Softly Chiffon

Pink chiffon top layers this dress worn by Audrey Hepburn

Nothing is as softly elegant as chiffon.  Typically sheer, and very filmy and lightweight, Julie Parker in All About Silk says that Chiffon is French for rag. Which is hard to believe given that this is easily one of the most elegant fabrics available.  When I hear the word rag, I think of the dictionary definition, and chiffon is not worthless.  Typically used as a top layer in prom or wedding dresses, chiffon adds fabulous sway and drape to any gown.

Now, on a technical level, chiffon is “A very lightweight sheer silk…made in a plain weave with fine, hard spun yarns of approximately the same size in warp and filling and the same number of ends and picks per inch.” Fairchilds p. 117.  Now, what the hell does all that mean.  Hard Spun means that the fibers, or in this case filaments, are spun very tightly so that they are squeezed together to allow for a very tight, fine weave.

Same size in warp and filling means that the hard spun is not just on the warp, but also the weft threads.  Everything is woven using the same number of threads on the warp and west to provide a very even, all over, plain woven fabric.  All of this creates the lovely, elegant fabric that we all know and love as chiffon.  But for the bad news.  Chiffon is VERY difficult to work with.  There is not a lot of give in this fabric and because of the sheerness of the fabric, you want to use this as a top layer, a la the cover image for this post, the inimitable Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

If you are determined to work with this very drape-y fabric, try starching with gelatin before cutting and sewing. While I have not yet tried this myself, I’m eager to give it a shot when Damask Raven starts carrying Silk Chiffon….and Silk Charmeuse.


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