Study of Formal Fashion, History, Terminologies, Body Types, Fabrics, Style and Colors









Textiles are defined as the yarns that are woven or knitted to make fabrics. The use of textiles links the myriad cultures of the world and defines the way they clothe themselves, adorn their surroundings and go about their lives. Textiles have been an integral part of human daily life for thousands of years, with the first use of textiles, most likely felt, dates back to the late Stone Age, roughly 100,000 years ago. However, the earliest instances of cotton, silk and linen being to appear around 5,000 BC in India, Egypt and China. The ancient methods of manufacturing textiles, namely plain weave, satin weave and twill, have changed very little over the centuries. Modern manufacturing speed and capacity, however, have increased the rate of production to levels unthinkable even 200 years ago. 

Trade of textiles in the ancient world occurred predominantly on the Silk Road, a winding route across lower Asia that connected the Mediterranean lands with the Far East. Spanning over 5,000 miles and established during the Han Dynasty in China around 114 BC, the Silk Road was an integral part of the sharing of manufactured goods, cultures and philosophies, and helped develop the great civilizations of the world. During the Middle Ages, simple clothing was favored by the majority of people, while finer materials such as silks and linens were the trappings of royalty and the rich. During the 14th century, however, advances in dyeing and tailoring accelerated the spread of fashion throughout Western Europe, and drastically altered the mindset of both wealthy man and commoner alike. Clothing and draperies became increasingly elaborate over the next several centuries, although production methods remained largely unchanged until the invention of steam-powered mechanized facilities during the Industrial Revolution. From that point on, quality textiles became available to the masses at affordable prices. 

Textiles can be derived from several sources: animals, plants and minerals are the traditional sources of materials, while petroleum-derived synthetic fibers were introduced in the mid-20th century. By far, animal textiles are the most prevalent in human society, and are commonly made from furs and hair. Silk, wool, and pashmina are all extremely popular animal textiles. Plant textiles, the most common being cotton, can also be made from straw, grass and bamboo. Mineral textiles include glass fiber, metal fiber and asbestos. The recent introduction of synthetic textiles has greatly expanded the array of options available for fabric manufacturers, both in terms of garment versatility and usability. Polyester, spandex, nylon and acrylic are all widely used synthetic textiles. 

In addition to the multitude of textiles available for use, there are many different methods for creating fabrics from textiles. Weaving is performed using a loom, typically a rectangular frame on which strands of fibers are hung and interlaced with other fibers. Knitting involves interlacing strands of yarn with the use of a needle, and is typically done by hand, while weaving is largely mechanized. Lacing is performed using a backing piece to create finer fabrics with open holes throughout the piece. Interlacing a yarn through an existing piece of woven cloth results in a layer known as a pile, which is prominent in the manufacture of carpets and velvet. Finally, and by far the oldest technique, is felting, which involves squeezing a mat of fibers together in a liquid to create a tangled, flat material. 

Textiles can also be colored using a variety of techniques, including weaving together fibers of differing colors, bleaching to create a pure white look, stitching colored yarn through existing fabric, the use of resist dyeing, and many other ways of printing directly onto finished fabric. Modern dyeing methods can create fabrics of almost any color or pattern imaginable. 


Natural fibers have been used for apparel and home fashion for thousands of years, with the use of wool going back over 4,000 years. In comparison, the man-made fiber industry began with the first commerical production of rayon in 1910. 

For those old enough to remember the 50's and 60's, this was when there was a great deal of technology happening in the man-made fiber industry. And the technology continues even today. Microfibers, fibers finer than the finest silk, were developed in 1989 and lyocell, was developed in 1993. Today, many man-made fibers, including polyester have been developed into beautiful fabrics that are being used by major designers.  

Natural Fibers

History of the principal natural fibers used in textiles for apparel and home fashion

5,000+ BC FLAX:
  • Generally considered to be the oldest natural textile fiber.
  • Fine linen was used as burial shrouds for the Egyptian pharaohs
  • Largest producer: Soviet States; other large producers include Poland, Germany, Belgium and France. Largest exporters are Northern Ireland and Belgium.
3,000+ BC COTTON:
  • Earliest use estimated between 3,000 BC to 5,000 BC.
  • Worn by Egyptians earlier than 2,500 BC.
  • Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793 revolutionized the processing of cotton.
  • The development of the power loom in 1884 brought significant improvements and variations to cotton fabrics.
  • Major producers: United States, Soviet States, China and India. Lessor producers include Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico Iran and Sudan.
3,000 BC WOOL:
  • Used by people of the Late Stone Age,
  • There are 40 different breeds of sheep, which produce approximately 200 types of wool of varying grades.
  • Major producers include: Australia, New Zealand, Soviet States, China, South Africa, and Argentina.
2,600 BC SILK:
  • Believed discovered by a Chinese princess.
  • Silk is made from two continuous filaments cemented together and used to form the cocoon of the silkworm.
  • Silk culture began about 1725 BC, sponsored by the wife of China's emperor.
  • Secrets of cultivation and fabric manufacturing were closely guarded by the Chinese for about 3,000 years.
  • There is a story that two monks smuggled seeds of the mulberry tree and silkworm eggs out of China by hiding them in their walking sticks.
  • India learned of silk culture when a Chinese princess married an Indian prince.
  • The major producer and exporter of silk is Japan.



The history of U.S. Production Of The Principal Man-Made Fibers Used In Textiles For Apparel And Home Fashion

It is important to understand that all manufactured fibers are not alike. Each fiber has a unique composition and it's own set of physical properties. The U. S. Federal Trade Commission has established generic names and definitions for manufactured fibers, including acetate, acrylic, lyocell, modacrylic, nylon, polyester, polypropylene (olefin), rayon, and spandex. However, all fibers under a generic name are not exactly the same.

Fiber producers have been able to modify the basic composition of each generic fiber, both chemically and physically, to produce variations which provide a softer feel, greater comfort, brighter/longer lasting colors, better warmth/cooling, moisture transport/wicking, and better properties for blending with other fibers. These improved fibers are given a trademark name and are owned and promoted by the fiber producer. The following is a list of producers of manufactured fibers and their trademark names.  

1910 RAYON
  • The first man-made fiber.
  • The first commercial production of rayon fiber in the United States was in 1910 by the American Viscose Company.
  • By using two different chemicals and manufacturing techniques, two basic types of rayon were developed. They were viscose rayon and cuprammonium rayon.
  • Today, there are no producers of rayon in the U.S.
  • The first commercial production of acetate fiber in the United States was in 1924 by the Celanese Corporation.
1939 NYLON:
  • The first commercial production of nylon in the United States was in 1939 by the E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc. It is the second most used man-made fiber in this country, behind polyester.
  • The first commercial production of acrylic fiber in the United States was in 1950 by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc.
  • The first commercial production of polyester fiber in the United States was in 1953 by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc.
  • Polyester is the most used man-made fiber in the U.S.
  • The first commercial production of triacetate fiber in the United States was in 1954 by the Celanese Corporation.
  • Domestic Triacetate production was discontinued in 1985.
  • The first commercial production of spandex fiber in the United States was in 1959 by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc.
  • It is an elastomeric man-made fiber (able to stretch at least 100% and snap back like natural rubber).
  • Spandex is used in filament form.
  • The first commercial production of an olefin fiber manufactured in the U.S. was by Hercules Incorporated.
  • In 1966, polyolefin was the world's first and only Nobel-Prize winning fiber.
  • The first commercial production of micro fiber in the U.S. was in 1989 by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc. Today micro fibers are produced in a variety of synthetic fibers (i.e. polyester, nylon, acrylic, etc.)
  • The true definition of a micro fiber is a fiber that has less than one denier per filament. Micro Fiber is the thinnest, finest of all man-made fibers. It is finer than the most delicate silk.
  • To relate it to something more familiar--A human hair is more than 100 times the size of some micro fibers
  • The first commercial production of lyocell in the U.S. was in 1993 by Courtaulds Fibers, under the Tencel¬ trade name.
  • Environmentally friendly, lyocell is produced from the wood pulp of trees grown specifically for this purpose. It is specially processed, using a solvent spinning technique in which the dissolving agent is recycled, reducing environmental effluents.


Textiles can be made from many materials. These materials come from four main sources: animal (wool, silk), plant (cotton, flax, jute), mineral (asbestos, glass fiber), and synthetic (nylon, polyester, acrylic). In the past, all textiles were made from natural fibres, including plant, animal, and mineral sources. In the 20th century, these were supplemented by artificial fibres made from petroleum.

Textiles are made in various strengths and degrees of durability, from the finest gossamer to the sturdiest canvas. The relative thickness of fibres in cloth is measured in deniers. Microfibre refers to fibres made of strands thinner than one denier.

Animal Textile

Animal textiles are commonly made from hair or fur.

Wool refers to the hair of the domestic goat or sheep, which is distinguished from other types of animal hair in that the individual strands are coated with scales and tightly crimped, and the wool as a whole is coated with a wax mixture known as lanolin (aka wool grease), which is waterproof and dirtproof. Woollen refers to a bulkier yarn produced from carded, non-parallel fibre, while worsted refers to a finer yarn which is spun from longer fibres which have been combed to be parallel. Wool is commonly used for warm clothing. Cashmere, the hair of the Indian cashmere goat, and mohair, the hair of the North African angora goat, are types of wool known for their softness.

Other animal textiles which are made from hair or fur are alpaca wool, vicuña wool, llama wool, and camel hair, generally used in the production of coats, jackets, ponchos, blankets, and other warm coverings. Angora refers to the long, thick, soft hair of the angora rabbit.

Wadmal is a coarse cloth made of wool, produced in Scandinavia, mostly 1000~1500CE.

Silk is an animal textile made from the fibres of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm. This is spun into a smooth, shiny fabric prized for its sleek texture. 

Plant Textile

Grass, rush, hemp, and sisal are all used in making rope. In the first two, the entire plant is used for this purpose, while in the last two, only fibres from the plant are utilized. Coir (coconut fibre) is used in making twine, and also in floormats, doormats, brushes, mattresses, floor tiles, and sacking.

Straw and bamboo are both used to make hats. Straw, a dried form of grass, is also used for stuffing, as is kapok.

Fibres from pulpwood trees, cotton, rice, hemp, and nettle are used in making paper.

Cotton, flax, jute, hemp, modal and even bamboo fibre are all used in clothing. Piña (pineapple fibre) and ramie are also fibres used in clothing, generally with a blend of other fibres such as cotton. Nettles have also been used to make a fibre and fabric very similar to hemp or flax. The use of milkweed stalk fibre has also been reported, but it tends to be somewhat weaker than other fibres like hemp or flax.

Acetate is used to increase the shininess of certain fabrics such as silks, velvets, and taffetas.

Seaweed is used in the production of textiles. A water-soluble fibre known as alginate is produced and is used as a holding fibre; when the cloth is finished, the alginate is dissolved, leaving an open area

Lyocell is a man-made fabric derived from wood pulp. It is often described as a man-made silk equivalent and is a tough fabric which is often blended with other fabrics - cotton for example.

Fibres from the stalks of plants, such as hemp, flax, and nettles, are also known as 'bast' fibres.

Mineral Textile

Asbestos and basalt fibre are used for vinyl tiles, sheeting, and adhesives, "transite" panels and siding, acoustical ceilings, stage curtains, and fire blankets.

Glass Fibre is used in the production of spacesuits, ironing board and mattress covers, ropes and cables, reinforcement fibre for composite materials, insect netting, flame-retardant and protective fabric, soundproof, fireproof, and insulating fibres.

Metal fibre, metal foil, and metal wire have a variety of uses, including the production of cloth-of-gold and jewelery. Hardware cloth is a coarse weave of steel wire, used in construction.

Synthetic Textile

All synthetic textiles are used primarily in the production of clothing.

Polyester fibre is used in all types of clothing, either alone or blended with fibres such as cotton.

Aramid fibre (e.g. Twaron) is used for flame-retardant clothing, cut-protection, and armor.

Acrylic is a fibre used to imitate wools, including cashmere, and is often used in replacement of them.

Nylon is a fibre used to imitate silk; it is used in the production of pantyhose. Thicker nylon fibres are used in rope and outdoor clothing.

Spandex (trade name Lycra) is a polyurethane product that can be made tight-fitting without impeding movement. It is used to make activewear, bras, and swimsuits.

Olefin fibre is a fibre used in activewear, linings, and warm clothing. Olefins are hydrophobic, allowing them to dry quickly. A sintered felt of olefin fibres is sold under the trade name Tyvek.

Ingeo is a polylactide fibre blended with other fibres such as cotton and used in clothing. It is more hydrophilic than most other synthetics, allowing it to wick away perspiration.

Lurex is a metallic fibre used in clothing embellishment.

Milk proteins have also been used to create synthetic fabric. Milk or casein fibre cloth was developed during World War I in Germany, and further developed in Italy and America during the 1930s. Milk fibre fabric is not very durable and wrinkles easily, but has a pH similar to human skin and possesses anti-bacterial properties. It is marketed as a biodegradable, renewable synthetic fibre.


Your browser may not support display of this image.CHIFFON – Chiffon is a fabric made from silk or polyester fabric made from silk, cotton, nylon, polyester or rayon. It is almost always sheer, ordinarily it has a little shimmer and is made up of a very simple weave. When held up to the light, this fabric resembles woven netting. This very fluid textile is generally used in flowing bridal gowns, prom dresses and mother of the bride gowns , since it drapes well and can add a flowing look to these types of special occasion dresses . Most people who sew know that it is quite difficult to work with due to the slippery texture of the fabric. Most fabric stores stock and sell several forms of chiffon in a wide variety of colors. It can also come in different weights like 8mm or 12mm. The higher the weight the better and more expensive. Silk chiffon is the most prized, since it has a rich shimmer . Silk chiffon is also remarkably strong for its weight. Because silk chiffon is made from a natural fiber, it tends to be pricier than synthetics, and it also needs to be cleaned with care by a professional . Polyester chiffon is easier to care for and will not shrink or stretch out as much with varying temperatures – when on a hanger. Polyester materials are most commonly used to make chiffon, since most synthetics take dye well, are relatively inexpensive to make, and they tend to be stout. However, the fabric is still delicate enough that it should be hand water-washed with cold water only, and never run through a laundry machine. Synthetics are additionally just as challenging to do the job with as smooth silk, since they are also slippery. 

Your browser may not support display of this image.GEORGETTE – Georgette material is a textile traditionally made from silk, though synthetic fibers such as polyester are sometimes used also. The thing that makes georgette fabric distinctive is the crinkly crepe-light texture, which to the touch is slightly rough and dull, but gives the fabric a lively, flowing look. If you are wanting a slightly more dense fabric than chiffon but still want the flowing nature of chiffon then gerogette is probably your best choice. Many retailers carry georgette fabric in a variety of colors and prints for all types of crafts, hobbys and sewing projects . Some retail stores also who and sell women’s apparel and drapery made from georgette. The threads used in georgette fabric are extremely contorted, which causes them to crinkle as they relax. The weave of georgette tends to be rather tight, but the total appearance is slightly sheer, since the threads are very thin. Unlike some high quality silks, georgette fabric is also unusually strong, and it holds up well to varied wear. Since silk is highly absorbent, georgette fabric can easily be dyed in a myriad of colors, or printed with a pattern. 


CREPE – Crepe is a silky smooth, wool, or man made fabric of a guaze like texture, having a crimpy appearance. The heaviest weight for this is 40mm which is rather thick. The wavy appearance of Canton crape results from the odd way in which the weft is prepared, the yarn from two bobbins being twisted together in the reverse way. The fabric when woven is smooth and even, having no crape appearance, but when the gum is ultimately extracted by boiling, it at once becomes soft, and the weft, losing its twist, gives the fabric the waved structure which constitutes its distinguishing feature. Canton crapes are used, either white or colored, for scarves and shawls, bonnet trimmings, etc. The crisp and elastic structure of hard crape is not made either in the spinning or in the weaving, but is due to processes through which the gauze passes after it is woven. Crinkle crepe, crepe de chine and crepe back satin are variations of crepe. 


Your browser may not support display of this image.CHARMEUSE – Charmeuse is a lightweight fabric woven with a light satin weave, wherever the warp threads cross over three or more of the backing (weft) threads. The front side of the fabric has a satin finish. Whereas the back has a matte finish. It has a shimmering appearance which lays on the body very well, in particular for bridesmaids dresses and other types of social occasion formal wear. The fabric is has a sleek appearance and extremely soft texture. The fabric does need to be handled with care, since it is very fragile. In a satin weave, the fabric is woven in such a way that, from the front, only the warp threads show. Numerous weft threads are also skipped in weaving, creating long, smooth lines of warp threads. Therefore , the front of a satin weave fabrication is glossy and very smooth, while the backing is matte, and slightly rough. The appearance of satin is highly prized for fine ladies evening apparel dressy garments, since it flows well on the body and catches light in a floating and refined pattern. Charmeuse tends to be very silky and comfortable and is known for it’s anti-static nature. It should feel cool on the skin. However, I don’t think it’s the most breathable of fabrics, and in the warmest of conditions it may tend to feel a bit sticky. 

Your browser may not support display of this image.VELVET – Velvet is a kind of woven tufted cloth in which the cut threads are very evenly placed , with a low dense pile, giving it a distinct feel. Velvet is a soft pile fabric that has been manufactured for almost 4,000 years in one form or another. Velvet has for a long time reasoned a high end fabric because it requires more thread to manufacture than other fabrics, as well as many different steps. Velvet can be made from any type of thread, although traditionally, velvet was made with silk thread, fashioning it even more pricey . It tends to be associated with luxury and sophistication, because (traditionally) it was a very rare and expensive material used only by the rich for fine décor. It was the favored fabric of royalty and was prized not only because of its appearance but its warmth, making it preferably for European weather. Velvet is usually woven as a double cloth on a specialized loom. The warp threads pass through two pieces of cloth, rather of just one, and when the fabric is finished, a blade cuts the two pieces of fabric apart along the warp, thusly making velvet. Each piece of fabric must be taken up on a separate roll as it is cut. The resulting fabric is known as a pile fabric because the thread sticks up, resulting in a soft pile. 

Your browser may not support display of this image.SATIN – Satin is a weave that typically has a glossy surface and a dull back. There are several main types of satin, which can vary in heaviness, flexibleness, and weight. Many materials are also backed up with satin. Wool crepe and velvet often have a satin backing or a satin lining, which eliminates having to wear slips or camisoles. Some of the common satin types are duchess satin, satin faconne, slipper satin, and delustered satin. Duchess satin is used mainly in dress fabrics, and is a common choice for silk satin bridal gowns. It is a fairly stiff satin with a heavy weight and is glossy on one side only. Satin faconne or satin jacquard is a type of satin with patterns woven through it. These could be stripes, paisley, or truthfully any design. Satin jacquard comes in a variety of weights and qualities, but usually toward being a more flexible fabric than duchess satin. Slipper satin is often used for shoes. It may be used on dye-to-match shoes for girls going to the prom . It’s also a common choice for slippers. Slipper satin also covers toe shoes worn by classical performance dancers. Delustered satin, also called peau de soie (skin of silk), is a less shiny, lightweight material. Unlike the shine marked with other forms of satin, peau de soie is often described as having a more matte finish . Delustered satin is usually processed on both sides, making it double-faced. One can also note fine-grained threads in this type of satin.

Your browser may not support display of this image.SHANTUNG – Shantung is a large material that is generally made with both smooth silk fibers or most kind of synthetic fibers that are meant to be substitutes for egyptian cotton filaments. Occasionally known to as spun crazy smooth silk, the texture of shantung is slightly rough but not unpleasant to the touch. Here are some elementary facts about shantung fabric, including a few examples of common uses for the material. One of the characteristics that give shantung its reputation as a rough fabric is found in the weave of the material. Instead of some sort of intricate weave, shantung more so is as very simple plain weave design with a ribbing . What allows the plain weave to produce the raised or ribbed sections of the fabric is the fact that slubbed yarns are used in the turn of the material. It is a medium-weight, plain-weave fabric in cotton, silk, rayon or synthetics, characterized by a ribbing, resulting from slubbed yarns used in the warp or filling focal point. End-uses include silk wedding dresses, formal ball gowns and some mother of the bride 2 piece suits. It resembles pongee, but it instead has a more irregular surface . Most of the slubs are in the filling direction. It wrinkles very easily so steaming before each usage is probably going to be important. Underlining helps to prevent this as well as coming apart from at the seams. Do not fit too tightly, if you plan to wear it for a long time . This comes in various weights, colors and also an array of prints. Douppioni is the pretty much the same as shantung but simply comes from a different country and relying on the top quality can from time to time nevertheless experience a bit lighter in weight than shantung. 

Your browser may not support display of this image.TAFFETA – Taffeta is a sort of fabric which was historically made from silk, but today can be made from many different fibers, including unreal fibers like nylon, and engineered fibers such as rayon. There are a number of uses for taffeta, ranging from lining windbreakers to making wedding gowns, and many people associate this fabric with luxury and high end garments. Many sewing stores that carry taffeta, and it can also be easily bought directly from most fabric suppliers . This fabric usually has a very tight weave, and the weave is plain yet the fabric is also very soft and smooth to the touch, and it has a famously glistening and glimmery appearance. Taffeta is famous for being very stiff and crisp, generating rustling sounds when people move in it. Yarn-dyed fabric tends to be especially stiff, while piece-dyed garments are softer and more flexible. Silk taffeta, the finest version of this fabric, is used in specialty and fashion designer garments such as formal prom gowns, homecoming dresses and ball gowns. Taffeta made from other fibers are utilized for a a lot of different types of garments, and they are particularly popular as linings, because the taffeta can add insulation while helping the garment keep its form . This fabric can also be used for piecework and artwork.   

Your browser may not support display of this image.JERSEY - is a knit fabric utilized predominantly for clothes manufacture. It was initially produced of wool, but is now produced of wool, cotton, and artificial fibers. Usually thinner or lighter-weight than interlock stitched with much less stretch. It’s appropriate for tops and fuller dresses. Hat cloth is a kind of stitched textile built from organic cotton or a organic cotton and synthetic blend. Most prevalent utilizes for jersey material include t-shirts and the winter season bedding. The fabric is warm and very insulating, making it a popular choice for the layer worn to the body. Jersey also tends to be soft, making it very comfortable. One of the reasons many people like to wear jersey fabric is the stretch factor. The fabric can stretch up to 25% percent along its grain. Garments made from the material have plenty of give as their wearers move, and also tend to cling to the body, since the fabric contracts as well as expanding. Knit garments and a few types of formal dresses are usually made from jersey fabric, taking advantage of the clingy characteristic of the fabric. Jersey fabric is also available in many smorgasbord of hues and habits to suit all tastes.

ORGANZA – Originally a lightweight silk that is soft cloth, organza is a simple weave that is made using nylon, polyester, and silk or a mix of any of the three. The unfastened weave of the filaments allows the production of organza to result in sections of cloth that are translucent in nature. A slightly looser variation on the weave will result in sheer looking fabric. When it comes to attire, organza is a staple of formal dresses, bridal gowns and other feminine wardrobe items for women. As a way to produce full skirts on couture bridal gowns, nothing beats organza for a graceful fall that produces attractive lines. Wraps that are overlaid with organza can produce a modern look that will draw many admiring eyes. One of the main uses of organza is in the creation of wedding dresses that help make the all important wedding day all the more memorable. Between wedding attire and couture evening wear fashions, organza has a very safe position in the clothing world.

Your browser may not support display of this image.FAILLE – Faille is a ribbed material with a texture comparable to grosgrain ribbon. The cloth curtains effectively and is not prone to wrinkling. Colour tone is stronger, more stable than shantung. Faille delivers a supportive fit. This material is primarily adorned by females . It has an fantabulous drape, which is why it often appears in wedding gowns. This fabric is also durable and often quite rugged; it is often very immune to stains and tearing, for example. When the woven fabric is made ith heavier materials, it can sometimes defy very intensive and varied makes use of.




Fine Fabric Designer Dresses & Gowns (prom, homecoming, wedding...)