Beginner’s Guide to Chiffon Fabric

Beginner's Guide to Chiffon Fabric

In the world of exclusive galas, red carpets, weddings, fêtes and proms, formal and semi-formal dresses made from chiffon is one of the front-runner in fabric choice. Do you know that in our Paris Ciel’s online boutique, chiffon dresses made up of about 45% of our total formal dresses? What makes chiffon so appealing? Why is chiffon a favorite among the female species?

This beginner’s guide to chiffon fabric will introduce you to this fabulous textile!


Let’s get to know the brief history of chiffon and its characteristics.
History of chiffon

Chiffon first made its mark in China about 4,000 years ago. The chiffon founded in China were made from silk, making it high quality, expensive and very comfortable to wear.

When China began trading silk via the Silk Road, silk chiffon found its way to other parts of the world. Silk chiffon was once worn only by royalty and the wealthy due to its luxurious character and price.

When DuPont developed nylon in the 1930s, the first ever synthetic fiber in the world, chiffon made from silk were quickly replaced by nylon-based chiffon. Polyester chiffon began making its present around the 50s when a company started to manufacture polyester.

Vintage V-neck ruby chiffon evening dress
Vintage V-neck ruby chiffon evening dress.

Where did chiffon get its name?

The name chiffon were derived from the French word chiffe which means cloth or rag. The word chiffon were developed to describe the trimmings and ornaments on women’s dresses during the mid 18th century.

How to pronounce chiffon correctly?

How difficult can it be to pronounce chiffon? For the clueless humans (example: me), I’ve always pronounce chiffon as chi-fon which is embarrassingly incorrect! Anyone of you pronounce chiffon like me?

The correct way…

Chiffon is pronounced as SHiˈfän.

Refer to this link to listen to the audio on how to pronounce chiffon.

It’s better to learn pronounce chiffon the right way so that when anyone ask you what material your evening dress is made of, you can tell them confidently that you’re wearing SHiˈfän!

Beautiful jewel white chiffon evening dress
Beautiful jewel white chiffon evening dress.

What are the characteristics of chiffon fabric?

Chiffon is a plain-woven, thin, lightweight and sheer (semi-transparent) fabric. Yarns were first twisted and then woven to make chiffon thus the surface of chiffon has slight rough texture/crepe.

The delicious chiffon cake probably got its name for sharing the same characteristic (=light texture) with chiffon fabric. The sheer attribute means chiffon dresses are usually draped in multiple layers or there’s an underlayer to prevent see-through.

All Paris Ciel’s chiffon evening dresses are designed with an underlayer of solid fabric. Because chiffon is translucent, the underlayer will be faintly visible. Our designers will complement the chiffon color with the underlayer to give the dress an elegant finish look.

What are chiffon made of?

Chiffon can be made from variety of materials.

They are:
1. Natural fibers like silk and cotton
2. Synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester
3. Semi-synthetic fiber like rayon

Chiffon made from synthetic fibers are more affordable and durable thus making them the preferred consumer choice. Natural fibers made chiffon like silk is softer but very delicate thus you need to be extra careful when wearing them.

Chiffon under magnification

Here’s an example of the construction of polyester chiffon under magnification. You can see very clearly how the threads are weaved with the basic plain weave method. This weaving pattern is also known as over and under or one-up-one-down pattern.

Magnified Chiffon Fabric

Photos source: Textile Fabric

Here’s an interesting tip from Paris Ciel

All chiffon evening dresses made by Paris Ciel uses 30D. The D stands for denier, a unit of measure for linear mass density of fibers. In a nutshell, if the chiffon has low denier number, it’s lighter, more sheer, fine and soft. If the chiffon have high denier count, it’s heavy, less sheer and coarser.

30D is a low denier count. Therefore 30D chiffon dresses are very comfy to wear, light and breathable.

Beware: Some sellers uses 100D or 120D chiffon to make evening dresses. When it doubt, ask before placing an order.


The appealing factor

Now that we have learned quite a few things about chiffon, I bet you can more or less deduce why chiffon is so appealing? Chiffon has this elegant feel that is ever delicate and graceful. When made into formal evening gowns, chiffon layers and drapes elegantly. The result is an interesting ‘floating’ effect which captivates both women and men. Due to this, chiffon evening dresses are the no. 1 preferred choice in women’s formal attire for many occasions.

Other uses of chiffon: wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, blouses, skirts, lingeries, scarves, handkerchiefs, embellishments, bridal veils, curtains and many more. Traditional garment like sarees (worn by Indian women) are also made from chiffon.

It is more easy to dye chiffon made from natural fibers like silk and cotton compared to polyester-based chiffon which needs special disperse dyes. From the resulting dyeing, chiffon comes in many attractive colors, shades and prints.

Glamorous one shoulder daffodil chiffon evening dress
Glamorous one shoulder daffodil chiffon evening dress.


Fussy handling

When handling chiffon, you need to know that chiffon is quite a fussy fabric due to its light and thin characteristics. For one, they are slippery therefore difficult to cut. To prevent chiffon from slipping and moving around, pin tissue paper to chiffon fabric or use a fabric weight to get an accurate cut. Use very fine pins because thick pins will leave pin marks on the chiffon fabric.

Chiffon also pucker and stretches during sewing. They sometime form thread knots at the beginning of a seam. To keep the fabric in place, sew them together with tissue paper. The tissue paper can be ripped off carefully later. Chiffon also frays easily. For this when sewing, French seam is adopted.

Chic watermelon chiffon evening dress
Chic watermelon chiffon evening dress.

Conclusion: As fussy as chiffon can be, its beauty and appeal outweighs its shortcomings by a LARGE mile. Chiffon have survived for 4,000 years and will remain everyone’s favourite fabric especially for evening wear!

Further reading:
1. The Little Guide To Chiffon Evening Dresses
2. How To Wash Chiffon Evening Dress Effectively

Cover photo dresses links (from left to right): Bateau lilac chiffon evening dress, Glam retro beaded chiffon evening dress and Elegant one shoulder fuchsia chiffon evening dress.

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