for exclusivity in noble garments. Ribbons also identified with merit; knights would sport different color sashes based on their Order.

17th and 18th Century

By the 17th Century, ribbon usage was vast. It showed purpose in extravagant garments, hair accessorizing, and ornamenting furniture and linens. With the demand for the material rising, Coventry, England and Lyons, France became capitals for ribbon production and design.

The Victorian Era saw an incredible demand for ribbon since the women desired fancier dresses, underclothes, cloaks, and coats. Their hats would call for extensive yards of material to doll up their look.

Manufacture of Ribbon

The manufacture of ribbon relies on the usage of looms similar to those used in textile manufacture. Ribbon looms are taller and narrower than their textile counterparts due to the size of the material made.


Ribbon looms could simultaneously weave two or more webs during their early introduction. However, modern-day improvements can weave up to forty fabrics at one time. Looms were in different regions across Germany, but that didn’t stop local weavers from expressing their discontent.

Unfortunately, in fear of fewer job opportunities, local weavers in Leiden rioted in response to the ribbon loom’s introduction in 1620. The uproar was so significant that the loom underwent a long banning period.


The ribbon loom made its way to London and was named the Dutch Loom. While its usage caused a disturbance with weavers in the area, the machinery did not receive an extremely negative response as it did in Germany. In 1745, Joseph Stell and John Kay received patents to improve the ribbon loom’s functionality.

Uses in the 1980s and 1990s

While its travel to other countries is obscure, ribbon usage in other countries is massive. By the 1980s and 1990s, weavers were incorporating the material into bonnets, aprons, blouses, and skirts. In France, band color would represent the wearer’s religious beliefs.

By the 1920s, ribbon became part of elaborate evening dresses and gained the attention of several notable designers like Charles James, James Galanos, and Karl Lagerfield. With the sole use of various ribbon textiles, all these designers created intricate, fashionable pieces.

Influence in Modern Day Crafting

The ribbon industry is a continuously budding trade, with products serving a greater purpose outside of clothing and garments. Copious amounts of material production belong to the gift market and the cake, florist, stationery, and marketing industries.

Gift Wrapping

Ribbon production and sales reach a yearly peak during the holiday season as consumers get ready to wrap mountains of Christmas gifts. Its flexibility is fantastic for decorative bows and other beautiful accents to elevate gift presentation.

Cake and Flowers

Ribbons are elegant but straightforward additions to dress up a cake or flower arrangement. Often, double-sided satin ribbon is the best material for the job, as the ridges increase the ribbon’s adhesive power.

Crafts and Stationery

Ribbon use in crafting is endless! Craft enthusiasts worldwide use the material to create unique wreaths, candles, roses, and pins. Homemade jewelry made of ribbon has also gained attention over the years as consumers continue to develop innovative uses.


A ribbon is a beneficial tool to advertise a product or service in marketing. While adding a decorative accent to packaging, the material also facilitates product promotion and builds brand awareness.

Beyond Fashion and Crafting

Beyond the fashion and crafting world, ribbon is a notable material used in medal creation and commemoration. As part of medal presentation, armbands, and hatbands, the material signifies merit and remembrance for the military and deceased. Ribbon is also a primary component in creating awareness pins for chronic disease awareness.

Types of Ribbon

Ribbons come in several types, all made of different textiles and with differing purposes.

  • Grosgrain: Grosgrain is the go-to option for most projects. This material is thick and durable, yet elastic.
  • Jacquard: Jacquard ribbon is a unique option featuring patterns on both sides but inverse colors.
  • Satin: Satin ribbon is best for gift wrapping and is relatively inexpensive.
  • Picot Edge: Picot edge is versatile enough for bows, hanging ornaments, other crafting projects.
  • Print: This type is standard for marketing purposes; it features promotion text and logos.
  • Twill Tape: Twill tape ribbon is best for binding garment edges and encasing drawstrings.
  • Seam Binding: Seam-binding ribbon is optimal for hemming garment necklines, arms, and finishing seams.
  • Organdy: Organdy is a delicate, iridescent material constructed of silk, cotton, or rayon.
  • Velvet: This material has a luxurious feel that complements colder months and projects.

There is much to explore when it comes down to learning all about the history of ribbon and how it was used. Ribbon is a beautiful, intriguing material used in stitching, specialty craftwork, and fashion. Thanks to its fascinating past, this versatile crafting component holds a special place in our hearts when incorporating gorgeous embellishments on everyday objects and décor.

When searching for the perfect material to adorn your stunning craft projects, consider Ribbon By Design as your go-to location! Our extensive catalog contains soft, high-end ribbon of various designs to embellish your gorgeously homemade décor, scrapbooks, and fashion accessories. Contact us for additional questions and inquiries.

All About the History of Ribbon and Ways It Was Used

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