Traditionally most suits were made of wool because of its durability, looks and ability to hold a tailored shape. These days, many suits are made of wool blends and synthetic or natural fibers that are not wool. These new and old fabrics can go by a bewildering variety of names. Here is a primer on some of the more common fabrics you may encounter when shopping for a suit online:



Corduroy Because of the way it is woven, corduroy looks like a sort of ridged velvet. The ridges are called "wales", and the narrower the wale, the dressier the fabric.






suit flannel photo by Patrick Herron




Flannel  The fabric of the famous "Man in the Grey Flannel Suit", flannel is a soft, somewhat loosely woven fabric that drapes well and can be brushed for extra softness.





gabardine photo by TillyVanilly



Gabardine  Gabardine is a tightly-woven twill fabric that is tough and durable with a diagonal rib on one side and a smooth surface on the reverse. Because of its durability and toughness, it was used in jackets worn by the famous polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Earnest Shackleton. When used in suits, gabardine holds a nice sharp crease and makes for a very durable suit.




Linen  Sometimes used in summer suits, linen is made from flax fibers and feels cool and smooth to the touch. Linen has a refined look but wrinkles easily and can quickly wear at hems and collars.


Moleskin  Moleskin is a heavy cotton fabric that has been sheared on one side to create a chamois-like nap. The comparison of this fuzzy nap to the silky short fur of a mole is what gives the fabric its name. It is a fabric that blends softness with durability and is sometimes used in footwear as well as for suits and outerwear.


Coming Next: More suit fabrics from Poplin to Twill


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