Glossary of Fabric and Vintage Clothing Terms

Glossary of Fabric and Vintage Clothing Terms

Posted by Vivian Vassar on 8th Mar 2017

I've been collecting and selling vintage clothing for over 25 years. I've probably seen it all but I don't always know what to call it. Here's a
glossary of fabric and clothing terms that you might find useful when buying vintage clothing and taking care of the vintage clothing in your

Glossary of Fabric and Vintage Clothing Terms

Reprinted with permission from
For more information, see the web site at

  • Beaver cloth is a heavy woolen overcoating, napped and pressed down to resemble beaver fur. This fabric is also a plush fabric that is used for 


  • Broadcloth is an all woolen or worsted fabric with a velvety feel.
  • Brocade is a jacquard weave with an embossed effect and contrasting surfaces. Can also be woven with synthetic or man-made fibers
  • Challis, a light weight soft wool in plain weave, has a printed or woven design or flowers.
  • Charmeuse is a satin weave silk with a crepe back sometimes called crepe backed satin.
  • Chiffon is transparent soft and light silk. Can also be woven of cotton or man-made fibers.
  • Cotton is fiber from the cotton plant's seed pod. The fiber is hollow in the center and, under a microscope looks like a twisted ribbon. This fiber 

absorbs and releases perspiration quickly, thus allowing the fabric to "breathe". Cotton can stand high temperatures and takes dyes easily.
Chlorine bleach can be used to restore white garments to a clear white but this bleach may yellow chemically finished cottons or remove color in
dyed cottons

  • Damask, a jacquard weave, is a reversible rich weave, patterned in satin or plain weave.
  • Dimity is sheer, thin, white or printed fabric with lengthwise cords, stripes or checks.
  • Duck is a heavy, durable tightly woven fabric. Heavy weight drill is used in awnings, tents, etc. Lighter duck is used in summer clothing.
  • Faille soft ribbed silk with wider ribs than seen in grosgrain ribbon. Slightly glossy.
  • Flannelette is a soft cotton fabric with a nap on one side
  • Gauze is a sheer, lightly woven fabric similar to cheesecloth. It is also made in silk.
  • Gingham is a lightweight, washable, stout fabric that is woven in checks, plaids or stripes.
  • Georgette sheer crepe silk, heavier than chiffon and with a crinkle surface.
  • Herringbone wool is woven in a twill that is reversed at regular spacing, creating a sawtooth line.
  • Houndstooth check has a four pointed star check in a broken twill weave.
  • Jersey is a knit fabric that is usually knit in fine wool but can also be found in silk, and man-made fibers.
  • Lawn is a plain weave, soft, very light, combed cotton fabric with a crisp finish.
  • Linen is from flax, a bast fiber taken from the stalk of the plant. The luster is from the natural wax content. Creamy white to light tan, this fiber can be easily dyed and the color does not fade when washed. Linen does wrinkle easily but also presses easily. Linen, like cotton, can also be boiled without damaging the fiber.
  • Linsey-woolsey is a coarse fabric first made in Lindsey, England, of wool combined with flax or cotton.
  • Loden fabric is a thick, soft, waterproof, windproof, wool used in outerwear that has a characteristic green color.
  • Melton, a heavy, tick, short napped fabric without a finish press or gloss.
  • Muslin is a sheer to coarse plain woven cotton fabric. Muslin comes in "natural" color or is dyed.
  • Organdy is a very thin, transparent cotton with a crisp finish.
  • Organza is similar to cotton organdy except it is made with silk and is transparent.
  • Peau de Soie is a stout, soft silk with fine cross ribs. Looks slightly corded. Also called paduasoy.
  • Percale is a light weight, closely woven, sturdy fabric that can be found printed in dark colors.
  • Pima Cotton, from Egyptian cotton, is an excellent quality cotton fabric.
  • Polished Cotton is either a satin weave cotton or a plain weave cotton that is finished chemically to appear shiny.
  • Pongee is a plain woven, thin, naturally tan fabric that has a rough weave effect.
  • Poplin is a plain weave fabric with a cross-wise rib.
  • Ramie is also similar to linen and is a bast of plant fiber. It is natural white in color, has a high luster and an unusual resistance to bacteria and molds. Used in fabrics, and often mistaken for linen, it is extremely absorbent and dries quickly
  • Sateen is a satin weave cotton fabric.
  • Seersucker is a lightweight cotton fabric crinkled into lengthwise stripes.
  • Sharkskin is woven with warp and filling yarns of alternating white with black, brown or blue.
  • Silk is a natural protein fiber, like human hair, taken from the cocoon of the silkworm.
  • Silk satin is a satin weave with a plain back.
  • Swiss is a sheer, very fine cotton that can be plain or decorated with dots or other designs.
  • Tweed is a rough textured wool, originally homespun and slightly felted. This fabric is sturdy with a mottled color.
  • Velveteen is an all cotton pile fabric with short pile resembling velvet.
  • Wool is fiber that comes from a variety of animal coats. The wool fibers have crimps or curls which create pockets and gives the wool a spongy feel and creates insulation for the wearer. Wool will not only return to its original position after being stretched or creased, it will absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Wool is also dirt resistant, flame resistant, and, in many weaves, resists wear and tearing.