A list of best 10 {Thin Lightweight fabrics} for dressmaking

Whatever you have decided to sew, one thing is a constant in sewing – the fabric makes all the difference. Sometimes you want a fabric that is very thin but not an open weave;  a little bit see-through but not fully transparent, very lightweight but not as light as a net. If this sounds tough, you will be happy to know that in the fabric world you have a lot of choices, whatever the requirement. Here are the top 10 thin and lightweight fabrics

If you are looking for open weave fabrics which are thin and sheer, you may be looking for net fabrics -check out these posts on the different types of net fabrics here and different types of tulle fabrics.

Best lightweight fabrics for dressmaking.

1 Chiffon

thin fabric

Chiffon is used as a general term for many light and sheer fabrics. The chiffon fabric that we use for dressmaking maybe made of silk, rayon or a synthetic fiber like polyester. Because of the use of multifilament yarns, it has a lustrous appearance in addition to being sheer, lightweight and very soft to touch. It is great fabric for making gowns and evening dresses because of its drape and free-flowing nature – it is usually used as an outward layer. The disadvantage is that you cannot make form-fitting tailored garments with chiffon, which is true with most of the thin fabrics mentioned here. Chiffon made with polyester fibers will wrinkle less than one made with silk fibers. 

Mousseline de soie is the french term for a beautiful silk chiffon fabric; it is used to make wonderfully free-flowing scarves. Know some more details about chiffon fabric here.

2 Georgette

Georgette is a very thin, free flowing, soft, loosely woven fabric made of silk yarns/ synthetic yarns. The fabric has a beautiful drape which makes it a designer favourite. It is very similar to chiffon but not as smooth as chiffon. The sandy texture is its most distinctive characteristic, other than its drape. One other difference between chiffon and georgette is that georgette is more opaque than chiffon but just as drapey. Silk Georgette is a beautiful silk fabric.

3 Crepe 

Crepe fabric is a term used to describe a number of fabrics with a crepe textured surface. Most of the crepe fabrics are very soft and thin. Crepe de chine is a very light weight fabric with a crepe texture ( different weight fabrics are also available). It is not see through though it is very light and free flowing. The soft lustrous quality of the fabric (without the over shining in satin fabric) and fluid looks makes it great for dressmaking.

4 Cotton Voile

thin fabric

Another sheer, thin and very soft fabric made of highly twisted cotton fibers. It has a slight crispy feel like organdy but with great drape. It is not as sheer as chiffon or georgette though. Cotton Voile is a favourite for making summer clothes.

5 Organdy

This crisp almost stiff cotton cloth, is also sheer smooth and  fine. It is not a free flowing fabric so avoid if you are looking for that kind of drape. The combed cotton fibers that form this fabric gives it a crisp feel and an open weave. You can choose a soft organdy for dressmaking instead of the more stiff one. The advantage of organdy is that you can pleat it well.The disadvantage is that it wrinkles a lot unless it has a special antiwrinkle finish.

6 Silk Fabrics

Flat Crepe Silk, China silk and Silk Habotai are very thin and fine silks.

Silk Organza is a thin, sheer, slightly crisp fabric made of silk fibers with a beautiful lustrous look.The face of a sheer organza sparkles beautifully. It has a stiff finish which makes it a favorite as a lining fabric that will hold shape, as well as for making slightly exaggerated shapes like a voluminous skirt. The surface is slightly grainy, not completely smooth to the touch. Organza is also made with polyester fibers, other than silk

7 Cotton Lawn

Lawn is a lightweight sheer, fine cotton or linen fabric. It can be either soft textured or crisp textured and has a lustrous appearance.

8 Handkerchief linen

This is the finest quality linen fabric with a sheer, pure look – can say it is lawn made with linen fibers. The translucent smooth textured linen fabric is usually used for making fine handkerchiefs though they are also used in dressmaking. It is very suitable for heirloom sewing because of its crispiness 

9 Dotted Swiss

This is a lightweight, sheer cotton or cotton blend fabric with embossed dots on the surface.

10 Batiste

Batiste is an almost sheer fabric made of wool cotton silk, rayon or linen- very similar to voile but finer. Lightweight bastiste is a favourite fabric for making dresses especially summer wear. This fabric is a favourite for making children’s christening gowns embellished with heirloom embroidery. You can also check out other fabric suitable for making kids wear here

All these fabrics, though breathtakingly pretty, needs careful handling – while sewing as well as in maintaining clothes made with them.

They should be cut with care because most are slippery.

They ought to be stitched with a sewing machine needle of number 8-9.

When maintaining clothes made with these lightweight fabrics avoid spin-drying in the washing-machine.

Do not iron directly by putting a hot iron on the face of the fabric; Keep a damp cloth between the fabric and the iron.

More tips on sewing thin fabric can be found on the post on Sheer Transparent fabrics

Related posts : 10 best Thick & heavyweight fabrics ; 10 best fabric for sewing shirts.

Comments 24

  1. Hi, I am new to sewing and would like to make a simple dress with long sleeves that poof our and have a cuffed the wrist— not sure what to call it. like a “pirate” shirt! What kind of fabric do you recommend for a first time dress maker— perhaps linen? what’s relatively easy to work with? thank you!

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      Cotton or cotton blends. No thin lightweight fabrics – definitely not, for a beginner. You will stop sewing altogether : )

  2. Would any of these fabrics feel soft on your face and allow you to breathe? My mom needs something special for a face mask. She has copd and is being forced to wear a mask. Thanks for any help.

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      I am a little hesistent to give advice for a medical condition, sorry. But from whatever I know,If a person has breathing problem you should make masks only with 100% natural fabrics like cotton. Muslin cotton is a thin cotton (after it is pre-washed). You can maybe use many layers of this fabric. Have you thought about using face shields instead of masks (or if they should be used with masks, use with surgical masks which are very breathable)

      Then there are masks available in shops with breathing valves- have you checked them out? They are called Valve masks – they have a one-way valve which allows exhaled air to pass through a small round filter disc.
      Can you check out these posts Different types of masks ; How to sew a fabric mask ; Mask fabric 101 for whatever I know about this.

    2. I made a free flowing, simply oblong mask w ear loops at top corners only. It drapes over nose, mouth n chin but is not fitted to my chin which allows for airflow much like a face shield would. I am simply sharing what worked for me due to my own needs.

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      Sorry, I do not know about Kate silk – but there are two silks that sounds similar. Katan Silk and Kota silk. Kota silk is a thin silk with check patterns as part of the weave – it is fine and lightweight. Kota silk is used to make long ethnic mens shirts in India. Then there is Katan silk which is a sturdier sari fabric with zari/brocade patterns.
      More on silk fabrics here

  3. I’d like to make my 8 year old grand-daughter a jumpsuit but I’m not sure which fabric would be best for comfort and with minimum of dressing. Any ideas please? Thanks

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  4. OOh this is amazing. I’m graduated in fashion college in Brazil. The fabric names are diferent and i was having a hard time trying to buy fabrics in foreign sites, cause i know what i was looking for but didn’t know the names in english. And is so great you put on pictures so i know what fabric is in portuguese and now i know them in english too. Most sites don’t do this, you have to guess what fabric they’re talking about. Wow. thank you!!!

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  5. Hello,

    What a wonderful resource. I’m here because I need to make a curtian for my nephew’s garage play. My only prerequisite is that it is light and have the pleated flowing effect without being see through. Which fabric would you recommend?
    Thank you!

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  6. I am so happy that I found this site and just at the perfect time. I am making an evening gown of grey chiffon. It will be form fitting although not tight, as not to have any give whatsoever. I can not figure out the best lining to use. I keep going back and forth or I can’t find something that matches. I need to get started. Would you ming giving me your opinion as to what would be the best lining? The dress will be 4 parts with a zipper in the back, appliques down the front and sides going around to the back and a very modified trumpet bottom. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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      Hi Tammy
      May be you would like to read this post on lining materials. Or You can use the same fabric (chiffon itself) as lining – it will be very drapey.
      Most of the chiffon clothes from shops have thin voile lining or polyester satin lining

  7. So pleased I came across this website. Came back to sewing a few years ago after seeing an advertisement for a sewing class in my village.
    This website is filled with fantastic information and tips. I think it’s the best one I’ve seen. And I’m learning so much which will improve my sewing I’m sure. The section on fabric types was a great help, and it’s those little comments you don’t find in books that are often the most informative.

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  8. I have enough navy sheer fabric that has a checked pattern in it to make a blouse. It’s to sheer and I have heard there is an interfacing in black or dark gray that can be ironed on to make the fabric opaque. It is a knit type fabric used to line garments that you do not want to use a separate silk type lining.

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      Hi Doris
      But interfacing will ruin the drape and fall of the fabric, don’t you think. If you have enough fabric you can use the same fabric as lining

  9. Thank you so much. I am just reuniting with sewing again (it’s been almost 30 years!!), so this above article was a badly needed review for me. This type of basic knowledge organizes my thinking when confronted by so many glorious fabrics of colour, fibre, texture and weight. Again, thank you.

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