Design, Photography, & Fashion

What Is Organza? Learn How Organza Is Made and the Many Uses for Organza Fabric

Written by MasterClass

Aug 23, 2019 • 5 min read

From wedding dresses to evening wear to home decor, organza has many versatile and decorative uses. Characterized by its lightweight and slightly shiny appearance, organza is a fixture of both bridal and evening wear markets, building sculptural and flowy gowns with dimensions that are surefire showstoppers.

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What Is Organza?

Organza is a lightweight, sheer, plain-woven fabric that was originally made from silk.

The material can also be made from synthetic fibers, primarily polyester and nylon. Synthetic fabrics are slightly more durable, but the fabric is very delicate and prone to frays and tears.

Organza is also characterized by very small holes throughout the fabric, which are the spaces between the warp and weft thread in the plain-weave pattern. The quality of organza is defined as the number of holes per inch—more holes indicate better quality organza. Organza is extremely popular for wedding gowns and evening wear, as it has a shimmery and translucent quality which creates decadent silhouettes.

Where Is Organza Made?

Like most silk fabric, silk organza fabric originated in China, where silk was first cultivated. Organza was traded along the Silk Road, the trading route from China to Europe, and production spread around the world.

China remains the biggest producer and exporter of organza today. There are several organza weaving mills along the Yangtze River, particularly in Zhejiang province. India is also a large exporter of organza, where a stiffer type of organza is produced in the Bangalore region. France and Italy produce very high-quality organza.

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How Organza Is Made in 3 Steps

The weaving process for organza is very complicated and precise and, as a result, most organza is still woven by hand. It can be made by machine, but machine-made organza is compromised in quality.

  1. Twisting the yarn. After the filament fibers—long, continuous strands of either silk or synthetic material—are produced, two single fibers are twisted tightly in opposite directions to form the yarn.
  2. Treating with acid. Before the yarns are woven into a fabric, they are combed and treated with acid. This increases the material’s stiffness, an important quality of organza. Sometimes, synthetic fibers don’t need to be treated this way, as they are often naturally stiff.
  3. Weaving. The yarns are woven together using the plain weave method, where the warp and weft threads are woven over and under each other in an equal ratio forming a criss-cross pattern.

What Are the Characteristics of Organza?

Organza has a number of unique characteristics, including:

  • Transparency. Organza is a transparent material, meaning you can see through it because the weave creates small holes. The more holes per inch, the higher the quality of the fabric.
  • Thinness. The fabric is extremely thin, as the yarns are twisted very tightly before weaving and woven with the intent of creating transparency.
  • Sheerness. Organza catches the light beautifully and reflects light rays well. This is a result of the innate quality of silk, as well as the treatment and twists of the fibers before weaving.
  • Stiffness. Due to the acid treatment of the yarns before weaving, organza is slightly stiff and is not soft and flowy like traditional silk. However, the wiry feel and structured drape is an asset to designers who want to create sculptural silhouettes.
  • Breathability. Organza fabric is very airy and breathable, as the holes in the fabric allow the material to pass air through with ease.
  • Easy to wrinkle and tear. Organza fabric is extremely prone to wrinkles because of its thin nature, and even though the individual fibers are strong, it can catch and tear easily. Luckily, the fabric is often layered in garments, so tears can be hard to detect.

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6 Different Types of Organza Fabric

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While traditional organza is made from silk, there are many different variations on the lightweight, decadent fabric.

  1. Crystal organza. Crystal organza is the most common and popular type of organza. It is soft, lightweight, and has a subtle sheen. It can be made from silk or synthetic fibers and it is used for bridal gowns, interior decorating, and more.
  2. Mirror organza. Mirror organza is typically made from polyester and is the shiniest form of organza and it reflects light extremely well.
  3. Satin organza. Satin organza boasts the shiny quality of satin, while still maintaining the crisp drape of organza.
  4. Crushed organza. Crushed organza has been treated and crinkled to have an intentionally wrinkled appearance.
  5. Shot organza. For shot organza, different colored silk threads are used as the warp and weft. Shot organza’s multi-colored finish creates a gradient of colors, like a sunset or the northern lights.
  6. Embroidered organza. Embroidered organza elevates the standard fabric with the addition of embroidery. Rhinestones, sequins, and many different types of patterns can augment mirror and crystal organza for a decorative quality.

How Is Organza Used in Fashion and Design?

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Organza is a fixture in the formal wear arena, but it has many uses in home design and costuming as well.

  • Evening wear. Organza is often layered over more opaque fabrics like satin or silk to create an added dimension and shine for evening gowns, prom dresses, and more. Since the fabric is transparent, designers can use many layers of organza to create a sculptural dimension. Organza is also used as an overlay for shawls or dresses.
  • Bridal gowns. Organza is used for bridal wear, including wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, as the shiny, smooth material creates soft, full silhouettes thanks to the stiff drape and structure. The fabric is also often used for bridal veils.
  • Home decor. Organza is a very decorative fabric, and it is often used for sheer curtains and table runners. It can also be used for event decoration, like accessories for seating, aisle runners, and wedding arches.
  • Bags. Organza bags are popular for small, drawstring pouches to carry accessories like earrings and necklaces.
  • Costumes. Organza is very popular for stage costuming, particularly dance outfits like tutus and skirts thanks to the beautiful flow and the way they catch the stage lighting.

For budding fashion designers, understanding the characteristics and feel of different fabrics is key. In her 20s, Diane von Furstenberg convinced a textile factory owner in Italy to let her produce her first designs. With those samples, she flew to New York City to build one of the world’s most iconic and enduring fashion brands. In her fashion design MasterClass, Diane explains how to create a visual identity, stay true to your vision, and launch your product.

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