Chapt 20 - Common Costume Fabrics
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Table of Contents ] Chapt 1 - Fabric ] Chapt 2 - Tools and Equipment ] Chapt 3 - The Sewing Machine ] Chapt 4 - Patterns ] Chapt 5 - Pressing ] Chapt 6 - Marking The Fabric ] Chapt 7 - Preparing to Begin ] Chapt 8 - Seams ] Chapt 9 - Seam Finishes ] Chapt 10 - Stabilization ] Chapt 11 - Control of Fullness ] Chapt 12 - Finishing Edges ] Chapt 13 - Hand Sewing ] Chapt 14 - Closures ] Chapt 15 - Body Measurements ] Chapt 16 - Ease In Clothing ] Chapt 17 - Pattern Alterations ] Chapt 18 - Finished Dimensions ] Chapt 19 - Common Terms ] [ Chapt 20 - Common Costume Fabrics ] Index of Sewing Exercises ]

bulletCALICO: This is a plain weave, smooth surface, generally cotton or cotton blend cloth. The name refers to the small, all over, generally floral pattern that identifies it. Historically Calico referred to a number of stripes and prints other than floral.
bulletCANVAS: Also known as Sailcloth or Duck, this is a heavy, strong, cotton fabric. Canvas is-heavier than either sailcloth or duck, but the names are often used interchangeably. It is often used in costume shops for corsets, underlining and heavy capes and cloaks.
bulletCHALLIS: This is a soft, light-weight, plain weave fabric. Traditionally it is printed with floral or paisley designs, but in the last few years the variety of prints available in challis has widened. It drapes well and because of the prints it is often used for period garments and shawls.
bulletCHIFFON: This is a soft, flimsy, very light-weight plain weave fabric. Silk chiffon moves and drapes exquisitely but is expensive. Nylon and polyester chiffons are stiffer, less drapeable but much more affordable to most costume shops.
bulletCORDUROY: This is a familiar piled fabric cut into wales or stripes. The wales come in a variety of widths, making the fabric useful for everything from work clothes to lightweight skirts and jackets. Corduroy is often used as costume fabric to create the look of wool or velvet.
bulletCREPE: Crepe is the term used to describe the crinkled surface given to certain dress fabrics. This is achieved by twisting the yarns before they are woven or with chemicals and heat. Crepe is essential for producing many period garments, especially the 1920's and 1930's dresses. It moves and drapes beautifully
bulletDENIM: Denim is a twill weave and comes in a variety of colors and weights, although indigo is the most common. Denim wears extremely well and therefore is often used on costumes that receive a great deal of wear.
bulletDRILL: Drill is similar to denim, but smoother and usually better in quality. It is most often used for uniforms and tropical wear. The best drill is made from cotton, but it is available in a variety of synthetic blends.
bulletFLANNEL: This is a soft, plain weave fabric with a napped surface. It is used often for sleepwear and period underpinning construction.
bulletGABARDINE: This is a twill weave with a tight, hard surface. It was traditionally made from wool, but modern methods have produced gabardine in a variety of synthetics; polyester being the most common. It is used for a variety of men's and women's suits and jackets as well as a variety of period garments.
bulletGINGHAM: This is a traditional cotton fabric woven in a plain weave with yard dyed checks. The checks range in size from 2" square to as little as 1/4"
bulletJERSEY: This is a single-knit fabric with a plain flat surface on one side and a slightly textured reverse side. It is manufactured in cotton, wool, and a variety of blends. It drapes beautifully and has some elasticity so it is widely used in costumes.
bulletLINEN: This is the name of a fabric as well as one of the natural fibers. Linen fabric was once manufactured strictly from linen fibers, but today there are a variety of synthetics treated to resemble linen. Linen yarns are uneven which produces a slubbed or bumpy texture. Linen is often used in costumes because of the texture, it also is used for many peasant and period costumes.
bulletORGANDY: Organdy is a thin, translucent, originally all cotton, fabric woven in a plain weave and then treated to a special finish that gives it a characteristic stiff, glossy finish. It is seen extensively in period costumes and aprons.
bulletPOPLIN: Poplin is a very densely woven fabric with a fine horizontal rib. Some poplin is all cotton, but much of it now is synthetic blends. Poplin has a crisp feel and luster so it is used extensively in men's trousers and period skirts and blouses.
bulletSATIN: This is also a type of fabric as well as a weave. There are several major types of satins commonly found in costumes:
bulletAntique satin is generally considered to be a drapery fabric. It is reversible and so it is used for many capes, cloaks, etc. where both sides of the garment will be visible. One side of the antique satin is very shiny and the other has a slightly slubbed texture.
bulletCrepe-back satin has a smooth side and a crepe side. It is lighter in weight than any of the other satins and drapes beautifully, so it is used extensively in clothing from the 1920's to 1940's.
bulletSlipper satin has a very high thread count and so is considered the most durable of the satin family. Evening wear, shoes, and heavy period costumes incorporate slipper satin often.
bulletDuchesse satin is one of the heaviest and richest looking of the satin family, and so is commonly seen in wedding gowns and formal wear.
bulletSERGE: This is one of the basic suiting fabrics. It has a firm, compact twill weave and traditionally is woven from wool.
bulletSILK: There are several silk fabrics that are common in costumes:
China silk is a lightweight, relatively inexpensive silk used chiefly for fantasy, distressed and dance costumes.

Pongee is a medium weight silk with a slight irregularity in the yarn to give it some texture. Used extensively in period garments.


Raw Silk is actually a misnomer for a group of silk fabrics that have not been totally degummed leaving them heavy, stiff and with a matte finish.


Thai Silk is heavy weight, often slubbed and woven in brilliant colors that are iridescent.


Tussah Silk is woven from silk fibers produced by wild silkworms. Naturally tan in color it has a much rougher texture than silk from cultivated worms. Some people also call this raw silk.

bulletSPANDEX: Often called Lycra or Swimwear it is actually a blend of spandex and lycra fibers and synthetics. Known for its sheen and great stretch it is widely used for dance, fantasy and some period garments.
bulletTAFFETA: This is a plain weave fabric with a stiff feel and a characteristic rustle when it moves. It was originally manufactured from silk, but most modern taffeta is acetate or rayon. It is often seen with a water marking, called moiré taffeta. It uses are varied from petticoats to evening gowns and period garments.
bulletVELVET: This piled fabric has a close weave and can be plain or with a design cut into the pile. Panne velvet is produced by crushing some of the pile in different directions. Velvet is used a great deal for formal and period garments.
bulletVELVETEEN: Today velveteen refers to pile fabric, woven like velvet with a cotton fiber content. It is less expensive and therefore is often used to replace velvet onstage.
bulletVELOUR: This knit or woven fabric has a thick, short pile. This group of fabrics is also used to replace velvets onstage.

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