Have you ever looked at the manufacturer’s tag inside the waistband of your pants and wondered what the fabric composition meant? Or perhaps you want to sew a dress but have no idea what kind of cloth to use. This handy guide to different types of fabric will help you understand your own clothes!
Different types of fabric, such as cotton, polyester, and gauze, all have distinctive appearances and textures. Fabrics have differences because of the types of material used, such as plant matter or synthetic plastics. Fabrics also have differences based on the structure or weave of the cloth.
In this article, you will discover 55 popular types of fabrics and their key characteristics. You will learn how to identify different kinds of cloth. Finally, you will find tips on the best fabric for clothes and dresses.
55 Different Types of Fabric
The 55 most popular types of fabric include cotton, polyester, satin, denim, and many more!
Fabric is a textile made of material containing fibers, like wool and cotton. In most cases, the fibers go through a spinning process to twist into filaments or threads. Manufacturers use these yarns to form fabrics through several different processes.
Most fabrics use woven or knitted construction, though you can also find types of cloth like felt that use a matting technique to form fabric sheets. Highly advanced textiles sometimes use special construction to create moisture-wicking or heating and cooling fabrics.
In general, the terms fabric, cloth, material, and textile are used interchangeably. The word “fabric” sometimes also means the nature of a thing or the matter used within it, like when you say “the fabric of our lives” to talk about something essential to your life. The word has its roots in a Latin term, fabrica, which means a skillfully produced item.
This handy guide gives you a brief introduction to the 55 most commonly used types of fabric.
Brocade has a woven structure that incorporates multiple colors of thread to form raised designs on the surface of the fabric. It has a long history in traditional decorative clothing used in many cultures, like ancient Japan and the European Renaissance. Today, you see it used primarily in upholstery and in formal clothing.
Buckram fabric uses cotton or horsehair fibers in a plain weave, open structure.
It often has a coating of glue to make it even more durable and is used for shaping things like hats, curtains, and book covers.
Canvas uses a tightly-woven plain weave structure to combine cotton or polyester fibers into a durable, sturdy fabric.
It is often used for outdoor items like boat sails, awnings, or patio furniture.
Cashmere fabric comes from a special kind of goat that grows a soft underlayer of wool. Cashmere fabric can use either a knitted or woven structure depending on its intended use. This type of fiber creates incredibly soft and insulating items like sweaters, blankets, and socks.
Chenille yarns use piled fibers to form fuzzy, caterpillar-like lengths of thread. When woven or knitted together, this forms a super soft and fuzzy material often used for blankets.
Chiffon fabric has a plain weave structure with a special variation: the horizontal and vertical threads have unique twists in them as they weave together, creating a puckered, shimmery surface to the material.
Chiffon has a lightweight and smooth feel and is often reserved for fancy clothing like formal dresses.
Corduroy fabric has parallel cords or wales forming raised lines across it. This distinctive, soft structure to the cloth comes from adding additional piled yarn into the fabric as it is woven. Corduroy makes great cool-weather pants and jackets, among other popular uses.
Cotton cloth contains fibers from the boll of the cotton plant. These fabrics include quite a wide range of types of materials, as cotton has served as one of the most popular fabric fibers for many textiles for thousands of years.
Cotton fabrics include luxury materials like Pima, Supima, and Egyptian cotton, which come from special cotton plants. But most cotton clothing and fabric comes from the more common and less expensive strain of Upland cotton.
You can use cotton fibers to make hundreds of different kinds of fabric depending on the fabric construction you choose. This includes satin, flannel, gingham, muslin, gauze, and much more!
Crepe fabric can contain wool, silk, or polyester fibers. It uses a hard twisting method on the individual yarns before weaving the fabric, which gives the material a stiff, crinkled texture. This fabric has a lightweight feel despite its stiffer texture and is often used for shaped formal wear like evening dresses.
Damask is a kind of brocade fabric that uses two different weaving patterns to form unique raised designs in the material. The background of the fabric employs a twill or sateen weave to make a smooth, silky backdrop. The raised design uses a satin weave, sometimes made using many different colors of threads.
Denim uses blue and white cotton yarns in a twill weave to create a durable, greyish-blue cotton fabric. The most popular use for denim is in blue jeans, though you also see this popular material used for various other items like jackets and backpacks.
Felt is a unique fabric that does not use a woven or knitted structure. Instead, it uses a process of matting and moistening the fibers to press them into a cohesive sheet of material. Felt has many uses ranging from coats and hats to pads inside pianos!
Flannel can feature a plain or twill weave, but its most distinctive characteristic is the soft nap on the surface of the material made by brushing the cloth with wire bristles. Flannel can contain traditional wool or cotton, but today it usually contains cheaper synthetics like polyester instead.
14. Fleece Knit
Fleece knit fabric uses a smooth knitted fabric structure on the reverse side, but creates fuzzy, raised piles on the surface of the material. Think of a Sherpa-style fleece jacket, and you can picture what it looks like! The knitted structure makes the fabric stretchy and perfect for use in cool-weather clothing.
Foulard fabric can use a plain or twill weave, but it always has a tiny repeating raised design woven into the fabric’s surface. Traditionally, this material used silk or cotton fibers, but today, it may include rayon or polyester. Back in the day, it had many uses in high-class clothing, but today, you will mostly see it used in neckties.
Gabardine uses a twill weave structure and either cotton or wool fibers to create a super popular fabric for menswear like suits and coats. The founder of Burberry made it famous when he patented the fabric and used it to make the famous Burberry trench coat! You also see this fabric made from worsted wool used in many high-end suits.
Gauze fabric can use either a loose open weave structure or a non-woven, pressed structure. Either way, this material has a light and transparent feel and appearance and excellent absorbency. It is often used for medical bandages for this reason.
Georgette is a special kind of crepe fabric that uses the same twisted threads in its woven structure. It uses much finer threads, creating a sheer or semi-transparent material, though it often has a matte finish. Like most types of crepe, you see this fancy fabric used most often in formal wear.
Gingham fabric traditionally contains cotton in a plain weave structure using two different colors of thread. This creates a classic checked pattern, like a picnic tablecloth. Gingham typically comes in a light to mid-weight and can also work well for apparel like skirts and dresses.
20. Industrial Fabrics
Industrial fabrics include many materials and have many uses in industrial equipment. This special sub-category of fabrics can use all kinds of fibers made out of things like Kevlar, nylon, fiberglass, and Teflon. Some of these durable fabrics serve as protective clothing like firefighter’s gear or bullet-proof vests, but most industrial fabrics get used as pieces inside machinery.
Jersey fabric has one soft, single-ribbed knitted side and can sometimes have a piled, fleecy reverse side. Jersey knit has many popular uses in t-shirts, sweatshirts, and leggings. It can use cotton for extra softness or polyester fibers for less expensive clothing.
22. Khadi Fabric
Khadi fabric is a unique kind of handwoven cotton material traditionally made in some parts of India. This unique plain weave cotton often has slight variations in density or structure as the hand-spun and handwoven fabric does not look as precise as machine-made cloth. The minor imperfections in the cloth give it character and a unique value.
Khaki fabric also has its roots in India, meaning “dusty” in Hindi. This cloth can use either a twill or serge weaving structure to create a durable fabric with slightly raised diagonal lines on its surface. Today, this fabric is used prominently in khaki slacks and in many military and school uniforms.
Lace has an open and complex structure that can come from various weaving, knotting, or needlework methods. Lace can have a knitted or crocheted structure, but it more often uses a needle and thread to create patterns on a loose background or uses bobbins of thread with tatting or netting shuttles to create decorative patterns.
Lame fabric can have many different styles and textures, but it always includes metallic threads in its weave. This flashy fabric has many uses, including fancy clothes, costumes, and even home decor like throw pillows.
26. Laminated Fabric
Laminated fabrics have a layer of polymers bonded to their surface to create a plasticky, waterproof outer layer. This kind of fabric usually contains polyester fibers in a plain or twill weave structure, but its essential characteristic is the plasticky coating on its surface. It has many uses in protective outwear like raincoats.
Lawn fabric uses dense combed cotton yarns to create a silky, soft material. It often has printed designs embellishing its naturally glossy surface as well. This pretty fabric has many apparel applications like blouses, dresses, and clothes for kids.
Leather comes from animal skins, though over 60% of all the leather used in the world comes specifically from cowhides. Leather can go through many different processing treatments that create a variety of shiny, matte, stiff, or flexible materials. Leather has many uses ranging from upholstery to footwear to trench coats.
Linen fabric comes from flax, a type of plant. The fabric often has a loose and slightly uneven texture and feels soft and breathable. It wrinkles easily, often giving linen clothing a more casual vibe.
30. Madras Fabric
Madras fabric uses cotton fibers dyed with vegetable dyes to produce muted checked or plaid patterns. Traditionally, this Indian fabric features soft, handwoven cotton, but today, it is mass-produced to create popular checked shirts and shorts.
Merino wool fabric comes from a special breed of sheep that produces wool with a very fine diameter. The extra-fine fibers in this wool make it incredibly soft and luxurious, and is used in high-end apparel like socks, sweaters, and outdoor clothing.
Modal is one of the newer types of textiles to recently obtain popularity. Technically a kind of rayon, it comes from chemically processed beech pulp and has an amazingly soft and flexible texture. It has many common uses in clothing like underwear and t-shirts and has increasing popularity for soft bedsheets and towels.
Muslin uses a loose plain-weave structure to create a lightweight and affordable type of undyed cotton. It is used primarily as a cheap way to test prototypes of clothes before making the real garment or for filler or lining fabric.
Organdy uses combed cotton threads in a loose plain weave structure to create a sheer and slightly stiff fabric. This material is used for wedding veils or layers over wedding dresses and first communion gowns.
Organza looks incredibly similar to organdy but has a key structural difference. Instead of using combed cotton, it uses filament yarns with a twisted structure to form a plain weave, transparent fabric. Like organdy, this fancy and see-through fabric often appears in formal clothes or special occasion garments like wedding gowns.
36. Oxford Fabric
Oxford cloth has a midweight, slightly thick texture made by weaving two or more weft threads over each warp thread to create a lustrous and soft surface. Typically white threads cross another color, such as blue threads, to form an interesting design in the material. Today this fabric remains popular for high-end shirting.
Polyester is a synthetic fabric derived from petroleum and crafted out of polymers, or plastic, fibers. Like cotton, polyester fibers can create hundreds of different types of cloth, depending on the construction method used. Because it costs so much less than most natural fabrics, polyester makes up almost 70% of all the ready-wear clothing sold today!
Poplin uses a unique weaving structure mixing fine wrap yarns with coarser weft yarns to form a durable and soft cotton fabric. Today, synthetic fibers often blend with cotton to make this cloth more affordable. You can find it used in everything from dress shirts to bed sheets.
39. Quilted Fabric
Quilted fabrics consist of two layers of fabric with filling in between, held together by lines of stitching. This material has many uses in handbags, jackets, and blankets or pillow covers.
40. Raschel Knit
Raschel knit fabrics use a special warp knitting loom to form a stretchy fabric with many small holes. It often has a kind of shiny appearance. This is the type of material basketball or gym shorts use, as well as many football or soccer jerseys.
Sateen uses cotton yarns made with short fibers and a satin weave to form a soft, drapey kind of cotton that is very popular for sheets and bedding. A satin weave consists of multiple threads crossing a single thread in the weaving pattern, which makes a smoother surface on the top side of the fabric.
Satin fabric also uses a satin weave, but this shiny, lustrous cloth can use either long-staple cotton fibers or even cheaper polyester fibers in its construction. Satin often has a mid to heavy weight and drapes extremely well. Because it looks so elegant, it is often reserved for formal wear like prom dresses or wedding gowns.
43. Shantung Silk
Shantung silk uses yarns made from two different silk worms twisted unevenly together to form a silk fabric that looks coarse but still feels soft. This material is used more in upholstery than in apparel, but you can occasionally see it in expensive coats and other clothing.
Silk fabric, of course, comes from silkworms. This animal-based fabric has a famous sheen and durability, though it costs quite a lot. Silk is used in high-end clothing, from shirts and blouses to dresses and suits. It also makes luxurious bedding.
Spandex, Lycra, and elastane all contain polyurethane fibers and form stretchy fabrics. In most cases, manufacturers use just a small percentage of Spandex fibers blended into another kind of fabric like cotton or polyester to add some stretch to the cloth. Skinny jeans, for example, might use 2% to 4% Spandex blended into the denim.
Suede fabrics use the underside of animal hides to create their trademark soft, velvety surface. This kind of fabric traditionally comes from lambskin but can also come from pretty much any other animal skin.
You can find suede used in jackets, belts, and handbags, among other things. It is not as popular for upholstery as it lacks the durability of leather.
Taffeta has a plain weave structure made fancy by twisting the warp and weft threads during weaving to form a shimmery, stiff fabric. Taffeta looks fancy and has many popular uses in formal wear or as a lining to add a body to a fancy garment.
48. Terry Cloth
Terry cloth has a unique manufacturing process that involves using a special pile warp to form raised loops of thread on the surface of the fabric. Terry cloth towels, bathrobes, and washcloths are essential to most households today!
Toile technically means linen or canvas fabric in French, but the name has come to represent a specific kind of printed design on the fabric. The design usually features one color stamped onto a cream background, and it features detailed pastoral images. This stylistic, stiff fabric is mostly used for decorative elements in the home.
Tween fabric uses rough wool threads in a checked or twill pattern to form a soft, thick material. A tweed fabric almost always has tiny diagonal lines patterning its surface because of the will weave and multiple colors of wool thread used in its construction. Originally used for sporting attire, this popular fabric is a good choice for suiting today.
Twill weaving forms one of the three major weaving structures: plain weave, satin weave, and twill weave. Cloth made using a twill weave has visible diagonal lines in the material because it is formed by placing each weft thread over and then under two or more warp threads. Denim, tweed, and khaki fabrics, among others, use a twill weaving structure.
Velour is like off-brand velvet, using cotton or polyester fibers and a more affordable weaving process. To make velour, manufacturers craft a knitted fabric with raised loops on the surface. Then a special blade slices off the top of the loops, which gives the velour a soft nap. This popular fabric makes all kinds of clothes and upholstery today, though it is slightly less soft and luxurious than true velvet.
Traditionally made from silk, velvet has an amazing drape and a deep, soft pile on its surface. This unique kind of fabric is created by weaving two pieces of fabric together on a double loom and then slicing them apart down the center. This leaves all the loose threads on the surface of each piece of velvet to form the amazing nap.
Viscose feels and looks a lot like silk, but it comes from chemically processed wood pulp. This semi-synthetic textile has many common uses in dresses, shirts, scarves, and carpets! Just like polyester serves as a cheaper alternative to cotton, viscose often takes the place of silk as a more affordable option.
55. Warp Knit
Warp knit fabrics use special knitting looms that provide warp threads continuously. Popular uses for these fabrics include mosquito knitting, some types of tulle, and sportswear or shoe materials.
How Do You Identify Different Types of Fabric?
You can identify different types of fabric based on the structure of the threads, the color or pattern of the material, the fiber content, and other characteristics like the weight of the cloth.
The easiest way to ID a type of fabric at a glance is to look closely at the structure of the threads within the cloth. Do you see tiny parallel diagonal lines? This probably means the cloth uses a twill weave structure. If you see a basketweave-type over-under pattern, the fabric probably uses a plain-weave structure.
The two basic categories of textiles are woven and knitted fabrics.
Woven fabrics use a loom to intertwine the yarns into a piece of cloth. A basic plain-weave structure uses an over-under pattern to weave the warp and weft threads together. But woven fabric can also include many different thread structures like a satin weave.
Knitted fabric loops threads together instead of crossing them over each other to form a material. You can make knitted fabric using knitting needles, but fabric factories use giant machines to create knitted fabrics like jersey knit for t-shirts or stretch flannel for bed sheets.
Here is a quick breakdown of common fabric structures:
- Woven fabrics use looms to weave horizontal and vertical threads together.
- Knitted fabrics use knitting machines to loop interlocked yarns together.
- Embroidered fabrics have raised thread patterns stitched into them in a decorative way.
- Crocheted fabrics have a unique looped structure similar to knitted fabric.
- Knotted fabrics use threads knotted together to create fabrics like macrame.
- Felted fabrics use moisture and heat to mat fibers into a sheet of cloth.
You can also consider the color or design elements of the material. Tuile material uses a repeating pattern of pastoral scenes printed on the fabric, for example. Plaid fabrics use a repeating series of crossed lines of varying thicknesses, and madras cloth also has a muted arrangement of vegetable-dyed lines.
You can sometimes identify the fiber content of the fabric as well. The three basic types of fibers used in textiles are fibers that come from plants, fibers that come from animals, and synthetic fibers that have man-made origins.
- Plant-based fibers used in textiles include materials like cotton, linen, and hemp.
- Animal-based fibers used to make cloth include materials such as wool, silk, and angora.
- Synthetic fibers can come from plastic material like polyester or chemically altered plant matter, like rayon. Either way, these fibers do not occur naturally in the world.
You can burn a tiny scrap of fabric at home to do this: the synthetic fabric will melt or smell acidic, and cotton will have a clean yellow flame. For clothing or storebought fabric, you can check the care tag or product description to discover the fabric composition.
Finally, you can also consider other characteristics of the fabric, like the weight of the material, how durable it seems, and its probable intended uses. This is a more technical way of thinking about a fabric that you see used more often by clothing manufacturers.
What is the Softest Fabric?
Some of the softest fabrics in the world include cashmere, merino or vicuna wool, silk, luxury cotton, and bamboo.
The softness of fabric depends primarily on the kind of fiber used in it, but the fabric construction also matters. For example, cotton made with a high thread count will feel softer than cotton made with a lower thread count.
What is Good Fabric for Clothes?
While the most popular fabric for clothes is polyester, any light or midweight fabric with a good drape and durability will work well for clothing.
It is a good idea to pick a fabric with a good drape and feels soft to the touch for your clothing. You may also want a fabric that you can easily launder rather than a material like silk that requires special care.
What is Good Fabric for Dresses?
The best fabrics for dresses include jersey knit, rayon, and cotton. But dresses can contain almost any kind of fabric. Formal dresses like wedding gowns, prom dresses, or evening gowns often use a variety of elegant fabrics like chiffon, velvet, or satin.
What are Special Fabrics?
The term special fabric often refers to industrial fabrics not intended for clothing that have a composition designed for a specific industry or purpose. For example, various types of rubber sheeting might go into the construction of car parts. Nylon webbing has all kinds of uses in factories around the world.
Alternatively, special garment fabric can mean luxury apparel fabric like silk. Sometimes it also indicates a specific use, such as the kind of hand-embroidered silk used to make saris.
Lastly, special fabric could also mean certain subcategories, like heavy-duty fabric intended for upholstery, outdoor fabrics created to withstand water and UV rays, or quilting cotton with its extra-stiff texture.
Different types of fabric come from plant-based, animal, or synthetic fibers. They can also use multiple different methods of combining threads to make cloth, including weaving, knitting, or even knotting. You can also classify fabric types by other factors, such as the weight of the material.
A few of the most popular kinds of fabric include cotton, polyester, and jersey knit. Every kind of cloth has its own unique characteristics and particular uses, such as Raschel knit, which is used primarily in athletic wear or sports uniforms.