7 of the best fabrics for Shirts

Buying shirts or the fabric to make them ?

You have come to the right place. No, No, No, I do not sell them! But I do have some precious information on what to buy. I have listed here the most favourite fabrics used to make the best of shirts and their properties – read on if you are looking for high quality and fine shirt fabric.

best fabrics for shirts

The two most important things to consider, other than the general properties and qualities of the fabric that points to the use of best yarns, are Thread count and ply – these points to the use of the best weaving processes.

You will hear thread count mentioned as numbers starting from 50 to even 1000s. Higher the thread count the softer, smoother and silkier the fabric and ofcourse more expensive.

Regarding ply construction, there will be single ply fabrics and two-ply fabrics. The two-ply fabrics have two yarns spun into one to prevent wear and tear problems like pilling. Fabrics with more than 100 thread counts will usually have a two-ply construction with two yarns twisted together, which makes for a durable fabric

Check out the related post on the 20 different types of shirts you can make with these fabrics.  Check out these post to know more about textile fibers and textile weaves if you are the kind who likes to delve into details. 

1.   Fine cotton

I will not beat around the bush. If you can afford a high quality cotton like  Pima, Swiss or Egyptian cotton of two ply cottons with a  high thread count of at least  160 to 220 you do not need to read any further. Go and buy that because shirts made with these fabrics will stand all tests of time and wear and make you look elegant and dapper throughout.

shirt fabric

Cotton fabrics like Egyptian, Sea Island, or American Pima cotton  – these are the best and most desirable fabric for making shirts. They are very expensive as well. But there is a reason for that. 

These cotton fabric are all made from the fibers of the same plant with a cotton termed as extra long staple length which means they can be made into fine and strong yarns with which these fabrics are made of. They are the softest with very high thread count and has a two-ply construction.

Out of these, Egyptian cotton is the finest. American Pima comes second. In Egyptian cotton, Giza 45 is the best but if you want to buy shirts made of this fabric, you will pay through your nose because it is used to make the most exclusive dress shirts in the world and you know how much the “exclusive” label costs

Pima cotton broadcloth is a high quality but inexpensive fabric with soft and smooth finish – it is a very popularly used cotton fabric for shirts. This fabric has a very fine,
horizontal ribbed texture which is very attractive

Learn more about the different types of cotton fabric here.

2   Poplin

Poplin, the most popular shirt fabric, is a plain weave fabric which is smooth, cool and breathable with a crisp feel. A good quality poplin is a superfine tightly woven, high-quality fabric. It is an overall favourite for making dress shirts. The fabric is soft and very smooth to the touch.

One disadvantage I can see with poplin as a shirt fabric is that if you want a completely opaque fabric this is not for you – it is thin and ever so slightly transparent. But this makes it lightweight which is an advantage.

But then there is another disadvantage related to its thinness – it wrinkles. But when it is freshly pressed it is as crisp and elegant as you want a dress shirt to be. So considering all the great points it has, poplin is great for making shirts you can wear anytime anywhere, especially formal shirts

End on end poplin is a dress shirt fabric with a subtle texture because of the way it is woven – weft thread is one color and the warp thread is another color. Usually, a colored thread in the warp and white thread in the weft is used for a more traditional effect.  It looks like a solid from a distance but has a slight pattern to it. This is chosen over solid poplin because of this added dimension.

End on End and Chambray are identical except for some subtle differences. The chambric fabric has warp-thread (usually indigo) and weft-thread (mostly off-white) crossing in its weave – the  resultant subtly blue coloured fabric is a favorite for making casual shirts

Learn more about poplin here.

3   Twill

Twill  is a fabric weave and the many fabrics which are made in this weave like herringbone and denim and houndstooth and cavalry are all very popular for making shirts. Twill weave makes the fabrics very soft to the touch but it is heavier than cotton, silk or poplin. It is a very durable and strong fabric but at the same time it hangs well on the body

Get a tightly woven twill fabric and it will be very soft. Cavalry twills have very obvious weave pattern. You may want a more subtle twill weave; But in fact the diagonal weave of twill is very attractive so you may not mind it. Good quality Twill is slightly shiny (again because of the weave), easy to iron and is resistant to wrinkles.

Chino is a twill fabric which is light weight ; Houndstooth is a twill fabric with a check pattern ( with a houndstooth – dog’s tooth shape) usually in black and white. A herringbone twill fabric has diagonal stripes in a zig zag pattern – like  the bones of a herring fish.

You will have a choice of selecting formal twill fabric and casual twill fabrics – make your selection according to your need. Most of the twill fabrics are hard wearing and durable but denim is my absolute favourite – best for all season wear. It is fashionable every year.Look out for thinner, lighter denim ( not the denim used for making jeans) – you can ask for shirt weight denim

4   Linen

Nothing is more elegant than clothes made of linen and it gets better with age and washings. It is more loosely woven and sheer than cotton and the most suitable fabric for wearing in hot summer climates
But it wrinkles a lot and is not the most drapey – you must know it is slightly crisp – which of course adds to its look of elegance. But if you do not mind the disadvantage and you want a fabric that is natural and that breathes, nothing like linen

I have been talking about 100% linen fabric – but if you take blended linen like a bamboo-linen blend, some of the problems of the linen has been taken care of .; it will wrinkle less and will be more drapey. Same is the case with a cotton/linen blend

Learn more about Linen here.

5  Flannel 

Flannel is a favourite thick weave heavy weight fabric for making winter wear shirts. It can be 100% cotton or a blend of cotton/wool or cotton/cashmere . It is warm and has  a soft fuzzy feel.

Flannel is also called Brushed cotton when it has been brushed to remove its lint and fibres. It is very soft to the touch. The best quality of this shirting material is that it is  very suitable for winter wear – as it has insulating quality

6   Gabardine cotton

Gabardine is a tough medium weight twill-weave fabric (with slightly raised diagonal ribs on the face of the fabric) – it could be made of wool or cotton fibers. It is the best fabric for making work wear and over coats and suits  because of its durable and long wearing qualities. It also does not wrinkle easily and drapes well. You can make strong, sturdy shirts with this fabric.

One disadvantage is that you may find it is a little coarse and heavy – but there are now variations of gabardine which are soft and thinner and lighter

7   Oxford fabric / Pinpoint fabric

Both are medium weight slightly rough shirt materials which are warm, breathable and very durable. They are not suitable for formal fine office wear/dressy shirts .Both the fabrics are rougher and tougher and heavier than a poplin . These fabrics are more suitable for casual /work wear /sportwear.The oxford fabric is famous for its namesake shirt, the oxford shirt, the casual shirt worn with a button-down collar

An oxford fabric and pinpoint fabric has the same weave – a symmetrical basketweave. But there are subtle differences between the two. In Oxford fabric two or more warp yarn crosses an equal number of weft yarns. In pinpoint, a single weft crosses two warp threads resulting in a finer texture and tighter weave.  The drape of a pinpoint shirt is very good which is very important from a looking-good point of view. Pinpoint is better than oxford fabric for making formal shirts

Royal oxford fabric is similar yet different from the oxford cloth. It is definitely better looking as it has a prominently visible weave and a shiny face. The distinctive luster and texture of the royal oxford fabric make it very popular as a shirt fabric.

Final word

When you get to a showroom to consider the fabric for your shirts you may feel slightly overwhelmed – natural. Stick to 100% natural fibers and be very particular about good fit and the quality of its yarns and make and you will not go wrong. All of the above fabrics are excellent choices with their own merits.

You may have other considerations like non iron shirts or wash dry and wear shirts (no more ironing worries, yay) – there are fabric finishes added to fabrics that can make fabrics take on these properties. Ask your retailer for more details.

Whatever you choose out of these or from others, remember to choose only fabric made with 100% natural fibers for the best comfort and experience.

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