You can wear a suit to look classy, professional, artsy, or scholarly. Imagine wearing a bespoke cashmere suit to the office, and then picture yourself in a red velvet smoking jacket instead! The type of fabric your suit is made of makes a strong statement, so choosing the best fabric for suits is essential.
The best fabric for suits is wool woven in many popular patterns, including herringbone, twill, houndstooth, and sharkskin. Wool provides breathability and softness, key qualities in a suit. Cotton, linen, velvet, and silk also make popular styles of suits for specific occasions.
In this article, you will find out what defines a good suit fabric. You will also learn the key characteristics of the most popular types of suiting fabric. Finally, you will get clued into the controversy over synthetic suits.
8 Best Fabrics for Suits
The most popular types of fabric for suits have several key characteristics, such as softness and breathability for comfort and an elegant drape for style! In this section, you will find all the basic info you need about the eight most popular types of suiting material.
Luxury Suiting Fabrics
Luxury suiting fabrics reach way beyond the merely expensive fabrics like linen and worsted wool and shoot into stratospheric price ranges of anywhere from $10,000-$50,00 per suit! While this level of suit typically involves expensive bespoke tailoring, the true cost comes from the rarity of these luxury fabrics.
Most luxury suiting fabrics come from certain rare animals. These unique types of material have extremely limited production around the world, allowing manufacturers to set incredible prices.
Vicuña fabric comes from a type of llama found in the wilds of South America. This animal does not do well in captivity, so they live wild and have their soft underfur harvested once every three years. Vicuna hairs are the finest type of wool in existence, even finer than cashmere!
Some types of cashmere also fall into this extreme luxury classification, though these days, you have to watch out for cheaper products. Truly high-end, Grade A cashmere uses such fine goat hairs that they measure less than 14 microns in width! Cashmere provides one of the softest types of wool in the world, so you will never feel a scratchy thread if you can afford a cashmere suit!
Other rare animals like the qiviut and the guanaco also provide super rare, super soft under-hair that creates costly fabric. You don’t see this type of wool on the market in big box stores or even from retail fashion name brands, for sure!
Today, many luxury brands, high-end designers, and bespoke tailors also use a wide range of blended fabrics. These will often merge silk, rare wool, and less expensive wool made with super fine threads, for example. This kind of fabric can still cost a small fortune, but it has its own unique characteristics and style because it merges different fibers.
How to Choose the Right Suiting Fabric
The most important qualities of any suiting fabric are the fabric’s weight, its breathability and softness, and its type of weave. Of course, the cut and style of your suit play a role as well, but even a stylish cut won’t make up for using the wrong material!
You also need to consider the time of year and climate where you plan to wear the suit. For example, cotton will keep you cool during the spring and summer but will not keep you warm in chillier weather.
Finally, matching the suiting fabric to the appropriate occasion matters, too! Some fabrics traditionally look more appropriate in certain settings, while others have universal acceptability. Wool suits, for example, generally fit in anywhere.
Take a look at these key characteristics of suiting fabric to help you make a perfect choice!
Fabric weight can get confusing because different kinds of materials use different measurements. The key to this category is that usually, lightweight fabric works best for hot weather, and heavier-weight fabric will keep you warmer in cold weather.
Most types of material are measured in either grams per meter, called GSM, or in ounces per yard, called oz. These measurements describe how much a certain length of material weighs. Thicker yarns or a denser weave will weigh more than fine yards or a loose weave.
On top of this, you will often see the terms “light,” “medium,” and “heavy” weight thrown around. These do not necessarily have a scientific specificity, but they will give you a general idea of the thickness of the fabric. For example, tweed fabric is usually referred to as a heavyweight fabric, weighing in around 14 oz.
Does fabric weight matter aside from the hot and cold issue? Actually, yes. Fabric weight also plays a role in the drape and style of a suit.
Very thin fabric may not drape as well as a medium-weight fabric. For this reason, super fine wool may have too much softness, almost to the point of translucence. It may also wear out quickly or get shiny patches.
Likewise, a heavyweight fabric can have a stiff, stodgy look because it has too much bulk to drape easily.
Breathability makes a world of difference in a classy and comfortable suit. You do not want to feel suffocated under multiple layers of material, so you need a fabric that allows air to flow through its weave, keeping your temperature comfortably regulated all day long!
Cotton and linen both have excellent breathability for summer wear. That said, most types of wool have remarkable breathability, too!
Technically, wool has excellent temperature regulating abilities. It responds to your body temperature, allowing the hot air to flow out when you feel overheated, and insulating you when you get chilled.
If you find yourself in a sweaty situation, cotton will absorb the moisture and display the sweat stains for a long time. Wool, on the other hand, will suck up the moisture and quickly dissipate it into the outside air!
No one wants to wear rough or scratchy clothes, so softness also matters a lot when choosing a suiting fabric!
The type of material will determine some of the softness in any fabric. For example, cashmere has an incredible softness and will always feel softer than sheep’s wool. This has to do with the natural fiber diameter of the material used to make fabric.
That said, other factors can impact a fabric’s softness as well. Higher thread count per square inch means that finer threads created the weave. This makes the fabric softer to the touch.
Cotton can have varying degrees of softness depending on its thread count, for example.
The fabric’s texture also makes it feel more or less soft. A fabric with a sleek, smooth surface, like silk, will always feel softer than a fabric with a prickly surface, like certain types of wool.
Type of Weave
The type of weave gives a piece of fabric its unique appearance. Popular weave patterns for suiting include houndstooth, twill, gabardine, herringbone.
What is a weave pattern? Well, when you think of weaving, you probably visualize a typical basketweave pattern, with threads crisscrossing each other at right angles. This basic plain weave, or over-under pattern, has many fancier competitors!
A houndstooth weave looks like many tiny dog heads with tall ears and sharp teeth, all interlocking like puzzle pieces! This effect happens when two different colors of thread in a twill weave build a broken check design.
A twill weave remains one of the most popular weaves for many types of suiting fabric. This pattern uses a diagonal rib design, often in two colors of thread. Denim uses a twill weave with blue and white threads, for example.
A gabardine weave has an elegant appearance created by a variation on the twill weave, using more warp than weft threads. It has a smooth back but a raised, diagonal pattern on the surface of the fabric.
You may sometimes see a herringbone weave referred to as a broken twill weave. It looks like twill, except that the lines in the diagonal pattern slant one way in one row and then the other way in the other row! This contrasting pattern has a unique visual appeal.
Popular Ladies Suit Fabric Types
Women’s suits typically feature styles that accentuate different body parts than men’s suits, but they use the same set of suiting fabrics. For example, worsted wool is also the most popular material used in high-end women’s suits.
That said, you will find that satin or silk suits, especially in a jacket and pencil skirt style, are a popular choice for women.
In terms of luxury fabrics, you can also find vicuna, cashmere, and high-end worsted wool available in women’s suits.
What is the Best Suit Fabric for Summer?
Linen, cotton, and lightweight worsted wool are the best suit fabrics for summer or warm weather wear.
When selecting a suit for the summer, you want a lightweight material that has a looser weave. Ideally, you should choose a very breathable material as well.
Cotton and linen have great breathability. Wool provides the best temperature regulation of any all-natural fiber, so nice lightweight wool can keep you cool as well!
The construction and style of the suit can also help keep you cool. You should go in an unlined suit jacket for hot weather, for example.
What’s Wrong with Polyester Suits?While nearly all mass-market retailers sell various polyester suits, high-end brands generally don’t use this fabric because its affordability gives it an air of cheapness. Polyester is an affordable synthetic material basically made out of plastic. Low-quality polyester suits do look sort of shiny, giving them a cheap look.
Now, textile sciences have advanced by leaps and bounds in the past decades, and some types of polyester can closely mimic many types of natural fabric. Polyester makes up more than half of all retail clothing sold around the world!
So really, the polyester suit issue is open for debate. If you want affordable suits, go for it! If you want a fancy brand and high-end quality, you’re going to need to dish out the dollars for an expensive all-natural material like wool.
You will also see a great deal of debate over whether or not polyester feels as soft and breathable as a natural fabric. Generally, cotton has a softer feel than 100% polyester. Likewise, wool has greater breathability.
It’s true that in fashion, like in life, you usually get what you pay for. But not everyone can afford a bespoke worsted wool suit, so there’s nothing wrong with picking out an elegant polyester suit to wear to the office, either!
The most popular suiting fabric is wool, closely followed by linen and cotton. When selecting the best suiting fabric for you, you should consider the softness, breathability, weight, and type of weave of the material. Some suiting fabrics have a distinctive appearance that makes them more suited for specific occasions as well.
Many ready-wear clothing brands sell polyester suits. These suits can have an attractive appearance and stylish cuts, but the synthetic fabric has a cheaper look than a classic suiting material like wool.
What fabric is your favorite suit made out of? Where do you like to wear it? Leave a comment below to let us know!