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What Is Crêpe?
Crêpe, or crepe, is a silk, wool, or synthetic fabric that has a distinctive wrinkled and bumpy appearance. Crepe comes from the French word, which means small, thin pancake. It is usually a lightweight to medium-weight fabric, but ultimately, crepe can be any weight. Crepe can be used to make clothes like dresses, suits, blouses, pants, and more. Crepe is also popular in home decor for items like curtains, window treatments, and pillows.
How Is Crêpe Made?
Crêpe can be made from almost any type of fiber whether natural (raw silk, cotton, wool) or synthetic (polyester, rayon); all crepe fabric has the same purposefully wrinkled appearance, and there are many different manufacturing methods that achieve this look. Crepe can be a woven fabric or knit fabric. The materials used to make crepe and the method used to achieve the texture define the different types of crepe.
What Are the Different Types of Crêpe?
There are countless different types of crêpe, which vary based on the construction methods and the fibers used.
- Crepe de Chine: Crepe de Chine fabric is a lightweight fabric usually made from silk. Silk crepe de Chine fabric doesn’t have the puckered surface typical of other crêpes; instead the silk fabric has a smooth, matte finish with slight pebbling. This look is achieved by using tightly twisted yarns as weft yarns in a plain weave pattern. Polyester crêpe de Chine is a more affordable version with a similar appearance and feel to the silk fabric.
- Crepe georgette: Crepe georgette fabric also has a soft, smoother appearance and is primarily made from silk or synthetic silk-like fibers, like rayon. Silk georgette has a little elasticity and a nice drape. Crepe georgette fabric is a popular fabric for dresses.
- Wool crepe: Wool crepe has a rougher, wiry surface and is made from wool fabric, and sometimes cotton or synthetic fabrics. It is a light to medium weight crêpe, it resists wrinkling, and is often used for suiting, pants, and dresses.
- Polyester crepe: Polyester crepe fabric is any type of crêpe fabric that is made using the synthetic fiber polyester. Poly crepe is typically a lightweight, thin fabric that has a nice drape. Polyester crepe is used for dresses, skirts, and blouses. It sometimes incorporates elastane to form stretch crepe.
- Crepe-back satin: Crepe-back satin is a satin fabric where one side is smooth and soft like satin and the other side is crinkled with a crêpe feel and appearance.
- Canton crepe: Canton crepe was originally made of silk from Canton province in China, which is where the name comes from. It is very similar to crepe de chine in appearance, but it is slightly heavier, as the fill yarns in the weave are heavier.
- Plissé crepe: Plissé crepe is achieved by chemically treating the fabric to achieve the puckered and crinkled appearance, creating a folded pleat. A piece of fabric is either pressed with hot rollers to create the pattern, or covered in a wax pattern and dipped in an alkaline solution. The areas uncovered by wax will shrink, and when the wax is removed, the fabric will be intentionally wrinkled.
- Crepe charmeuse: Crepe charmeuse is a silk fabric that is woven using the satin weave technique with crepe twist yarns. Silk charmeuse is smooth and reflective like satin, with a dull back. The crepe yarns give the fabric the signature crepe definition.
How Do You Care for Crêpe?
Since crêpe can be made in a variety of different ways from many different fibers, it is very important to follow the care instructions of your garment and household item. Most crêpe needs to be dry cleaned and will shrink significantly when washed in a washing machine. In a few cases, crêpe can be washed by hand in cold water and then laid flat to dry.
Learn more about fabrics and fashion design in Marc Jacobs’s MasterClass.