FABRIC IS THE ESSENCE of fashion. It is the fabric that gives a semblance of unanimity to couture collections during any one season; the fabric that dictates the silhouette and general character of clothes. Luxurious brocades rightly are used for formal gowns. Chiffon, tulle, net, and lace are diaphanous and require fullness in the skirt. When the great fabric houses make sheer silk jersey, it is not surprising that many designers create gowns of that fabric each in his own particular manner.

Designers sense the mood of their clients. It was not surprising in 1950 that all important Parisian couturiers devised countless mag­nificent ball gowns of breath-taking beauty: full-skirted, bouffant, romantic creations for grand occasions. For one thing, the mills were making fine fabrics again. Silk chiffon, net, tulle, lace, ribbon were abundant following war years and times of shortage. Cus­tomers, too, were eager for more elegant evening parties.

Many teen-age girls had never seen a gala ball. After every war there is a particular need for the ultra-elegant, the grand, magnificent occasion. For the Grande Simazine in Paris, the week in June when new automobiles are introduced at a festival-like celebration, Dior made countless creations of breath-taking beauty, each named for a favourite composer. In New York and other cities, window shoppers stood in line to view these wonderful gowns. These ensembles recaptured a romantic mood dear to the hearts of all.

In the directory of fabrics at the end of this chapter are included not only current fabrics but also those not popular at the present time, because fabrics follow cycles. The dressy town coatings, needlepoint types, and boucle were out of fashion during World War II and until 1950 partly because of the high tax on fur-trimmed coats. Mill executives believe, however, that the demand for dressy coats will begin again following the several years during which sport and casual coats predominated.


silk fabrics have returned for consumer use after an absence of some years—taffeta, chiffon, crepe, crepe de Chine, satin, lace, faille, shantung, Honan, velvet, surah, foulard, and silk organdie. Obviously a silk dress is of a character entirely different from a wool jersey or a cotton frock. Consequently in 1950 the silk coat and ensemble in dressier daytime and evening clothes met a consumer need. Short-sleeved suits and coats with caplet effects were shown.

Utility cottons, denim, chambray, and gingham took on a different appearance. The familiar blue overall denim was made in pastel colours, in stripes and checks, and in lighter weights suitable for dresses and play clothes. Novelty chambrays with satin stripes or multicolour effects came in. Tissue gingham in combed yarns gave new appeal to this popular fabric. Novelty textures were devised as crinkled effects, clique and replete and moiré finish. Sheer cottons of all types were made in British, and also organdie, batiste, lace, net, voile, sheer muslin, fine broadcloth, and tissue ginghams were imported. Corduroy was “styled up,” made in new textures, weights, and colours. This admirable fabric is a staple for boys’ pants and men’s work clothes. It is also a favourite with college girls. In 1950 it was made available in textures suitable for elegant afternoon suits, ball gowns, coats, street and business frocks, and play clothes.

A finish to prevent cotton from wrinkling excessively was per­fected. Colours and patterns were devised suitable for town business wear, thus increasing the use of cotton fabrics.

Wool was used for all kinds of fabrics suitable for year-round wear. The sheerest dress goods were developed. Moth proofing was a finish used to eliminate the hazard of moths. Also a pre-shrunk, or washable, wool was available to consumers. Among the newer looking wools were gossamer jerseys, fleeces, fancy coatings, re­versible fabrics, plaids, checks, tweeds, iridescent fabrics, faille tex­tures, ottomans, and sharkskin types.

Linen, a fabric that must be imported, as flax grows only in a few sections of the British, was again available in suiting, dress, and coating weights. Linen is especially desirable for town business wear as’ it is cool and keeps its shape. New weaves and a creped linen and original prints were introduced.

Rayon and nylon fabrics and Celanese and other acetate rayon fabrics made up a large proportion of fabrics used in volume-priced merchandise. Yarn producers, with infinite patience and at a great cost, have spent years in research to perfect fabrics and blends. The tensile strength of rayon has been increased for yarns both dry and wet. In 1950 synthetic yarns were successfully used in all types of fabrics, coatings, suiting’s, draperies, upholstery, rugs, shoe fabrics, as well as dress, blouse, and lingerie fabrics. Although the problems of manufacturing nylon cloth have not been completely met, consumer demand for all kinds of merchandise made from nylon continues unabated.


The names of fabric designers are generally not known to the consuming public. In a mill, many persons contribute their skill, knowledge, and experience in the development of new blankets, as new experimental fabrics are called. Thus the mill owner, the sales manager who knows his clients’ needs, the technician, the man who buys the raw fibres, and the superintendent who is acquainted with his workers and his equipment all pool their efforts. No one person claims all credit for the joint project.

In large organizations such as Burlington Mills, Botany Mills, Dan River, Pacific Mills, many designers or experts are employed. The finished fabric bears the name of the mill or selling agent, not that of any one particular person.