Charmeuse – which is a French word meaning “charmer’’ -- is a special weave of silk that is shiny and lustrous on one side with a matte finish on the reverse. Charmeuse is the most popular weave of silk for pillowcases, sheets, and bedding. In this article we will discuss what defines a charmeuse weave, including why it is so special; compare charmeuse to other types of silk weaves; and tell you how to care for your charmeuse silk bedding.
This photo shows the difference between the “front” of the Charmeuse fabric, which is shiny and lustrous, and the “reverse” of the Charmeuse fabric which is has a matte finish.
If you’ve shopped for silk bedding, you’ve probably seen the terms “charmeuse silk” or “charmeuse weave” to describe silk pillowcases, silk sheets, duvet covers, and other bedding. Charmeuse silk is a luxury fabric that is incredibly popular in silk bedding thanks to its comfort, beauty, and versatility. But the terms “charmeuse silk,” “charmeuse weave,” and “satin silk” are often used interchangeably and can be confusing.
What is a Charmeuse Weave?
Charmeuse Silk or Charmeuse Weave is a style of weaving silk threads into a specific pattern to create a smooth luster on one side of the fabric and a matte finish on the reverse. Without getting too technical, charmeuse weave leaves more of the “weft,” or “top” yarns exposed during the weaving process. In the image below you will see the charmeuse weaving pattern - for every four wefts, the warp will go over the weft. This results in a significant difference between the “front” of the fabric, which is shiny and lustrous, and the “reverse” which is matte and soft.
All Mulberry Park Silks bedding and accessories are made of pure silk in a charmeuse weave. We are happy to offer a close look at what “charmeuse” really means and why its special properties are ideal for luxury bedding. First, let’s define some terminology:
Mulberry Silk: Mulberry silk fabric comes from worms fed exclusively with mulberry leaves. Mulberry silk is the finest silk fabric on Earth. The quality of mulberry silk is graded both by letter and number, with Grade 6A being the finest. All Mulberry Park Silks products are made from Grade 6A mulberry silk.
Satin Weave: Satin weave is another way to describe charmeuse weave. And while charmeuse silk is technically a “satin weave,” not all “satin fabric” is genuine silk. We will elaborate the difference in greater detail below.
What Makes Charmeuse Silk Fabric Unique?
Silk charmeuse fabric is uniquely soft with a lustrous drape, which makes it perfect for bedding. While both surfaces of the charmeuse (front and back) are soft and comfortable, the front is glossy and shiny with a beautiful luster, while the back is a duller, soft finish. This is an intentional feature of the charmeuse style of weaving. Charmeuse weave has been produced for thousands of years, first in China and later in Europe, particularly in France; this explains the Francophone origins of the term “charmeuse” which translates to “charmer.” Today charmeuse silk is woven on large industrial looms similar to the one below:
Styling Note: When making a bed with charmeuse silk sheets, most people choose to lay the top sheet “front” side down, so that you are sleeping in between the smoothest surfaces. However, there is no “right” way to make your bed with charmeuse sheets; either side of charmeuse silk will confer its legendary beauty and wellness benefits (see below).
The Many Benefits of Charmeuse Silk
Sleeping on a charmeuse silk pillowcase or sheet set is wonderful for your hair, skin, wellness, and sleep quality.
Charmeuse silk is gentle on your hair and skin
The soft surface of a charmeuse silk pillowcase allows your hair and face to smoothly glide across the surface. For your hair, a mulberry silk pillowcase in charmeuse weave minimizes bedhead, tangles, frizz, and knots. It also helps prevent sleep creases and facial wrinkles from forming. Regular pillowcases made of cotton fabric contain small fibers that pull and tug on hair and delicate facial skin; charmeuse silk is far gentler than cotton.
Charmeuse silk helps your hair and skin retain moisture
Like your skin and hair, silk fiber is protein based. In fact, silk contains essential amino acids that are important ingredients found in many salon- and spa-quality hair and skin products. Mulberry silk charmeuse naturally hydrates your skin and hair while you sleep. Cotton, on the other hand, is absorbent and can actually pull moisture away from your skin and hair.
Charmeuse silk is naturally hypoallergenic
Pure silk charmeuse is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to mold, mites, and other irritants. This makes silk an excellent choice for anyone with sensitive skin including babies and anyone suffering from allergies, eczema, psoriasis or other irritation. Dermatologists often recommend sleeping on silk for their patients with sensitive skin. Note: While pure mulberry silk is hypoallergenic, Mulberry Park Silks has taken the extra step of having all of our silk products independently certified by OEKO-TEX as free from any harmful chemicals through every phase of production.
Charmeuse silk is naturally temperature regulating
The unique molecular structure of silk fiber means that charmeuse silk sheets, pillowcases, and bedding will keep you cool in the summer by wicking away moisture and warm in the winter by creating pockets of insulation. This makes charmeuse silk a versatile fabric that can keep you sleeping comfortably year round.
The Differences Between Charmeuse and Other Types of Silk
While charmeuse silk is the most popular type of silk weave for bedding and even clothing, there are many other styles of silk weave in the marketplace. Here are a few others you may have heard of:
- Gauze: a sheer, delicate, floaty silk
- Organza: sheer, lightweight plain weave that holds shape
- Chiffon: a plain weave sheer silk often used in evening wear and dresses
- Crepe de Chine: crisp, crinkled wave
- Jacquard: a drapey silk with a pattern woven in
- Shantung: a crisp, light silk with an irregular slub weave
- Taffeta: a crisp, plain silk weave that “rustles
Another important term to understand with regard to any type of silk is momme. Similar to thread count in cotton fabric, momme is the measurement of a silk’s weight and the density of the weave. Higher momme count silk contains more silk fiber than lower momme count silk; it is also made with heavier silk fibers. For reference, silk gauze is typically 3 to 5 momme weight; silk chiffon is generally 6 to 8 momme weight; and silk crepe de chine ranges between 12 and 16 momme.
Mulberry Park Silks pillowcases, sheets, and bedding range from 19 to 30 momme weight, with 19 momme being roughly the equivalent of 600 thread count in cotton. Our 22 momme weight is our most versatile and popular, with 30 momme representing the heaviest weight and most luxurious bedding we sell.
Pure Genuine Silk vs. Polyester Satin
With the popularity of pure silk charmeuse pillowcases, bedding, and accessories, there has been a bit of confusion about the difference between silk and “satin.” As we mentioned above, charmeuse is a type of satin weave. However, many unscrupulous merchants will attempt to capitalize on this ambiguity to sell an inferior silk, a silk blend, or a polyester fabric that is not at all silk to customers who think they are purchasing genuine silk.
To be clear: only pure mulberry silk charmeuse confers the health, beauty, and wellness benefits we are discussing. Furthermore, genuine natural silk is a truly luxurious fabric. Satin is a style of weaving. Satin is also a shorthand term for a smooth, charmeuse-style weave synthetic fabric that is made from petroleum-based nylon or rayon. Satin is NOT the same as silk.
So how can you tell the difference? To begin with, satin is shiny, where silk is soft and lustrous. Also, genuine silk will ALWAYS be labeled with a momme weight. You should also read the product description and the label of any item you are buying, and purchase only from a trustworthy company like Mulberry Park Silks. A reputable silk vendor will be completely transparent about the content and origins of their fabric. A very low price point is also a red flag; if a pillowcase is priced less than twenty dollars, you should be suspicious that it is not genuine silk. Read more about how to tell genuine silk from fake silk here.
Easy Instructions for Charmeuse Silk Care
Charmeuse silk bed linen from Mulberry Park Silks can be easily cared for with only a bit of extra attention. The best news: your pure silk charmeuse sheets are hand- and machine washable. We recommend using Luxury Silk, Wool, and Cashmere Detergent from Heritage Park, which is specially formulated without enzymes to gently natural fibers like silk, cashmere, and wool fabric. Note: you can also use this detergent for any washable silk garment (follow the manufacturer’s care guidelines).
Wash your silk items by themselves in cold water. Turn pillowcases inside out and submerge in a sink or utility tub (even a clean bathtub for sheets works well) Add a small amount of soap, submerge, and gently agitate with your hand; don't rub or scrub. Thoroughly rinse out all soap. Do not wring; if need be, roll silk in a clean, white towel to absorb excess moisture.
For machine washing, wash silk in a separate, silk-only, load. Turn silk pillowcases inside out before laundering, and place all silk items in fine mesh laundry bags to help keep the silk from tearing. This is particularly important if your machine has an agitator mechanism. Silk is a lightweight fabric that can sometimes get caught under the agitator and tear and pull. A mesh fabric wash bag will help protect your silk sheets from damage. Use cool water on a delicate or silk cycle. Again, if your silk is wet after washing, do not wring it out; use a towel to absorb excess moisture.
Never put your silk charmeuse bedding in the dryer. Hang it to dry indoors or outside away from direct sunlight, which can fade silk. You can touch up your silk with a cool iron (lowest setting, iron on the reverse) but we find that when you make your bed, the wrinkles naturally release within a day or two.