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Getting the Best of Gabardine

Threads #41, June/July 1992

As a custom dressmaker, Shermane B. Fouché loves clothes that can go anywhere and look couture, but that don’t take couture time to sew. The ideal timeless fabric for such clothing is wool gabardine. You can use the cleanest and simplest of construction and create garments that are elegantly finished.

Wool gabardine is a tightly woven twill fabric made from worsted yarns. The twill structure gives gabardine a beautiful drape, while the worsted character makes its surface smooth and lustrous. Gabardine doesn’t soil easily because it’s so tightly woven, and it resists wrinkles. The most tightly woven wool gabardines are actually water resistant.

model wearing wool gabardine coat
Lightweight wool gabardine makes an ideal unlined coat for temperate climates. Such a beautiful drape comes from keeping the sewing and finishing simple— soft fusible interfacing for cuffs, collar, and edges, and silky rayon tape binding for all the seam allowances— as described in this article. Photo by Yvonne Taylor.

The same qualities that make gabardine so appealing make it tricky to use. Sewers often complain that seams won’t iron flat or that gabardine is difficult to interface and to topstitch. But it doesn’t take fancy equipment to press gabardine. And if you apply soft fusible interfacings, rather than sew-in ones, you can achieve a beautiful garment in minimal time. Here are the methods for handling gabardine that have worked for me:

Choosing a gabardine

Wool is not the only fiber made into a gabardine, but I think it has the best qualities. Rayons, cottons, and microfibers are also made into gabardines, but they don’t have the same abrasion resistance, all-weather characteristic, and drape as the wools.

To test for quality, durability, and drape, I feel the fabric. I roll a length off the bolt and hold it to my waist,…

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