Polyester Vs Acetate – Which should you buy for clothes?

A detailed comparison between two synthetic fabrics, polyester and acetate - the differences and similarities between these two materials in terms of their characteristics, properties, uses, advantages, and disadvantages. .
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Recently I bought an inexpensive gown and wore it once and then it self-destructed in the washing machine. I was left wondering what I did wrong. I suppose I didn’t read the fabric label. It said Acetate and I would have known.

But this would have happened if I had just bought an equally inexpensive Polyester satin one- and on top of it, it looks super tacky. No, I wouldn’t buy polyester satin over acetate satin. Maybe other polyester fabrics.

Polyester and Acetate are both man-made fabrics with some similarities. But there are several differences too. 

Polyester & Acetate – comparison chart

Fabric propertyPolyesterAcetate
FiberSynthetic fabric made from petroleum-based synthetic fibersSemi-synthetic fabric derived from cellulose fibers, often from wood pulp
Strength and DurabilityStrong and durable, resistant to wrinkles and abrasionLess durable and may wrinkle easily, less resistant to abrasion
Moisture AbsorptionLow; Hydrophobic (repels water), does not absorb moistureMore absorbent than polyester, can feel cooler on the skin
LonegvityPolyester can last for ever; resistent to chemicals.Not very long lasting. Maybe damaged by chemicals like acetone
BreathabilityLess breathable, can trap heat and moistureMore breathable
SeasonNot suitable for warm weatherSuitable for warmer weather
Wrinkle ResistanceWrinkle-resistant, maintains a smoother appearanceProne to wrinkles, may require more care during wear
LooksCan have different looksMay look luxurious and elegant
MaintenanceEasy to care for, retains color after frequent washesRequires more delicate handling and care during laundering
Environmental ImpactDerived from petrochemicals, not biodegradable; maybe recycled.Derived from natural cellulose, biodegradable, but production involves chemicals
Dressmaking fabricsPolyester satin has high shine and lustrous surface. Other polyester fabrics used for activewear, outerwear, and sportswear.Acetate satin has a subtle and elegant sheen. Maybe used for eveningwear and lingerie
Types of fabricPolyester microfiber, fleece, spandex, mesh, ripstop, pique, interlock, tricot, and taffetaAcetate satin, taffeta, crepe, velvet, organza, chiffon, lining, and acetate blends

Manufacturing process

Both fabrics are made from manufactured fibers but polyester fiber is a synthetic fiber and acetate is a regenerated fiber.  Acetate is one of the first manufactured fibers (1927). Polyester was introduced in the 1950s.

The manufacturing of polyester is a more straightforward process than the manufacture of acetate fabric, as the latter involves a lot of chemical processes. Polyester fabric is a manufactured synthetic fiber made from polyester filaments. It is a polymer commonly referred to as polyethylene terephthalate.

Acetate fibers are regenerated fibers manufactured from treating wood pulp, cellulose, or cotton linters with acetic acid. 

Acetate fabric is blended with silk or cotton for better stability and durability. Polyester is blended with cotton, wool, acetate, rayon, and linen to add a lot of qualities inherent in polyester.

Qualities as a dressmaking fabric

Acetate is a very popular dressmaking material in the fashion industry. Acetate fabric is very soft and pleasant to touch. It is  used in making affordable gowns that also look good. It is also used to make cheap linings – most of your store bought jackets may be lined with acetate.

Polyester is not as appreciated as an every-day fashion dressmaking material, though it is one of the most versatile fibers of all. Some even consider polyester as a not-safe fabric for clothes.

But you may already be using polyester in many other forms – Polyester microfiber, fleece, spandex, mesh, ripstop, pique, interlock, tricot, and taffeta are all versatile variations of polyester used in various applications, from sportswear to outerwear.

When polyester fiber is blended with other fibers, it becomes more suitable as a dressmaking fabric.

Since Acetate looks a little like silk, it is often used as a cheaper alternative to silk.  Acetate has good draping quality. You will find many inexpensive gowns in shops made of Acetate – they may not last long, but if you are short on cash but still want to get a good enough gown, choose one made of Acetate.

You will find polyester and acetate fabric in all colors. Initially, Acetate was difficult to dye. But since then, scientists have found a solution for it; acetate fabrics are now easily dyeable and resist fading. Now it is available in a variety of deep colors. Acetate and Polyester fabrics can be dyed with disperse dyes. 

Polyester fabrics may pill. Acetate fabrics usually do not pill.

Strength and durability

The fibers of polyester are always strong, whether wet or dry. It does not get damaged easily – whether by stretching or shrinking. But Acetate fibers are not as strong. That is one of the disadvantages of the fabric. Polyester is far more durable than Acetate.

Both fabrics resist mildew and moth infestation. 

Acetate fabric can be damaged by silverfish or chemicals like acetone. Polyester fabric is resistant to most chemicals.

Water absorption

Both polyester and Acetate are synthetic fabrics, so both do not absorb water the way natural fabrics do. But compared to other synthetic fabrics, Acetate has more moisture-absorbing qualities. Hence it is often used as a comfortable lining material. Polyester has a tendency to absorb and retain perspiration odor.


Polyester is an easy-to wash fabric. It can be hand washed or machine washed in cold water/warm water and even tumble dried. Polyester doesnot shrink in the wash, nor does it lose color.

But usually, acetate fabrics fare better if they are given for dry washing. It can be hand washed in cold water. But you have to squeeze out the water from the cloth gently. Wringing of material is not advisable as it can leave permanent wrinkles, and the fine fabric may tear. 

The acetate fabric is susceptible to heat, and this does not make it ideal for uses where heat needs to be applied to set pleats and creases. While ironing this material, it’s always better to use a press cloth.

The polyester material is also susceptible to heat but not as much as acetate fabric. It can be heat-pressed to set pleats and creases. 

Polyester is somewhat resistant to wrinkles, especially if you take care of some things like hanging the clothes immediately after washing. Infact you may not have to iron polyester clothes at all if you are a little careful. But not so with Acetate. It wrinkles a lot.

Related posts : Fabric dictionary with details.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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