From flouncy feminine dresses, sharply-tailored blazers to elevated basics or even boyfriend-style apparel, womenswear spans a truly large range of garment varieties.
Choosing the right fabrics can be challenging with plenty to pick from for an abundance of clothing styles, but we’re here to help you out.
The Right Type of Fabric Matters
Just by using a different fabric type, the final look of the garment can be changed completely, even if you’re using the same garment pattern. Think a slip dress made out of silk—flowy, formal, seductive, and classic, and the same dress made out of scuba—structured, elevated, casual, and modern. Whether it’s a collection of soft, flirty, and romantic blouses or bold, edgy, and empowering power suits, the right type of fabric is crucial when creating womenswear garments, as it helps to alleviate and achieve the intended final look.
In this womenswear guide, we’ve included a variety of fabrics ranging from light and drapey like chiffon or georgette, to weighty and structured, like leather and gabardine. This will help in narrowing down your options when it comes to choosing your fabric to help achieve your garment’s final intended look and outcome, as you better understand its properties and how it can better relate with the garment’s design.
Image via fibre2fashion
Often confused with chiffon, georgette has a somewhat rough texture and is very drapey, as opposed to chiffon’s smoother surface and reduced drape.
Soft and smooth in appearance, it is primarily made from silk or synthetic silk-like fibers woven tightly with twisted yarns, creating a crinkle effect. Loved for its flowy structure and drape, the lightweight and breathable fabric is a favored option for womenswear as it adds a beautiful feminine flouncy body to garments such as dresses and skirts.
- Lightweight and breathable
- Drapes beautifully
- Interesting signature puckered appearance
- Delicate fabric, requires more care
- Prone to snagging
Georgette mini dress
Tiered georgette dress
Embroidered georgette dress
Renowned as a top choice for evening dresses, satin is a type of weave fabric with a smooth and irradiant-like surface. Constructed with fewer interlaces, it creates a smooth, lustrous and shiny surface that features a glossy top side and duller underside.
The soft fabric drapes beautifully and lends a luxurious look, which makes it a great option for formal, evening-style womenswear garments, and its soft and silky feel on the skin also makes it a popular choice for luxurious bedding options.
- Soft, shiny, lustrous and drapes beautifully
- Wrinkle resistant
- Luxurious look and feel
- Silkier satins can be prone to snags, pulls and abrasions
- Extra care required for silk satins
Recommended for: dresses, skirts, evening wear, shirts, blouse
Dries Van Noten
Satin short sleeve shirt
Satin ombre skirt
A symbol of status and luxury in the olden days, lace is an exquisite patterned fabric with unique and romantic characteristics. Hand or machine-made using loops or interlacing threads in a web-like pattern, the lace openwork features a delicate mesh fabric with a range of intricate designs and styles.
Previously only available to the wealthy until machines that could imitate openwork thread designs in lace were invented, most laces in the market are machine-made due to the labor-intensive skill and cost of handmade lace.
Hollow and see-through with a jacquard or embroidery pattern, the fabric is lightweight and sheer, which makes it great for layering with other fabrics. Available in a wide range of colors, patterns and intricacies, lace fabrics are a great way to add a touch of elegance, mystery and romantic allure.
- Beautiful and unique pattern
- Adds a luxurious, romantic and feminine touch
- Great for formal or festive wear
- More fragile and delicate – requires extra care
- Open hole structure can make it prone to snags, pulls and abrasions
Recommended for: dresses, skirts
Guipure lace cotton dress
Fine lace-trim midi dress
For Love & Lemons
Loosely woven to achieve its signature sheer and see-through appearance, chiffon is a weaving process using S and Z-twist crepe yarns that results in small puckers that are a little rough to the touch.
Lightweight, strong, semi-transparent and flowy, the gauze-like fabric makes an ideal choice for layering and creating playful flouncy dresses in womenswear with an interesting texture and delicate feminine appearance.
- Drapes well
- Lightweight and breathable
- Ideal for layering
- Strong and stretchy due to yarn twist and weaving pattern
- Better movement than cotton and polyester
- Prone to fraying and pulling
- Prone to shrinking and stretching
- Susceptible to stains
Recommended for: dresses, skirts shirts, blouses
Atu Body Couture
A sustainable and eco-friendly fabric, cupro is made from the regenerated cellulose fibers of recycled cotton linter—a waste product of cotton whose fibers are too small to be spun, resulting in them being tossed away.
Extremely soft to the touch with a suede-like texture, cupro is often used as a vegan substitute for silk due to its silky aesthetic and ability to drape beautifully. Apart from its sustainable qualities, cupro is also extremely well-loved due to its hypoallergenic properties, as well as its superior, smooth and luxurious hand feel that is known to rival silk.
- Luxurious feel that rivals silk
- Sustainable and eco friendly
- Great vegan alternative for silk
- Dries quickly
- Prone to piling
Recommended for: blouses, shirts, dresses, playsuits, jumpsuits
Printed cupro jumpsuit
Made from fibers derived from the stems of flax plants, linen is a highly popular fabric choice for summer clothing thanks to its antibacterial, quick-drying and natural heat and moisture-wicking properties.
Distinguishable by its unique appearance from irregularly shaped yarns containing lumps or “slubs”, linen can have a crisp hand for more structured and tailored apparel, or soft-finished for a softer drape. A functional fabric that is available in a variety of types depending on yarn size and weave density, linen is almost three times stronger than cotton. This makes it a versatile choice not only for summer-themed womenswear, but also for homewares such as bedding.
- Softens with wash
- Highly durable
- Lightweight, cooling, breathable and quick-drying
- Tendency to shrink
Recommended for: dresses, playsuits/jumpsuits, shorts, pants, jackets
Printed linen-blend dress
Linen viscose dress
A plain-weave fabric, the yarns in twill are packed closely together, resulting in its signature thick pattern of diagonal parallel ribs. Twill fabrics generally have a front (technical face) and back (technical back) side, with the front being more visually attractive, durable and pronounced.
Often used for sturdy work clothing, trousers and upholstery, the durable fabric choice is also prevalent and distinguishable in denim, chino, drill, herringbone and gabardine fabrics—which are all a type or variation of the twill.
- Shows less wrinkles and creases
- Prone to shrinkage if not washed correctly
Recommended for: dresses, shirts, pants
Cotton twill jumpsuit
Mm6 Maison Margiela
Commonly made with cotton in present times, gabardine is a durable and smooth tightly woven fabric that was originally made from worsted wool. Invented by the founder of Burberry in the late 1800s, the versatile fabric is known for holding its shape and being extremely resistant to wrinkles.
Densely woven using smooth high quality spun or multifilament yarns, the twill weave texture appears as fine, closely packed diagonal lines. Due to its extremely tight and compact weaving, gabardine is known to resist rain and offers good draping despite its form, which offers a great option for structured womenswear garments.
- Highly durable
- Denser weaves can resist light rain
- Great wrinkle resistance
- Good drape
- Polyester or polyester/rayon blends can be prone to piling
Recommended for: shorts, pants, skirts
Re-nylon gabardine skirt
Cotton gabardine pants
Cotton gabardine trench coat
A hard-wearing thick and stiff fabric, tweed bears origins in Ireland and Scotland, and was originally used for the clothing of farmers. Woven using a plain or twill weave with different colored threads to result in various patterns and colors with small squares and lines, it is also available in eight other common variations and patterns, such as herringbone and houndstooth.
Widely used for suit jackets, coats, gloves and trousers today, one may recognize this fabric made popular in high fashion by Coco Chanel, who reworked it into a more loosely woven design used for the iconic classic Chanel womenswear tweed suit jackets.
- Retains heat and insulation
- Sturdy and durable
- Wears well and does not show stains easily
- Tendency to stretch over time
- Loosely woven tweeds can lose their shape and become baggy
Recommended for: skirts, jackets, shorts, dresses
Ponte di Roma (double knit)
Roughly translated to ‘Roman Bridge’ in Italian due to the fabric’s structure resembling classic roman bridges, Ponte Di Roma (also known as Ponte or Ponte Roma) is a soft, sturdy and thicker double-knit fabric with a slight horizontally ribbed appearance.
Made from a combination of rayon, polyester and spandex, the highly versatile Ponte di Roma is comfortable and flattering, and also easy to care for due to its layers of interlocking knit. Found in various weighs, the fabric allows for a two-way stretch, molding to the body shape while it provides a smooth, sleek and streamlined silhouette.
- Very resilient and stable
- Almost rigid like a woven fabric
- Prone to snags
Recommended for: skirts, playsuits, jumpsuits, tees, tanks
Ponte di Roma jumpsuit
Ponte di Roma knit dress
Ponte di Roma knit skirt
Ponte di Roma jacket
Prized for its luster, shine, strength and durability, silk is a very special natural protein fiber obtained from the cocoons of insect larvae—commonly silkworms or moth caterpillars.
Perceived with prestige and opulence, it is regarded as the queen of fabrics due to its superior properties, painstaking harvesting process and production cost. Stronger than cotton and linen, silk makes for a popular and luxurious fabric option not only in high-end garments but also in upholstery and bedding, and is often used in higher-end womenswear garments or formal attire.
- Absorbs and releases moisture easily
- Strong and durable
- High elasticity
- Smooth and drapes well
- Stronger than cotton and linen
- Gathers static electricity
- Has tendency to shrink
Recommended for: shirts, blouses, dresses
Draped asymmetric silk corset dress
Silk pussy-bow blouse
Printed silk blouse
A ribbed variation of the plain weave fabric, poplin boasts softness and durability due to its weaving structure and high density, which also allows the fabric to be reversible.
Lightweight, durable and with a distinctive luster, it remains a popular choice not only for menswear and womenswear, but also for upholstery.
- Luxurious sheen
- Wrinkle and crease-resistant
- Easy to iron
- Fabric is thin – may not provide enough insulation for cooler climates
Recommended for: shirts, blouses
Puff-sleeve cotton-poplin blouse
Cotton poplin blouse
A weaving or fabric treatment method that results in a thin fabric with a bumpy appearance, crepe is known for its distinctive wrinkled and crinkled look. Traditionally made from silk, crepe fabrics today can now be made from almost any fiber.
Ranging from thin and lightweight to thick and heavy, crepe fabrics are loved for their beautiful drape and are commonly made into an array of womenswear garments such as dresses, blouses, suits, pants, and skirts, and is also used for home decor.
- Creates a beautiful, flowy drape
- Durable and long-lasting
- Resistant to dust and moisture
- Stretchy and sits away from body due to its texture
- Prone to fraying and snagging
- Low heat retention
Recommended for: playsuits, jumpsuits, shorts, pants, blazers, jackets, dresses, skirts, blouses
Heavy crepe shorts
Ruffled crepe dress
Removable sleeve crepe dress
Tailored crepe playsuit
A soft, luxurious fabric that is characterized by a dense pile of evenly cut fibers that have a smooth nap, velvet is the epitome of luxury in the fabric world. One of the most extravagant and opulent fabrics, it is typically made from silk, or a blend of silk and rayon produced on a special loom. Soft and plush with a beautiful drape, velvet is commonly used for formal or evening wear due to its high price and splendor.
For a more affordable option, opt for velour—a visually similar fabric with less softness and sheen due to the different production methods of small loops of fabric being cut off.
- Highly luxurious appeal
- Soft and plush to the touch
- Drapes well
- Nap can get crushed from prolonged weight and pressure
Recommended for: playsuits, jumpsuits, shorts, pants
High rise velvet trousers
Rotate Birger Christensen
Crinkled velvet playsuit
Also known as single knit, jersey-knit fabrics are one of the most basic forms of weft knitting and are a commonly used, highly diverse popular choice for clothing in the fashion industry.
Known for its stretchiness and close knits, the lightweight fabric is highly absorbent and breathable, making it a great choice not only for womenswear and basics, but also for activewear, t-shirts, underwear and baby clothes.
- Lightweight yet durable
- Prone to piling
- May snag
Recommended for: polo tees, tank tops, t-shirts, tops
Organic cotton jersey shirt
Ribbed jersey wrap top
Cut-out jersey t-shirt
Image via Puresilks
Characterized by intricate designs and patterns woven directly into the fabric, jacquard is one of the most complex woven fabrics used today, and can be commonly spotted on suits worn by celebrities on the red carpet or at formal events.
Woven into the warp on a jacquard loom invented by French weaver Joseph-Marie Jacquard, the fabric is prized for its ornamental properties, offering a luxurious appeal in its intricacy and unique designs to garments and upholstery. Its complexity and labor-intensive production process make jacquard a luxurious and premium fabric, and its unique patterns and designs transform any type of garment into a statement piece.
- Luxurious in appearance
- Strong and resilient
- Wrinkle and wear-resistant
- Embroidered patterns may snag and unravel if not careful
Recommended for: blazers, shorts, pants
Dolce & Gabanna
Jacquard button blazer
Metallic jacquard pants
Inconspicuous at first glance with its outer resemblance of ordinary jersey fabric, French terry features a smooth knitted outer side and a loosely woven, thread-looped pile inner, which gives it its alternative name the loopback. Lighter than conventional sweatshirt fabrics, the looped backing provides a touch of warmth without being bulky, which makes for great light womenswear basics or sportswear garments that are suitable for layering.
- Easy care
- Prone to piling
Recommended for: jackets, sweatshirts, sweatpants, shorts
Organic cotton French terry pants
Cotton French terry jacket
French terry shorts
French terry sweatpants
Derived from the underside of animal skin (unlike leather which is derived from the top side), suede is a durable and comfortable hide option that feels much softer against the skin. Its napped and fuzzy characteristic provides an interesting appearance, but its permeable quality lacks the waterproofing benefits of leather. Booming to popularity in the twentieth century, it is associated with luxury due to its soft, delicate feel and extra attention needed for maintenance.
- Very durable and tough
- Interesting napped appearance and texture
- Soft and luxurious touch
- Can be difficult to care for
- Poor resistance to stains, dust and dirt
Recommended for: coats, jackets, parkas
Cashmere suede jacket
Made using animal skins that go through tanning, the unique arrangement of complex natural fibers makes leather one of the most versatile materials available.
Durable, water-resistant and insulating with a luxurious feel and softness, its unique property which allows moisture to be absorbed and release makes it a truly versatile option for womenswear garments, shoes, and accessories.
For a more sustainable option, vegan leather made from plastic and plant materials provides a more cruelty-free choice. However, do note that vegan leather is less durable and thinner than real leather.
- Improves with age
- Highly resilient
- Good heat insulation
- Requires care to prevent cracks and drying out
Recommended for: jackets, outerwear, coats
Leather biker jacket
Characterized by its net-like open pattern, lightweight heft and permeable texture, mesh fabrics are woven or knitted loosely, resulting in its open hole structure. The lightweight properties and open holes provide breathable ventilation while remaining durable against ripping or tearing, making it a great choice for layering and warm climates.
- Durable and resistant to rips/tears
- Allows for ventilation
- Mildew resistant
- Lightweight, breathable
- Holes in mesh fabric can easily catch onto things and snag if not careful
Recommended for: tees, tanks, singlets, shorts, t-shirts
polka mesh tank
Mesh panel t-shirt
Image via Eysan Fabrics
More durable and elastic than regular plain knits, rib-knit fabrics use knit and purl stitches in alternating raised and lowered rows, creating cross-grain elasticity.
Available in an array of textures and weights, the fabric’s density is determined by the closeness of the knitting stitches. Its stretchy and elastic properties are especially favored for making womenswear t-shirts, providing an interesting parallel line pattern with movement and a soft feel.
- Available in a wide variety of textures and weights
- Elastic and stretchy
- May snag
Recommended for: tanks, t-shirts
Rib-knit silk shirt