Fabric Selection 101

Beyond a doubt, fabric selection is the most crucial part of sewing – it literally is the costume. When I was a starting seamstress, my fabric choices were ALL over the place, especially for skirts, I used lining fabric, charmeuse, silky solids, and a myriad of completely inappropriate fabrics for the styles I was making. Best part? They fell apart. Not just because I didn’t finish my seams, but because the fabric was quite literally, wrong.

You can learn from my mistakes! Save yourself some coin to spend on the appropriate fabrics for a project. I’m going to talk all about wovens today and save knits for another. If you have questions, ask away.

Let’s dive right in!

I separate my fabrics into two categories: Shine and No Shine. Why? Because these two categories rarely if ever go together in a single costume, the uses for each are quite different from one another.

No Shine fabrics are my favorite! I’m talking matte natural fiber fabrics in the cotton, linen, rayon, silk world (and matte polyesters of course).

These fabrics tend to go toward cosplays like:

  • Anime
  • Peasant Outfits
  • Ren Faire Garb
  • Casual Characters
  • Casual and fancy historical recreations
Photo: Nick Ferris Photography
18th Century Snow White in Wool, Linen, and Cotton
Photo: Nick Ferris Photography
OUAT Belle in Linen and Cotton Eyelet

Examples of these fabrics are:

  • Cotton Broadcloth
  • Linen/Linen Blends
  • Gauze/Double Gauze
  • Cotton Sateen
  • Lace
  • Some velvets
  • Voile/Lawn
  • Upholstery Fabrics
  • Suede
Photo: Nick Ferris Photography
18th Century Vanessa in Suede, Linen, Cotton, and Upholstery Damask
Photo: Nick Ferris Photography
Cinderella in Linen, Cotton, Double Gauze

Shine fabrics are meant to make a statement. In your design, be very careful to balance your shiniest fabrics with something matte so that you do not look like a shine ball in photos.

These fabrics tend to be synthetics and are best served for:

  • Ball gowns
  • Fancy dresses
  • Fancy historical recreations
  • Dance costumes
Photo: Nick Ferris Photography
Mother Gothel in Brocade, Sequin Lace, Taffeta and Chiffon with metallic accents
Photo: Nick Ferris Photography
Charmander in Silk Dupioni and
Polyester Moire

Examples of these fabrics are:

  • Taffeta
  • Organza & Chiffon
  • Silk/Shantung/Satin
  • Brocade/Damask
  • Velvet
  • Sequin
  • Metallic Vinyl
Photo: Nick Ferris Photograhpy
Anna in Satin, Taffeta, Shantung, Suede, and Linen
Photo: Nick Ferris Photography
Anastasia in Sequin, Shantung, Velvet, Glitter Chiffon, Lace, and Metallic Vinyl

And there you have it! Simple guidelines to follow that make life very easy and picture perfect!

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