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Design & Style

Corduroy Fabric Guide: How to Wear Corduroy Clothing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 2, 2020 • 3 min read

Cozy and incredibly durable, corduroy has become a mainstay of cool-weather wardrobes. Here’s everything you need to know about this cotton (or cotton-blended) fabric, whether you’re looking to buy new, DIY, or thrift.

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What Is Corduroy?

Corduroy (sometimes spelled corderoy) is a twill weave fabric, which means the threads are woven together in diagonal lines with thick vertical ribs. Corduroy is thick, durable, ridged, and cozy, and has the unique ability to look both dressed up and comfortable at the same time. The cozy fabric is most often made of cotton or a cotton blend. Also known as corded velveteen, corduroy is most notably used to make long pants. However, you can find cotton corduroy jackets, corduroy shirts, corduroy skirts, and corduroy suits at any department store or online retailer.

Manufacturers make corduroy fabric in several variations of thickness, called “wale” and measured in the number of wales per inch—narrow-wale corduroy (also called needlecord, pin cord, or pinwale) is fine and often used for shirting. In contrast, wide-wale corduroy is used more for pants and upholstery.

What Is Corduroy Made Of?

Corduroy is most often made of cotton or a cotton blend (like cotton and wool). To make corduroy (or any woven fabric), manufacturers use a loom to weave many individual threads (the vertical warp threads and the horizontal weft threads) into a larger whole. The way these threads are woven together determines the fabric’s structure and durability—corduroy is a twill weave fabric (similar to denim or herringbone), which means that the threads run along diagonal lines in a ribbed pattern.

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Where Does Corduroy Come From?

Corduroy is often attributed to early French royalty—in French, corde du roi means “king’s cord,” “cord of the king,” or “cloth of the king.” However, corduroy got its start in eighteenth-century England, where factory workers applied the idea of “cords” (or ridges in fabric) to the popular wool fabric “duroy,” derived from fustian fabric. Corduroy eventually became widespread in working-class communities across the world, especially in France and the United States.

In the twentieth century, corduroy exploded in popularity as a fashion fabric in the 1970s, becoming a staple of everyday wear. The comfy fabric has made a comeback in recent years, especially with the rise of thrifting, since corduroy is an incredibly durable fabric that is a common find in vintage shops.

What to Wear With Corduroy

Ready to embrace corduroy and try it out in your wardrobe? Whether you’ve got brown corduroy pants, a black corduroy skirt, or a colorful corduroy vest, check out the following styling ideas:

  • Wear corduroy pants with cozy attire: Corduroy trousers are incredibly versatile—wear them with a sweater and boots for a fall-weather uniform, or a button-up and office shoes like loafers for a cozy business casual look. If you want to dress down your corduroy pants, try a graphic tee, denim jacket, and sneakers for a look that works year-round. Chambray or plaid are also great pairing choices with any color of corduroy.
  • Wear a corduroy skirt with summer attire: Corduroy skirts can be just as versatile as corduroy pants, and they look more at home in the summer than their pant counterparts. To make a corduroy skirt summery and fun, try a T-shirt and flats. To winterize, add tights and switch out the flats for ankle boots for a cool, edgy vibe.
  • Wear a corduroy blazer with casual attire: Corduroy is a great outerwear layer because it adds a visually interesting texture to any outfit. The cut of the blazer is important—if you’re going for modern styling, opt for a slim-fit blazer. For a casual look, try a T-shirt and jeans or layer a hoodie underneath your blazer.
  • Wear a corduroy suit with dressier attire: If you want to make a statement, a corduroy suit is a unique and fashion-forward menswear piece that will have people talking. Dress it up with dress shoes and a button-up, or dress it down with sneakers and a tee.

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