Poplin is a Plain Weave fabric. A plain weave is defined as one where each weft yarn passes over one warp yarn, then under one warp yarn, then over one warp yarn, and so on.
While the weight of the Poplin fabric can vary, generally for fine cottons the fabric weight tends to be light to medium weight. The Poplin is primarily a shirting fabric, and is ideal for men’s shirts and women’s blouses. That said; the Poplin has had various other uses in apparel and textiles as well.
One view of Textiles history suggests that Poplin takes its name from the French city of Avignon. In the 14th century, Avignon was the centre for outstanding textiles production, as well as the Papal seat of the time.
This popular fabric from that time was named Papelino to honor the Pope. That name eventually evolved into Poplin in the English Language.
Broadcloth and Poplin are exactly the same thing or close cousins, if you prefer. They are both Plain weave one up, one down, constructed. However Broadcloth is a type of densely woven fabric that is extremely sturdy, while still very soft to the touch. This dense weaving is also what gives the Broadcloth its special sheen and when laundered and ironed a crispness that is unparalleled.
The roots of Broadcloth can be found in medieval England, where interestingly the original English Broadcloth was made from wool!
From a historic perspective, this then is also the difference between Broadcloth and Poplin - Broadcloth was invented in England, a few centuries before the French invented Poplin.
The Oxford weave is a basket weave that produces a fabric that is heavier than both Poplin and Broadcloth.
A basket weave uses more than one form of weft and warp yarns. When constructing the basket weave - each group of wefts passes over a parallel number of warps. This results in a crisscross display of yarns, exactly as would see in a basket. The Oxford weave creates this basket effect when two warp yarns run in parallel with one heavier bulky filling yarn.
Unsubstantiated historical rumor has it that a Scottish mill created the fabric weave in the 1800s, and decided to name it after Oxford University!
What is without doubt, is that the Oxford shirt was popularized by Polo playing glitterati, in the 1930s. This Oxford effect also changed a central idea of fashion, by helping create a shirt that was both a staple casual and dress attire.
The Oxford Chambray is the basket weave that we have just described, with one important difference – The two fine yarns woven and the heavier yarn, are in different colors to create a distinctive two-toned fabric.
What then is Chambray itself? - The Chambray is a fine fabric of cotton, or silk, or linen, generally woven as Plain weave or a Twill weave or an Oxford weave with a colored warp and white or un-dyed weft.
Like the Oxford Weave itself; the Chambray fabrics go the full distance between formal dress shirts on one hand and a very casual washed down shirts on the other, based on the fineness of the yarns used or the weight of the fabrics or the treatment put on them.
The Chambray weave was first created by the textile mills of Cambrai city in France, using Linen yarns, towards the end of the 16th century. Hence the name Chambray!
Pinpoint Oxford cloth is similar to the Oxford fabric’s basket weave. However a major difference is the use of finer yarns and a very dense weave.
This is a very lustrous finer counts fabric. In the Pinpoint weave version of the Oxford weave - when fine yarns are used in both the warp and the weft, the basket weave texture of the fabric tends to be subdued, and the result is a more even weave. For example when a Blue warp yarn crosses a white weft yarn, the basket weave tends to get seen visually as dense pinpoints of white and blue – hence the name pinpoint Oxford.
This superior basket weave Oxford cloth is generally woven with 2 ply 80s, and 2 ply 100s count fabric.
The Twill weave is a visually distinctive fabric. The Twill weaving method creates a diagonal lines rib pattern in the fabric. These tightly woven fabrics are generally softer and have better drape than plain weaves. But then they are not as crisp as the Broadcloth for example.
The Twill Weave is very interesting weave pattern. In the Twill weave - a single weft yarn passes over one or more warp yarns, then under two or more warp yarns and so on. This one up, two down etc weave creates a drape that’s very silky. In fine yarn count shirt fabrics, even 100% cotton fabrics tend to have a bit of the silk effect to them! Very dressy indeed!
At the complete other end probably the best known example of the Twill weave is the Denim! Yes, the diagonal lines that you see in your Denim jeans is the Twill.
The Herringbone weave is essentially a Twill weave. The difference is that the diagonal lines pattern of the twill reverses after a definite number of warp threads. This pattern of twill lines going in one direction then reversing to go in the other creates a pattern similar to the bones of a fish – hence the name Herringbone!
This is a very interesting fabric visually and based on the prominence of the twill lines, very distinctive too.
The Fil-à-fil weave or an end-on-end fabric, is plain weave woven with threads in two different colors – this use of alternating colored threads, usually a dominant color interwoven with white gives the shirt fabric a visual feel of a solid color, that on a closer look seems to have a bit of the other color in it too!
History has it that the fil-à-fil, or the end-on-end, fabric was invented by French textile mills. The fil-à-fil fabric is woven in a plain weave but the end on end use of yarns gives the simple Plain weave a heathered intricacy, that’s delightful in a dress shirt.
Jacquard weaves are intricate textures that are woven on a special loom to create a fabric self-design. This design could be in the form of stripes, checks, or even abstract patterns.
The jacquard machine is actually not a loom but rather a machine that is placed on top of a loom, which electronically selects the individual warp threads that are to be run.
The Jacquard is a weaving method created by the French inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801. The Jacquard tends to be the loom of choice for a lot of intricate self designs on shirt fabrics.
A bit of historical significance - The principle behind the Jacquard loom is the idea that the Jacquard loom could control the action of the weaving process by interfacing the behavior of the loom, to an encoded pattern on a card. In order to do this, Joseph Marie Jacquard invented a kind of punch card – that arranged for the pattern to be depicted as a group of holes arranged in a sequence on the pasteboard card. The presence or absence of a hole was detected mechanically, and used to determine the actions of the loom by Jacquard’s machine.
Does this sound somewhat familiar – it perhaps does, because this punchcard was the precursor or the driving idea behind what Charles Babbage and others developers of computing machinery utilized to create the punch card for the modern computer.
The Houndstooth weave is generally a two-colored check pattern that was created by the mills in Scotland using woven Wool. And while the use of this weave is even today more suiting oriented than shirting, this distinctive and bold design done in fine counts shirting fabric, will definitely create a stir when worn as a dress shirt.
From a weaving technicality; the Houndstooth check is made with alternating bands of four light threads in both warp and weft woven in a simple 2 x 2 broken twill. The fabric design output of this 2 x 2 broken twill appears visually as a four-pointed star.
This interesting fabric works best when the 2 colors used have a dramatic contrast between them. That’s why so much of the woven Houndstooth tends to be ‘Black & White’!
The Satin weave is a popular weaving method, on account of the glimmer or shine that this weave tends to create on the fabric.
Satin makes for very fashionable dress shirt fabrics, that show their luster boldly. In fact when produced in fine count, long staple fibre yarns, that are lustrous to begin with, the Satin weave fabric dress shirt can really dominate the room with its luster!
In the Satin weave, in a method opposing the Twill weave, two or more weft threads sit above a single warp. A satin weave uses long floats that run sometimes over 5 or more warp threads, while the warp threads interlace only once. It is the long floats that produce the smoothness and shine that we associate with Satin
What’s more; contrary to popular opinion, Satin is not a silk or silk blended fabric. In fact it’s not a fabric at all – it’s a weave!