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Fabrics & terms we use to describe clothing

Fabrics & terms we use to describe clothing

November 21, 2017

Fabrics & terms we use to describe clothing

I’ve been learning a lot about fabric and clothes making as I list all these beautiful & funky clothes for Charlie & Flo’s. In case you haven’t got time to search some of the less common clothes descriptors I use on this website, here are some quick facts about each.



Smocking is an embroidery technique used to gather fabric so that it can stretch. Before elastic, smocking was commonly used in cuffs, bodices, and necklines in garments where buttons were undesirable.


Lawn, voile & batiste

If I’ve described something as either lightweight, summery, or floaty, I’m referring either to cotton lawn, voile or batiste. All are very lightweight cotton fabrics used for light blouses, shirts, skirts and dresses. The differences between the three fabrics are minor. In terms of weight, batiste is slightly heavier than lawn and voile. Lawn is the crisper of the three fabrics, voile is the drapiest, and batiste is in-between. Finally, voile and lawn often have a smooth, silky and even lustrous surface, due to using very fine, highly-twisted threads.


Guipure lace

Guipure lace is a delicate fabric made by twisting and braiding the threads to craft incredible designs that wows the eye. Guipure lace fabrics distinguish themselves from other types of lace by connecting the designs using bars or subtle plaits instead of setting them on a net.



Jersey is a single knit fabric that’s elastic and known for draping well. Mostly it’s used for t-shirts, but when it’s thicker and brushed on the inside it’s used for sweatshirts and sweatpants.


Swiss Dot

Swiss dot cotton is that very lightweight cotton with regular dots or tufts of fabric. Used a lot in summer clothing.




Broderie anglaise

Broderie anglaise is a form of embroidery in which round or oval holes are pierced in the material, and the cut edges then overcast; these holes, or eyelets, are grouped in a pattern that is further outlined by simple embroidery stitches on the surrounding material.




Twill is a popular weave pattern identified by diagonal lines on the face of the fabric. Denim, chino, gabardine and drill are all types of twill fabric.




Pointelle is a lightweight, cotton knit fabric with subtle openwork, usually in a geometric pattern, that adds a delicate texture to T-shirts, pajamas and childrenswear.





Houndstooth is a duotone textile pattern, often in black and white, that’s characterised by broken checks or abstract four-pointed shapes named for their resemblance to a dog’s tooth.



A sturdy cotton fabric with soft vertical ridges called wales or cords. Depending on the weight of the fabric, which is defined by the number of wales per inch, corduroy can be used in dresses, shirts, pants, coats and upholstery. 



Berber fleece

Berber fleece is a high-performance fabric that is extremely warm, soft, and lightweight. With a curly, slightly nubby texture and subtly flecked appearance, it has a plush sweater-knit backing. Comparable in softness and insulating properties to natural fur, it has a high warmth-to-weight ratio.


From shirts to jeans, for work or play, denim is always a sturdy cotton fabric woven with an indigo, gray or mottled white yarn. And remember: if it’s not made of cotton, it’s not denim! 


Coral fleece

Coral Fleece is thicker and has a higher “pile” than polar fleece. It tends have more stretch than most polar fleece. Coral fleece tends to be more expensive than polar fleece. 



A lightweight cotton fabric that combines coloured and white yarn. This is the perfect fabric for your spring and summer wardrobe.



Seersucker is a lightweight cotton fabric with alternating crinkled and smooth vertical stripes that never needs ironing - yay!



Chambray vs denim

Chambray and denim are often confused for one another, but they’re not the same. Without going into too much detail, the way to tell them apart is that typically you will notice a lighter colour to the underside of a denim fabric, whereas the underside of chambray will appear much more similar to its face side. Chambray and denim can be found in both heavy and light weight styles.


Plain weave construction
tends to be more lightweight
Softer feel
Unique sheen 


Twill weave construction
Tends to be thick & heavy
Rough to the touch
Classic look




Shirtwaister dress

A shirtwaister is a woman's dress with a seam at the waist, its bodice incorporating a collar and button fastening in the style of a shirt.


Bolero cardigan/jacket

A shrug/bolero is a cropped, cardigan-like garment with short or long sleeves, typically knitted, usually for women. Generally, a shrug covers less of the body than a vest would, but it is more tailored than a shawl. Shrugs are typically worn as the outermost layer of an outfit.

A shrug covers a small portion of the upper body. Some shrugs are tied together just below the bustline. Another style is cut off at the sides and thus little more than a pair of sleeves joined at the back.

Some people use bolero to refer to a more formal garment of similar construction but made of stiffer fabric.

Keen to know even more about types of cotton fabrics? Have a read of this site:

This sites contains all sorts of info about all sorts of fabrics:

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