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Design & Style

Tan France’s 5 Tips for Styling Different Fabric Textures

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 5 min read

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Adding different fabric textures to your wardrobe is a subtle way to incorporate new looks into your style. Fabrics like chiffon, herringbone, seersucker, or silk can add another dimension to your clothing, changing the way your entire ensemble looks and feels.

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Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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What Are Clothing Textures?

When you think of textured clothing, you may imagine a scratchy wool sweater or a soft fur coat, but every clothing item has some kind of texture. The type of weave often determines the texture of the fabric, so it’s a good idea to get to know the three major weave types:

  • Twill: The distinguishing characteristic of the twill weave is its diagonal rib pattern. Twill weaves have a distinct, often dark-colored front side (called the wale) and a lighter back. Twill has a high thread count, which means that the fabric is opaque, thick, and durable, making it perfect for chinos, upholstery, and bed linens. Denim is a twill weave fabric, as are tweed and houndstooth.
  • Satin weave: The satin weave creates a fabric that is shiny, soft, and elastic with a beautiful drape. Satin fabric has a lustrous surface on one side and a dull, matte surface on the other side. Satin is perfect for haute couture-style dresses and clutches.
  • Plain weave: Plain weave fabrics, including canvas, taffeta, and muslin, are made by overlapping the warp and weft (vertical and horizontal threads) at right angles. This weave forms a criss-cross pattern that looks the same on both sides of the fabric.

11 Common Fabric Textures

The types of fabric you’ll encounter when looking for different textures include:

  1. Denim is a strong cotton fabric with a twill weave that gives it a subtle diagonal ribbing pattern. The diagonal ribbing makes denim fabric different from canvas or cotton duck, which are also sturdy, woven cotton fabrics.
  2. Broadcloth is a plain-weave fabric that is traditionally woven from thick wool yarn—the fibers of which felt together as the cloth is made. Broadcloth is sturdy, stiff, and resistant to wind and water.
  3. Seersucker is a type of thin cotton cloth. The way it is woven causes the threads to pucker and bunch, creating crinkles. Seersucker often comes in narrow white and blue stripes and is popular in summer fashion.
  4. Corduroy is a soft, durable fabric. It is distinctive for the tufted cords—called “wales”—that run parallel along its surface. Corduroy is typically made from cotton, but it can also be made from wool.
  5. Leather is any fabric made from animal hides or skin, with cowhide being the most popular.
  6. Suede is a type of leather made from the soft underside of animal skin. It is softer, thinner, and more delicate than traditional full-grain leather. Suede is ideal for footwear, jackets, and accessories like belts and bags.
  7. Brocade is a particular style of Jacquard fabric that uses additional threads to create a raised pattern, resulting in an embossed or embroidered effect. Due to the technique used to make it, brocade fabric is not reversible, and it may appear rough or unfinished on the underside.
  8. Silk is a natural fiber produced by the silkworm. Silk is incredibly durable, with a shine and softness that are unmatched. Silk fabric is used for formal attire and accessories like pocket squares.
  9. Cashmere is a type of fabric made from the wool of cashmere goats and pashmina goats. Cashmere is a natural fiber with an extremely soft feel, great insulation, and is significantly warmer and lighter than cloth made from sheep’s wool. Cashmere is often blended with other types of wool, like merino, to give it added weight since cashmere fibers are very fine and thin.
  10. Jersey is a soft, stretchy knit fabric that was originally made from wool. Today, jersey is also made from cotton, cotton blends, and synthetic fibers. The fabric is usually light-to-medium weight and is used for various cotton clothing items, such as T-shirts.
  11. Flannel is a soft woven fabric typically made from cotton. Flannel is a common material for plaid shirts.
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Tan France’s 5 Tips for Styling Different Fabric Textures

Textures add visual interest to any outfit. Woven fabrics like twill, brocade, satin, and broadcloth all catch the light differently and can make your look stand out. To learn how to style different textures, check out the following tips from world-class fashion expert Tan France:

  1. Start simple. The best way to incorporate textures into your wardrobe is to start simple. Replace a few of the standard textures that you regularly wear with different textures. If you usually wear a simple wool overcoat, step outside of your comfort zone by wearing a fleece or shearling option. Swap the standard cotton button-up shirt from your work attire with a linen alternative. While cotton clothing has a smoother texture, linen features a light, firm texture that can add volume to your shirt, without making a bold statement.
  2. Choose textures that work with your style. It’s important that the textures you incorporate into your wardrobe fit your personal style. Use textures that work with the look you’re trying to achieve. For instance, you can swap your standard cotton skirt for a pleated houndstooth skirt, as long as the texture works with your personal style.
  3. Mix textures. By layering different textures, you can create a distinct look. If your wardrobe already features an array of textures, like chunky knitwear, plaid button-down shirts, and corduroy cardigans, you can push your style further by mixing those textures in the same outfit. “There's no right way or wrong way to mix textures. It’s just about what feels right for you,” Tan says. Pair a satin tank with jeans—rather than brushed wool trousers—for a relaxed yet stylish look. A plaid flannel shirt can look cozy with corduroy, but it becomes more serious when paired with a black leather jacket. Layering bold textures into your daily look is a great way to transform your personal style.
  4. Use a simple color palette. If you’re going to incorporate different colors of varying textures in an outfit, they should share a similar color story with your main piece, so the look isn’t jarring. The textures should work against each other in a visually appealing way to add an extra point of interest to your outfit. Find our complete guide to matching clothes using the color wheel here.
  5. Try leather and suede. Leather and suede are great options for incorporating texture into your outfit. These versatile textures are classic staples in most capsule collections and can breathe life into your everyday look.

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Get a MasterClass Annual Membership and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.

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