Tuesday, 15 July 2014 00:00


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Traditionally, textile fibres come from four major sources; animal (wool, silk), plant (cotton,flax,jute), mineral (glass fibre) and synthetic (nylon, polyester, acrylic). In the 20th century, new artificial fibres were made from petroleum. These new fibres can be mixed with the other fibres to create new fabrics. 

The WOW factor for costumes is usually shared between the fabrics, trims and costume design. Shiny fabrics, trimmed with beads or lights dazzle the audience and costumers alike. It is so exciting to be introduced to new fabrics and technology; indeed, costumers are very attentive while the Head of Wardrobe discusses new fabrics, trims and costume effects.

  I have put together a list of basic textiles - you are likely familiar with most of them but new fabrics and textures are being invented every day - eventually, they wind up being used in costumes.

Animal Textiles

Wool - hair from domestic goats or sheep. Individual strands are tightly crimped, often the cause of itchiness for some wearers. Wool has a natural water repellant wax coating called lanolin. Commonly used for warm clothing. Woollen refers to a bulkier yarn while Worsted refers to a finer yarn.

  • Cashmere - hair of the Indian cashmere goat. Very soft and warm.
  • Mohair -  hair of the North African angora goat. Very soft and warm.
  • Vicuna Wool - alpaca, llama and camel hair is usually used to make coats, jackets, blankets and other warm coverings
  • Angora - soft hair of the angora rabbit.
  • Qiviut - the fine inner wool of the muskox.
  • Silk - from fibres of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm spun into fabric that is prized for its softness. Two main types : 'mulberry silk' where silkworm larvae are cultivated in habitats with fresh mulberry leaves for consumption and Tussah silk, silkworms feeding purely on oak leaves. 

Plant Textiles

Cotton, Flax, jute, hemp, modal, bamboo, pineapple - fibres are all used is clothing, many fibres are mixed with cotton for strength. Bamboo fibre is becoming more popular due to it's 'wicking' properties. Performers get so warm under the lights, that any possible break is appreciated.

  • Acetate - increases the shininess of certain fabrics such as silks, velvets and taffeta. 
  • Lyocell - is a man-made fabric made from wood pulp, much like silk and is often blended with cotton.

Mineral Textiles

  • Glass -  fibres are used in spacesuits, flame-retardant and protective fabric. 
  • Metal - fibres are used to produce cloth-of-gold and jewellery. Metal cloth is a coarse weave of steel wire and used in construction.

Synthetic Textiles

  • Polyester - fibres are used in all types of clothing, often blended with wool and cotton.
  • Aramid - fibres are used for flame-retardant clothing, cut protection and armour.
  • Acrylic - fibres are used to imitate wools, including cashmere.
  • Nylon - fibres are used to imitate silk and is used to produce pantyhose.
  • Spandex - is a polyurethane product that can be tight-fitting without impeding movement. It was used in swimsuits and bras but now it has been added to almost all other fibres because it improves the fit. 
  • Olefin - fibres are used in activewear, linings and warm clothing. Olefins are hydrophobic, allowing them to dry quickly.
  • Ingeo - is a polylactide fibre blended with other fibres such as cotton. It is more hydrophilic than most other synthetics, allowing it to wick away perspiration.
  • Lurex - is a metallic fibre used in clothing embellishment.


I think the video explains fleece beautifully. Enjoy.

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1 comment

  • Comment Link adriana Tuesday, 12 August 2014 08:08 posted by adriana

    This is great!!! Very useful

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The Costumer's Notebook,

The book The Costumer's Notebook is a 295 page comprehensive handbook for Costumers for stage and film including a full Glossary of stage and film industry terms. Sections include methods and tricks for laundry, dyeing, breakdown, Dresser guidelines and protocols for Stage or Film and various size charts for men and women from shoes to gloves. Other Sections include diagrams showing How to Iron A Shirt, How to Tie a Tie and How to Tie a Bow Tie. Costume fittings, costume lay out and costume storage are also discussed.