It’s an often understated fact. The design isn’t everything when it comes to clothing. How something wears, how something drapes, how something feels. These can all be affected by the design, sure. However, a larger portion of these very physical elements is determined not by the pattern, but by what that pattern is made out of. Choosing the wrong fabric for a design can have a detrimental effect on the effect you’re going for.
However, let’s not mince words. There are a lot of fabric choices out there, some of which might seem similar in look and feel. The quality of production might not differ too much between sources if they both use high-quality equipment like Sintelli to process their textiles. How does a designer decide on which one to get that would best complement what your clothing design intends to do?
If There’s a Pattern
First, let’s dispense with the easy scenario. If you have a pattern already, then it should have a fabric that you need to use. This is a standard part of the procedure for the textile and fashion industries. This makes it easier to mass produce a fashion design or other product and eliminates any unnecessary guesswork that could get in the way. If you have a pattern you’re working off of, this part is already done for you.
If There’s No Pattern
However, if you’re a design firm or in case the pattern doesn’t include the fabric required, what do you do? One option is to contact the source for clarification. If you happen to be the designer, then there are some things you need to remember.
Among the key determining factors is what you’re making out of the fabric. There are some general guidelines to this, which can be altered in some cases. However, the guidelines exist because they’re the standard choices based on the function of the intended article of clothing.
Shirts and Blouses
For a shirt or blouse, you need something that has the potential to drape. It should be comfortable on the skin and have a decent amount of stretchability. After all, people will be wearing these for most of the day. However, endurance is going to be an important factor because these are everyday upper garments and prone to taking a lot of abuse.
In this case, the typical choices are variations on cotton, preferably knit but sometimes woven also works. Flannel is good if you’re looking for something that doesn’t need to drape. Linen is good for warmth and silk is luxurious and comfortable. Rayon and double gauze are also viable options.
For pants, these should be durable and comfortable. They don’t need to drape, but they also shouldn’t cling. There must also be some degree of flexibility so people can move without too much hindrance, while also not looking too different from the upper garment. After all, the pants usually need to match the top.
Linen is a good choice for warmer climates. The fabric breathes easily and allows for a cooler feel in the legs. Denim is a popular choice as well, particularly because of how durable it is. However, denim has no “give,” so sizing can be an issue. Flannel and wool are the other two common choices, with the latter being more likely.
Then there’s the skirt. Some of them are tight, while others are loose. Some of them are formal, while others are more relaxed. Their design allows for a variety of fabric choices, perhaps more so than pants. The right one will vary based on the specific style of the skirt, though there are common choices on what to use.
Cotton is among the most common, almost to the point of being standard. It’s lightweight and comfortable on the skin, making it a good choice. Knitted fabrics are also typical choices, especially for designs that need a bit more elasticity. Rayon challis is also a possibility for less-formal skirts. Linen can be used as well, though this is relatively uncommon.
Then there are dresses. Again, the variations that are possible here can make pinning down a choice of fabric a challenge. How it fits, how it hugs the body, how formal it needs to be, how practical it should be, and even how it looks to the casual observer can all be a factor. In this, more than other garment types, you will have a great deal of freedom to choose.
Cotton is still common here. For dresses that need to keep the wearer warm without much accessorizing, wool is also a good choice. Knitted and woven are both viable variations. Silk and satin are known for being formal and elegant choices, with a distinct visual signature. Linen gives off a more relaxed look. Finally, rayon is a possible choice, though not one that lends itself to high-class designs.
The choice of fabric can make or break a design. Picking the right one is a matter of understanding the article of clothing and the intended purpose. You don’t use cheap fabrics for something meant to be worn on a red carpet, nor do you go with expensive silk for something that’s going to be put through a lot of abuse.