Updated on October 2, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
If you see a shiny nice looking fabric that looks like silk, but you know it is not silk, it maybe acetate. Acetate fabric is an inexpensive alternative to more luxurious fabrics like silk and rayon. The fabric looks as shiny and lustrous as these fabrics and feels as soft and lightweight. It is also somewhat crisp.
What is acetate fabric?
Acetate fabric is made of cellulosic fibres – spun filaments of cellulose (regenerated cellulose fibers). The cellulose is made of the wood of non-edible plants or cotton linters. It also may have silk, cotton or wool fibers. These are combined with acetic acid to produce the lustrous fabric, in a very complex chemical process. It was discovered in the early part of the 20th century and commercialized from the 1920s (to be exact in 1924, by Celanese Corporation).
How to know if you have Acetate fabric for sure?
If you want to test your acetate fabric for authenticity use some nail polish remover on it – acetate fibers dissolve in the acetone nail polish remover (Found this on the book 101 sewing secrets by Singer).
Uses of Acetate fabric
Acetate is used to make wedding gowns, nice party dresses and other occasion wear, ties, knitwear, lingerie, scarves, lining, graduation wear, furnishings, curtains, umbrellas etc. A lot of ready to wear gowns have acetate linings. Graduation gowns are almost always made of Acetate fabric.
Different types of Acetate fabrics
Satin Acetate ribbons are ribbons woven from acetate thread in a satin weave and they are used a great deal for decorative purposes – floral arrangements, bouquet wraps, Christmas bows etc. These are strong somewhat stiff ribbons with a heat fused edge that prevents fraying and is available in a lot of colors.
The main types of acetate fabrics are Satin Acetate, Acetate jerseys, Triacetate and modacrylic fabrics. Acetate satin, Acetate taffeta and acetate jerseys are widely used for making garments.
There are many specail fabrics with acetate fibers that you never knew was acetate – velvets, brocades, lame (a metallic fabric), moire, Peau de Soie (a silk look alike fabric). Alpaca Rayon is a blend of acetate and rayon. Many ribbed weave fabrics can also be made of acetate like Barathea, bedford cord and many embossed and burn-out fabrics.
Advantages of Acetate Fabric
The advantages of this fabric in dressmaking include, other than its luxurious feel and glossy looks, the ability to hang well and the availability in all colors.
Acetate does not shrink. It dries fast after washing and there is also no pilling on the surface. It cannot be attacked by moths, nor would it get stained with mildew stains.
It is made of a man-made fiber so it is biodegradable, so that is an advantage- you can say it is an eco-friendly fabric because it is made from processed wood pulp. But then making the fabric involves a lot of processes that are not so environmentally friendly. So I do not know whether it is an advantage or disadvantage.
Disadvantages of Acetate fabric
Acetate clothes are all marked Dry clean only. This is because of its lack of strength. If you put it in the washing machine for washing or into the dryer, there is no guarantee how it will come out.
Do not use Acetate fabric for anything which will undergo lots of wear and tear. It is used to make things which do not have to be washed or worn often – like a party dress, prom dress or a costume. This is because, it is not a very durable fabric and lacks the real strength you need in a fabric that can resist wear and tear.
It can fray easily at the seams especially if it is an item of very tight-fitting clothing. And with repeated washings or if stretched beyond its endurance. You can dry clean it to maintain its appearance.
There are some other disadvantages as well – The color fades fast if kept exposed to light and other pollutants; it wrinkles badly and it does not stretch much.
But if you want a cheap fabric and do not mind about the quality of the fabric, acetate is very suitable – because it is somewhat like silk in looks – shiny in appearance and soft in feel.