Shiny fabrics can add a touch of elegance to any outfit. That’s why they are such a popular choice for dresses, evening wear, or other special occasion clothing. If you’re looking to use a shiny fabric to make your next outfit, then you have no shortage of options to choose from. But how do you decide which shiny fabric to choose?
Shiny fabrics are shiny mainly because of how they are woven. Either a specific type of weave is used to make the fabric, the weave is heavier or thicker, or special threads are used to create a certain look. Some popular shiny fabric names include satin, silk, sateen, and velvet, but there are many others.
In this complete guide to shiny fabrics, I’ll discuss what makes a fabric shiny in the first place. Then, I’ll cover 19 different shiny fabric names and types in detail, so that you’ll be able to choose the right shiny fabric for your project.
What Makes Fabric Shiny?
First things first, why are only certain fabrics shiny? After all, there are plenty of fabrics that aren’t shiny, so what determines how shiny a particular fabric is? Just as the weave of fabric can determine certain characteristics, such as the amount of stretch, breathability, etc. The way a fabric is woven also determines how shiny it is.
There are three ways fabric can be woven to make it shiny. One of the most common ways is that shiny fabric is usually woven with a satin weave. Even though there is a fabric type called satin, it’s important to remember that satin does not refer to one fabric type but a group of fabrics that are all made using the same type of weave.
Without getting too technical, a satin weave is essentially one in which four or more weft threads go over a warp thread or vice versa. The number of warp or weft threads that cross over each other determines specific characteristics of the fabric, including the stretch, weight, drape, and sheen of the fabric.
All satin fabrics are shiny, but some are shinier than others. And not only do satin weaves give the fabric a shiny appearance, but they allow light to hit them in different ways, making them look even shinier. Fabrics made with a satin weave are usually only shiny on one side, with the other side having a matte or dull finish.
In some cases, a thicker or more closely woven weave can sometimes make the fabric look shiny. For example, velvet is usually a very shiny fabric, but not made with a satin weave. It is made using a pile weave, with shorter and thicker fibers more closely woven together, giving it that shiny appearance.
Finally, some fabrics are shiny because they are made with special threads that are metallic, glittered, or chemically processed in some other way that allows them to shine. The threads are usually woven together using a plain weave since the fibers themselves make the fabric shiny and not the way they are woven together, as would be the case with a satin weave.
19 Shiny Fabric Types and Names
Now that you’ve learned what makes fabric shiny let’s look at some specific examples of shiny fabrics. Some fabrics on this list, such as satin and silk, are more commonly used than others. But remember that satin is a very broad category that refers to the way a fabric is woven, so a few fabrics on this list fall under the category of satin. Other fabrics are made from silk as well.
It’s also important to remember that while many shiny fabrics are smooth and soft, some aren’t. The fabrics described in this list are made with various fibers and have a variety of different textures as a result.
Also, not all of these fabrics are suitable for all types of clothing. Some of these fabrics have more specific uses and aren’t suitable for dresses, for example. But don’t worry. I’ll provide you with some of the characteristics of each one so that you’ll have a better idea of which ones are suitable for your needs.
1. BrocadeBrocade is a woven fabric that is patterned and embossed. It was traditionally made from silk, and you may also hear it called silk brocade. But today, you can find brocade fabric made from other fiber types as well, including cotton, polyester, and even wool.
However, silk brocade is still going to be the shiniest type of brocade fabric, and the amount of shine the fabric has can also depend on the pattern on it and the color. The patterns on brocade fabric can be very simple and use only one or two colors, or they can be more complex with multiple colors being used.
Brocade is typically thick and heavy, with little stretch or breathability. It’s generally pretty durable, with average heat retention and moisture-wicking ability. It is commonly used to make dresses and suit jackets and is often seen in upholstery.
2. CharmeuseCharmeuse is named after the French word for a female charmer. It is another type of fabric traditionally made from silk, although today, versions of this fabric can be made out of rayon or polyester. But, all versions of charmeuse are made using a satin weave.
Charmeuse is a lightweight fabric that is very shiny on one side and dull on the other. It usually only comes in solid colors, but it is very elegant. It has very low stretch and heat retention abilities, but it is very breathable and has average moisture-wicking abilities compared to other fabrics.
One of the most common uses for charmeuse is lingerie, but other than that, it isn’t used for apparel that much. You may see some dresses made out of charmeuse fabric, but it is more commonly used for accessories such as handkerchiefs and ties, in addition to home textiles such as pillowcases.
3. CireCire was originally a type of finish added to fabrics using wax to make the fabric more resistant to certain elements such as moisture without adding weight to the fabric. Today, it is a type of fabric made with synthetic fibers, mainly polyester, created using heat and pressure to give the fabric a firm and crisp texture.
Treating polyester using heat and pressure helps create the shiny look that cire fabric has. The fabric is often called “wet look fabric” because the nature of the shine makes the fabric appear to be wet.
Cire is commonly used for outerwear fabrics that need to be more resistant to rain, snow, etc. But even though the fabric is durable and adds an extra layer of protection for the wearer, its breathability is low compared to other fabrics. In addition to outerwear, cire is also used a lot in high-end designer clothing and is a popular fabric choice for cosplayers.
4. CrepeCrepe fabric is certainly not the shiniest fabric on this list, but some versions are shinier than others, especially if the fabric is made from silk. In addition to silk, crepe fabric can be made from synthetic fibers, but it won’t be as shiny without treating the fabric first.
Crepe fabric has a unique and sometimes three-dimensional texture due to the yarns being twisted together. Although most shiny fabrics aren’t that stretchy, crepe fabric is, and it is very moisture-wicking as well. It is mostly a medium-weight fabric, although there are lighter and heavier versions of it.
Crepe is typically found in solid colors, but it is relatively versatile and has a wide range of uses. It can be used to make dresses, shawls, and evening wear, but it is used in many high-end fashions and home textiles such as curtains.
5. Duchesse SatinDuchesse satin is perhaps the heaviest type of fabric made with a satin weave using silk yarn. This combination of yarn and weave type makes this fabric one of the shiniest on this list, as it is very lustrous and elegant.
This type of satin fabric is very high-quality, as it has a very high thread count, which makes Duchesse satin so heavy compared to other types of satin. Because it is so high-quality, it is often a very expensive fabric but can be made out of polyester to make it cheaper. However, you may miss out on some of its qualities by opting for polyester instead of silk.
The main use for Duchesse satin is for eveningwear, particularly for women’s dresses and wedding gowns. White and nude are common colors of Duchesse satin, but it also comes in other solid colors. Overall, this is one of the most elegant and luxurious shiny fabrics.
6. Faux LeatherFaux leather is a type of vegan leather made from petroleum-based synthetic fibers instead of being made from animals. It has many qualities as genuine leather, but it is a bit shinier since it is man-made and can undergo more treatments without destroying its texture or qualities.
Faux leather is called by many other names, including pleather, synthetic leather, and Naugahyde. It has low breathability, low stretch, and low moisture-wicking abilities but very high heat retention properties.
Although it requires less maintenance than genuine leather, you still can’t wash faux leather in the washing machine. It has to be spot cleaned or taken to a professional cleaner. Even though its texture is smooth, it isn’t soft compared to other fabrics. Faux leather is usually used to make jackets, shoes, handbags, and even upholstery, among other uses.
7. Glitter FabricGlitter fabric is exactly as it sounds. It’s a fabric with a glittery appearance. It’s one of the few shiny fabrics in which its shine isn’t determined by the type of weave it’s made with. Rather, the fabric is made glittery through a specific type of processing that adds glitter to the threads or the fabric itself, whether with a finish or by glitter being added to the fibers as they are created.
With that being said, glitter fabric is usually made with synthetic fibers. Many glitter fabrics are made from spandex, so they tend to be very stretchy and are usually used for costumes such as what would be worn for dance recitals. These usually have a smooth and cool texture to them like other spandex fabrics do.
Some glitter fabrics can be made from polyester, but they may be somewhat stiff or have a rougher texture to them, as the glitter is usually added as a finish instead of being made into the fabric. Glitter fabric is often used for making hair bows and other accessories or is used a lot in costumes or even cocktail dresses.
8. LameLame fabric is a type of shiny fabric made using metallic threads, either in its entirety or with regular synthetic threads woven into it. The amount of metallic threads determines how shiny the fabric is, but generally lame is one of the shiniest fabrics that isn’t made using a satin weave.
Many lame fabric comes in the standard metallic colors of gold, silver, bronze, and copper. However, there are other solid colors; they may be harder to find. Lame fabric is usually medium-weight and can be stretchy or not, depending on whether it is woven or knit. It has low breathability, low moisture-wicking ability, and low heat retention.
Lame fabric is not necessarily a luxurious fabric, but it is used to make clothing worn to more elegant events. You may see dresses, blouses, and other evening wear made from it, but it’s also used to make accessories such as shoes, handbags, and ties, and even for some costumes. Lame fabric is also used in some home textiles, such as curtains, although it can be too shiny for some people.
9. OrganzaOrganza is a thin, lightweight, and sheer fabric made by weaving together silk or synthetic fibers using a plain weave. In addition to being shiny due to the nature of the fibers, being sheer also allows light to pass through more easily, which can give it a shimmery appearance.
Organza is considered a delicate fabric and is not often used to make clothing by itself. Instead, it is used more as an overlay, especially over dull fabrics, to give them a shinier appearance. Plus, with it being sheer, you would want something underneath it anyway if you intend to use it as clothing.
As you can imagine, organza is very breathable, but it doesn’t have much heat retention ability. It is somewhat stretchy and moisture-wicking, though. Common uses for organza are as an overlay for dresses and wedding gowns and sheer curtains that would allow plenty of light to enter a room.
10. Patent LeatherPatent leather was originally made with treated genuine leather, but now it is usually synthetic leather treated with a vinyl or polyurethane plastic coating to give it a glossy appearance. Although it has a smooth surface, it is not soft like other shiny fabrics and feels much like other types of plastic.
As you can imagine, patent leather has very little stretch and breathability, as it is very stiff. When used for clothing, it is mostly used for skirts and pants instead of tops and dresses since it doesn’t have a lot of give to it. Patent leather is a great moisture barrier, but it will show scratches very easily.
More common uses for patent leather are for accessories such as shoes, handbags, belts, wallets, etc. A lot of patent leather is black, but it comes in other solid colors. It’s a very recognizable fabric due to its shiny appearance, even if it isn’t the most practical or versatile fabric to use for clothing.
11. Polished CottonCotton isn’t known for being a shiny fabric, but that’s where polished cotton comes in. Essentially, this type of fabric is made from cotton that has been “polished” to give it a shiny appearance. The shine can come from how the fabric is woven or from being treated afterward with a resin coating.
Polished cotton isn’t the shiniest fabric compared to others on this list, but it’s a good choice if you want more of a subtle shine. Polished cotton that is coated instead of woven will be a bit shinier. Plus, you get many of the same benefits that cotton fabric is known for, and it comes in a variety of solid and printed colors.
Some polished cotton is printed with intricate floral patterns, in which case it is known as chintz. Regular polished cotton is ideal for clothing, especially blouses, but chintz is better for use in the home due to having a glazed finish. However, the glaze can wear down over time due to being washed, so chintz is better for sofa and chair upholstery instead of other textiles that require laundering, such as tablecloths and placemats.
12. Polished LeatherPolished leather is similar to patent leather, but it isn’t as shiny. The coating on patent leather is more glossy, while polished leather has a topcoat made from acrylic or resin. And instead of being made from synthetic leather-like patent leather is, polished leather is usually real leather that has been coated.
Polished leather is also known as corrected leather, and it is more stain and water-resistant than untreated, “uncorrected” leather. It’s also less prone to scuffing and scratching and requires less care than untreated leather. The most common use for polished leather is for shoes, particularly men’s shoes. It’s not typically used for other types of clothing.
13. Poly-Cotton Blends
Poly-cotton blends are fabrics that are a mixture of polyester and cotton fibers. Some of them are shinier than others, but even the shiniest poly-cotton blended fabrics still have a subtle shine because neither polyester nor cotton is known for being shiny fabrics.
Shinier poly-cotton blends are likely treated with chemicals to make them that way. But poly-cotton blends that have a subtle shine are likely woven in a way that makes them somewhat shiny. Poly-cotton blends are probably the most versatile shiny fabric, as they are breathable, moisture-wicking, and have some stretch to them.
Poly-cotton blend fabrics are great for clothes that you want to be casual but still have a little bit of shine to them. They can be used to make shirts, pants, dresses, and even household textiles and upholstery. Plus, they are affordable and come in a wide range of colors and patterns.
14. Polyester VelvetRemember that velvet is one of the few shiny fabrics that isn’t made with a satin weave. The reason that velvet is shiny is due to being made with short pile fibers that are woven very closely together. Polyester velvet has the most shine to it, as polyester fibers can be made in such a way to make them shinier.
Velvet has long been considered an elegant fabric, with a plush and very soft texture. It has high breathability but low stretch and medium moisture wicking and heat retention abilities. It is a thicker fabric, which is why it is often seen in clothing and accessories designed to be worn in colder months.
Polyester velvet is another very versatile shiny fabric. It can be used to make blouses and dresses and even accessories such as hats, handbags, and shoes. It’s also commonly used for upholstery and items such as pillows and curtains. Velvet typically comes in solid colors, but it comes in a wide range of colors.
15. SateenSateen is a type of satin weave fabric that is made using spun cotton fibers instead of silk or filament fibers. It has a softer feel than other satin types and has a duller sheen. Sateen is also more durable than other types of satin weave fabrics, as it can be machine-washed, bleached, and scrubbed without causing damage.
Compared to other cotton fabrics, sateen is one of the most expensive, but the price is comparable to other satin weave fabrics. It is breathable, durable, and versatile as it comes in various colors and prints. Sateen can be used to make clothing such as dresses, but it is commonly used to make bedding.
16. SatinSatin fabric can be used to refer to any fabric made using a satin weave, but satin can also be a fabric in itself, especially if it doesn’t fall into one of the other categories of satin fabric. The thing about satin fabric is that it can be made with cotton, polyester, rayon, or silk fibers, although true satin is made from silk.
Satin is one of the most commonly recognized shiny fabrics and it is smooth, soft, and has an elegant look. It is breathable and lightweight and comes in a wide range of colors. Satin fabric can also be found in patterns as well. It is commonly used to make dresses, blouses, and accessories, including scarves and headbands.
17. Sequin Metallic FabricSequin metallic fabric is similar to glitter fabric, but it is made with sequins either embedded into it or sewn onto the fabric. When sequins are embedded into the fabric, they are usually made with metallic threads, but fabric with sequins sewn on the top layer of fabric can be made with either a dull or shiny fabric underneath.
Sequin fabric is not necessarily a fabric you would use for evening wear. It is more commonly used for party attire or costumes, as it isn’t as durable as some of the other shiny fabrics. Sequin metallic fabric with sequins embedded into it is more durable than fabric with the sequins sewn on top of it, as these can easily fall off.
18. SilkSilk fabric is a broad category of fabric that is made with silk fibers, and it is one of the strongest natural fabrics that there is. Silk can be made with polyester fibers, but true silk is made from fibers produced by the silkworm.
Silk is another popular shiny fabric because, in addition to having a nice luster to it, it is also incredibly soft and smooth. What’s more is that silk is shiny due to the silk fibers having a structure that naturally reflects light, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be woven to make it shiny. But, silk fibers that are woven using a satin weave produce satin fabric.
Silk fabric is very breathable, lightweight, and moisture-wicking, but it has low heat retention and low stretch. It’s commonly used to make lingerie and nightgowns, dresses and evening wear, accessories, and even curtains and pillowcases. It typically comes in solid colors.
19. TaffetaTaffeta is typically made from silk, rayon, or polyester. It is a crisp, shiny fabric that is very lightweight and has a medium level of shine. The name taffeta comes from a Persian word meaning “twisted woven,” which describes how the yarns are twisted together as they are woven. This creates a very tight weave and shiny luster.
Other than being crisper, taffeta looks very similar to silk. It has high breathability but low stretch, heat retention, and moisture-wicking ability. It’s commonly used for wedding gowns, evening wear, blouses, and curtains.
What Fabric is the Shiniest?
There isn’t one particular fabric that is the shiniest. However, there are some that are shinier than others. Glitter or sequin metallic fabrics are the shiniest because they reflect the most light, but they aren’t the most versatile. Satin, silk, and charmeuse are some of the shiniest fabrics. They have a smooth texture and are very lustrous and more versatile.
With that being said, your definition of shiny depends on what type of clothing you’re trying to make and how shiny you want it to be. For example, you may want it to be shinier than if you were just making casual clothing when making evening wear. If you’re making a costume, you may want to use a shinier fabric that is less low-maintenance.
Best Shiny Fabric for Dresses
The best shiny fabric to use for a dress depends on the style and purpose of the dress. Some of the best choices are satin, silk, sequin metallic, glitter, or velvet, just depending on the occasion or time of year.
Most of the shiny fabrics mentioned above are suitable for dresses, except for fabrics such as leather. But again, the best fabric just depends on how shiny you want the dress to be.
Best Shiny Fabric for Curtains/Upholstery
A lot of the shiny fabrics mentioned above are commonly used for upholstery and household textiles in addition to clothing. But, some are better for certain purposes than others. For example, polyester velvet is a good choice for both curtains and upholstery due to its being easy to care for and the elegant look it provides.
Depending on the type of look you want, brocade and organza are good for curtains. Brocade will create heavier, more elegant curtains, while organza will create sheer, lightweight curtains that let a lot of light in. Poly-cotton blends are a good fabric choice for curtains if you want a more basic look.
For upholstery, good choices are faux leather or polished cotton/chintz fabric. Faux leather is easy to care for, while chintz is more elegant. For bedding, silk, satin, sateen, and poly-cotton blends are good choices due to being durable and breathable.
How to Make Fabric Shiny
There are several ways to make fabric shiny, depending on how much work you want to put into it. One of the easiest and most practical ways is to embellish it with glitter, sequins, or rhinestones, but this can be time-consuming, depending on how shiny you want it to be.
You can also paint the fabric with a high-gloss finish or fabric paint. However, this can sometimes make the fabric stiff or interfere with its characteristics. Alternatively, you can use a sheer shiny fabric such as organza on top of a dull fabric to make the dull fabric shinier, or you can use shiny fabrics on some parts of the clothing, such as the sleeves.
I hope this guide provided you with plenty of information about the different types of shiny fabric. Some common ones are silk and satin, but there are subcategories of these fabric types that have different levels of shine and textures. When it comes to shiny fabrics, there are endless possibilities for what you can make with them.