Have you picked the right fabric?

Selecting the right fabric is probably the most important decision you have to make when designing clothing. This can totally make or break a design and can be the difference between a flawless dress and something that looks homemade and crafty. These are the 4 main questions I ask myself when selecting a fabric for a design I have in mind. I’ll use a dress as an example for this post.

1. What is the fit of the dress?

Is the dress loose and flowing?

For dresses that are loose and flowing you’ll want to select a fabric with great drape and a liquid feel. These fabrics should skim over the body and fall naturally with ease and elegance. You’ll want to consider the weight of the fabric and how heavy or light it needs to be. Often with relaxed fit dresses you can opt for a lighter weight fabric for maximum fluidity and if necessary line the dress with an extra layer of fabric. My top picks are a Silk Satin, Silk Crepe De Chine, Rayon Crepe, Chiffon/Georgette and most Jersey fabrics.

Is the dress fitted and shapely?

If your design is fitted and body hugging, you’ll need to consider body movement, fabric strength and how the fabric flatters (or doesn’t flatter) the body. After all, you’ll need to be able to move around comfortably without the fabric pulling and ideally we’d all like to leave the Spanx at home! Look for a thicker, heavier weight fabric and if possible one with a little stretch to it. My top picks are Cotton Spandex Sateen, Silk Duchess Satin, Ponti, Woven wool and thick Jerseys.

Is the style of the dress a combination of the two?

When working on a design that has both fitted and flowing elements, for example a dress with a fitted bodice and a long flowing skirt, you have two options: a) choose a thicker fabric that still has great drape, or b) combine 2 fabrics into your design. Remember you always have the option of layering a light fabric over a heavier one – eg layering gathered Chiffon over Duchess Satin for a structured but still soft bodice.

2. What season will you be wearing the dress?

This is an important question to as in order to pick the best fabric for optimal comfort. Part of it is obvious - choose thicker fabrics for winter and lighter fabrics for summer; however we can go a little deeper than that.

In general it is better to always choose natural fabrics, but this is most important in the heat of summer. Light linen, Silk and cottons are great go to’s for those balmy summer nights as well as some rayon and natural jerseys. To beat the winter chill, opt for wool, brushed cotton and thick woven silks. Understandably, we can’t always afford the finest wools and natural fibres. So if you’re having to compromise, save these man made fabrics for winter where you can layer them on top of fine wool under layers.

3. What is your budget?

As mentioned above, your budget can often determine your limitations and options when choosing fabrics. Of course we would all love to drape ourselves in silk on a daily basis, but this can get pricey. If you’re on a tighter budget think about mixing fabrics, using silk for only the main areas of your design. Try using fabrics like Rayon and Viscose that come with a lower price tag or shop around for good quality “looks like, feels like silk”.

4. What is the occasion?

Where will you be wearing the dress? Is it a formal or casual event? This is where you need to ask yourself what would be appropriate and you get to use a little bit of creative licence. Think about colour, print, shine, sparkle and sheerness. Remember you can mix it up! Find the right balance between dress code and your personal style.

Hopefully this gives you a little helping hand when making that big decision at the fabric store.

And after all, if you need a little more guidance all you need to do is get in touch!

- Elizabeth