At Fabrics Galore London, the team is often asked about crepe and it is certainly one of those textiles which seems to attract a degree of confusion, as there are just so many different types of crepe fabric available. You probably wouldn't be surprised to know that people often call the same crepe by different names, so here goes our attempt to clear up the confusion and provide a Guide to Crepe Fabric (so you too can be an expert)...
What is crepe fabric?
Fabrics known by the term crepe have been woven in a certain way to create a texture which is also rippling. It can be made of anything ranging from natural fibres such as cotton or silk, to synthetic fibres like polyester or rayon. Throughout history crepe has been worn for many different occasions but typically the more formal kind, especially in the Western World, and originally for mourning, although this hasn’t really been the case for some time.
What makes a crepe slightly different from other weaves is that the yarn is made by hard twisting, which takes the fibres and twists them far more than for other fabrics. Not only that, but the yarns are woven alternating between a S and Z twist and this gives it the famous crepe "bounce".
Origins of crepe fabric
Crepe doesn’t really have a defined origin story as it has been used by many different and far reaching cultures. For Greek Orthodox Christians, it is still the traditional mourning fabric for women; whilst in India crepe is included in traditional garments for all sorts of events. But in the Western World, it stepped away from being purely for mourning during the 19th Century.
And now in the 21st Century, crepe fabric is most likely to be used for dresses as it has a lovely natural drape, works well when combined with other fabrics and is a fabric ideal for a more clinging and figure-hugging look.
What are the different types of crepe fabric?
You may have noticed that we have very proudly labelled our recent collection of crepes as Triple Crepe; wanna know what that means? Well, bear with and we shall explain all.
A triple crepe is one of the heavier types of crepe you can use for dressmaking and it has all the same features as any other crepe such as the texture and the drape but it has a heavier weight to it. This makes it perfect for making dresses but also skirts and trousers too. Triple crepe is more associated with autumn and winter dressmaking but don't discount it for the cooler summer evenings - you know, the ones which make up most of the summer....
If there is a triple crepe, does that mean there are double crepes too? Well yes, this is a medium weight version better suited to tops, blouses and skirts. The slightly lighter version of a triple crepe which makes it ideal for warmer weather.
But the term crepe fabric can cover a huge variety of other fabrics ranging from the slightly more obvious such as a crepe de chine which is a very light-weight version commonly made of silk. Crepe de chine has a less textured finish which is achieved by still twisting yarns tightly but only the weft yarns in a plain weave pattern. Another type you may have heard of is a Crepe Back Satin, with one side which is very smooth and shiny and the other side is matt and textured.
What is crepe fabric used for?
As we have said already, crepe is most closely associated with dressmaking, as it has a certain level of drape and swish (a technical term). But crepe is especially good as an occasion fabric to make something for the evening and it has a certain smartness to it; for example, a wrap dress can be made in a cotton or a linen if it’s a more casual affair, but make it in a crepe and it’s instantly smarter and more suited to evening wear.
But what makes crepe even better for the wearer is that it doesn’t really need ironing, making it perfect if you are moving around and don’t want to sit down one minute looking smart, and then stand again only to look crumpled.
Is it good for summer?
This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on the composition of the crepe yarns; obviously anything made from a man-made fibre loses some of its breathability in comparison to a natural fibre. But a crepe is still light-weight enough to give a certain level of breathability and because of its drape, the fabric moves with you allowing air to circulate.
Having said that, anything that doesn’t need ironing in the summer is always a great thing…
How to wash crepe fabric and does it shrink?
Again this is a tough question because it depends on the original fabric that the crepe is made from. A wool crepe is going to be harder to look after than a polyester crepe, for example. The best advice is always to steer on the side of caution, and the lighter and more delicate the fabric is, the more caution you need to take.
However, as our crepe fabrics at Fabrics Galore are mostly 100% viscose or polyester like our triple crepes, you shouldn’t have to be as cautious. However, from a sustainability perspective, stick to a low temperature of 30 degrees as it uses more energy the higher the temperature.
Ready to Shop Online for Crepe Fabric?
Now you are a bit more clued up on all things crepe, why not have a browse of our crepe collection online and see the gorgeous triple crepes we mentioned earlier and an even bigger collection of our drape fabrics which includes our lovely collection of viscose crepes which are just perfect for dressmaking. Do get in touch on 020 7738 9589 if you need any advice at all on selecting the best dressmaking crepe fabrics from our range.