What is Taffeta Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

Fabric nameTaffeta
Fabric also known asPaper taffeta, shot silk
Fabric compositionSilk, rayon, or polyester
Fabric breathabilityVery breathable
Moisture-wicking abilitiesLow
Heat retention abilitiesLow
Stretch ability (give)Low
Prone to pilling/bubblingNone
Country where fabric was first producedPersia
Biggest exporting/producing country todayIndia
Recommended washing temperaturesHand wash cold or dry clean
Commonly used inWedding gowns, evening wear, blouses, party attire, curtains, insulation, sleeping bags
Gianna Silk Taffeta Fabric
Gianna Silk Taffeta Fabric

What Is Taffeta Fabric?

Taffeta is a type of fabric that is lightweight and crisp in texture, which is highly preferred for creating upscale women’s clothing. This fabric is usually plain-woven and has a smooth and silky feel to it. Taffeta can be made from different materials, offering a variety of options to choose from.

Taffeta, a popular fabric used in the fashion industry, has an interesting etymology. The word originates from the Persian word “tafta,” which means “twisted woven.” Although taffeta is indeed woven in this manner, other fabrics also employ this technique. Therefore, the exceptional features of taffeta, such as its stiffness and shape retention after being starched, are more significant than the name’s origin.

Historically, taffeta was crafted from silk. However, with the introduction of synthetic fibers in the 1900s, textile manufacturers began using materials such as rayon and polyester to produce this fabric. Silk taffeta is still available today, but polyester taffeta has become the more widespread version of this fabric.

Deep Orange Silk Taffeta Fabric
Deep Orange Silk Taffeta Fabric

The term “taffeta” has been used for hundreds of years to refer to lightweight silk clothing. However, it is uncertain whether this historical taffeta resembled the modern version of this fabric. Taffeta has appeared in various historical contexts. Interestingly, it is believed that tabby cats got their name from their resemblance to a specific type of striped taffeta fabric

Taffeta has also been used in several aviation experiments during the 18th century. Recently, taffeta fabric has been employed in artificial blood vessel experiments, thanks to its lightweight and resilient texture. Its paper-thin construction makes it an excellent choice for these kinds of medical applications.

One of the most noteworthy properties of taffeta fabric is its ability to retain its shape. While other thin fabrics often lose their form when worn, taffeta’s starched texture allows it to be molded into various shapes without losing its structure or becoming distorted during extended wear. This feature makes it an ideal fabric for creating garments that require a well-defined shape, even after hours of use.

Taffeta’s crispness creates a distinctive rustling sound when the fabric is worn. Additionally, depending on the type of taffeta fabric worn, it may produce a shimmering, iridescent effect when in motion. Its delicate, paper-thin texture is also susceptible to catching the slightest draft in a room. These unique qualities have solidified taffeta’s reputation as a luxurious textile in the public consciousness, despite its evolution away from traditional silk materials to synthetic materials such as polyester and rayon.

How Is Taffeta Fabric Made?

how is taffeta fabric made

Taffeta fabric is produced using various techniques depending on the material utilized. In the case of silk, the production process involves cultivating and harvesting silkworm cocoons. Although this process is environmentally sustainable, it entails the demise of the silkworms.

After silkworm cocoons are boiled, they are “reeled” or unraveled, and the resulting thread is then soaked in a mild, non-toxic solution. The thread is subsequently spun into yarn, and it can be dyed at this stage. However, some types of taffeta fabric are dyed after the fabric bolt has already been woven.

Although certain types of taffeta fabric are made from semi-synthetic materials such as cuprammonium rayon, polyester is the most commonly used material in taffeta production. As a fully synthetic textile fiber, the production process for polyester differs greatly from that of silk

Jumbo Taffeta Fabric Flower – Champagne
Jumbo Taffeta Fabric Flower – Champagne

Polyester is derived from ethylene, a compound found in petroleum. This ethylene is then combined with dimethyl terephthalate at a high temperature to produce a monomer alcohol. The resulting monomer is further combined with terephthalic acid to create the polymer, commonly known as polyester.

After the polymer is formed, it is melted and extruded through a slot to produce long ribbons, which are then cooled and chipped into small pellets. These pellets are melted again and extruded through a spinneret, resulting in fine strands of polyester fiber. The fibers are cooled and then stretched in a process called “drawing.” Finally, the drawn polyester fibers are subjected to treatments such as dyeing, flame retardation, or antistatic finishes.

Raw textile fibers can be transformed into taffeta fabric through hand weaving or an industrial weaving machine. The unique crispness and lightweight nature of this fabric is achieved through a special twisting process. Depending on the desired outcome, taffeta fabric may be dyed before or after the weaving process.


How Is Taffeta Fabric Used?

how is taffeta fabric used

Taffeta is widely regarded as a luxury fabric, and it is also relatively delicate, making it less suitable for everyday clothing. As a result, taffeta is more commonly used in high-end garments, such as evening wear and wedding dresses, rather than in everyday clothing.

Thanks to its distinctive rustling and lightweight properties, taffeta fabric is a popular choice for party attire of all kinds. It is commonly used for making party costumes and stage play costumes. Additionally, piece-dyed taffeta’s softness makes it a suitable choice for creating linings for jackets and coats.

In addition to apparel, taffeta fabric is used to make various consumer products. For instance, umbrellas are commonly made with this fabric, and taffeta is also used in insulation. Furthermore, this fabric is sometimes used to create handbags, sleeping bag stuffing, and during World War II, it was frequently used for making parachutes.

Where Is Taffeta Fabric Produced?

taffeta fabric in the world

Taffeta fabric is believed to have originated in ancient Persia, although it is unclear how similar this fabric was to the modern version. Over time, the production of taffeta spread to China and India, which remain the largest producers of silk in the world.

Although taffeta fabric is still produced to some extent in the Middle East, India has been the primary producer of this fabric for centuries. Taffeta fabric is also produced in Pakistan, and China, the leading producer of most types of textiles, has many factories that manufacture this fabric, whether it is made from silk or a synthetic material.

Simple yet stunning taffeta gown
Simple yet stunning taffeta gown

India only began utilizing mechanical looms to manufacture textiles in the 1990s, and while high-quality taffeta fabric was once produced in China between 1970 and 1990, the country no longer produces the highest-quality taffeta fabric. Modern taffeta fabric was first developed in France and Italy during the late 19th century, and to this day, the best types of this fabric are still produced in Western nations. Russia is also a notable exporter of this textile product.

How Much Does Taffeta Fabric Cost?

The cost of taffeta fabric varies based on the material utilized and the specific type of taffeta. Silk taffeta is considerably more expensive than polyester taffeta, but many experts consider silk taffeta to be superior to its synthetic counterparts.

While taffeta fabric is produced from various synthetic textiles, most of these materials are comparable in price. However, due to differences in global production volumes, polyester fabric may be less expensive than cuprammonium rayon.


What Different Types of Taffeta Fabric Are There?

different types of taffeta fabric

Indeed, there are various types of taffeta fabric, and it’s essential to understand the distinctions between them:

• Silk taffeta: Taffeta fabric was initially made from silk, and many producers continue to use silk to create this textile.

• Synthetic taffeta: In modern times, it has become more prevalent to find taffeta fabric made from synthetic materials such as polyester or rayon.

• Yarn-dyed taffeta: Piece-dyed taffeta is dyed before it is woven, which creates a stiff and crisp final product

Black & Gold Check - Silk Taffeta Fabric
Black & Gold Check – Silk Taffeta Fabric

• Piece-dyed taffeta: Yarn-dyed taffeta is dyed before it is woven, whereas piece-dyed taffeta is dyed after weaving, which results in a softer fabric than yarn-dyed varieties.

• Paper taffeta: Sheer taffeta fabric is made from extra-thin silk or polyester fibers, producing a finished textile that is exceptionally thin and crisp.

• Shot silk taffeta: Shot silk taffeta fabric is produced by using different colored threads for the weft and warp, the two perpendicular threads used to weave textiles. This method produces an iridescent effect, displaying different colors when viewed from various angles. While shot silk taffeta can be made from polyester, silk remains the preferred material. This fabric is also referred to as chiné or Pompadour taffeta.

• Antique taffeta: Peau de Soie taffeta is a stiff fabric that features soft, irregular yarn lumps at regular intervals.

• Moire taffeta: Moire taffeta is a type of fabric that features a rippling watermark pattern.

How Does Taffeta Fabric Impact the Environment?

The environmental impact of taffeta fabric varies depending on the type of fiber utilized. Of all the materials used to make taffeta, silk is by far the most environmentally-friendly option.

While the production of silk does have a negative impact on living silkworms, this is the only significant environmental concern associated with silk taffeta production. Though this issue may be concerning for animal rights organizations, many textile enthusiasts and environmental activists appreciate silk’s minimal environmental impact compared to the harm caused by synthetic or semi-synthetic textile fibers.

Silkworms spend their entire lives on the surface of mulberry trees, and these trees do not require any pesticides or fertilizers to grow. The silk production process does not involve the use of caustic chemicals, and in most cases, eco-friendly dyes are utilized to color the fabric.

Furthermore, silk is fully biodegradable, meaning that once a silk garment is discarded, it will break down and be reclaimed by the environment within a matter of years or decades. This quality reassures consumers that their silk purchases will not significantly contribute to pollution.

Using taffeta fabric for the 1st time with real embroidery
Using taffeta fabric for the 1st time with real embroidery

In contrast, both polyester and rayon have significant environmental drawbacks. Polyester is produced from petroleum oil, which is a non-renewable resource. As petroleum oil is also used in the production of a wide range of plastics, fuels, and oils, it is in high demand and short supply.

The production process for polyester requires the use of a range of toxic chemicals, some of which may be released into the environment if not properly contained by manufacturing plants. Furthermore, polyester is not biodegradable, meaning that polyester garments are estimated to remain pollutants in the ecosystem for centuries or even millennia after they are discarded.

Cuprammonium rayon, the type of rayon frequently used to make taffeta fabric, has some environmental advantages over other forms of rayon. This is because it is created using a closed-loop extraction process. However, solvents used in the production of cuprammonium rayon can damage the environment if not disposed of correctly. While rayon is technically biodegradable, as it is made with tree cellulose, it is semi-synthetic and therefore not as quickly absorbed into the environment as fully organic fibers

Taffeta Fabric Certifications Available

Taffeta fabric made from different materials may be eligible for various certification schemes depending on the environmental and social standards followed during production. In the United States, silk taffeta may be eligible for USDA organic certification if it meets sustainable and non-toxic standards. Similarly, silk products grown in Europe may be certified by the European Union’s organic product certification service. Other certification schemes may exist for different types of taffeta fabric, such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification, which covers all aspects of textile production, including the use of organic fibers and socially responsible manufacturing practices.

Taffeta made from synthetic materials such as polyester may be eligible for GRS certification if it is made with 100% recycled materials. Compliance with ISO 9001 standards indicates that the manufacturer has implemented a quality management system to ensure consistent and high-quality production. ANSI certification indicates that an American-made textile has undergone rigorous testing and conforms to national standards for safety, performance, and sustainability. These certifications can provide assurance to consumers and procurement agents that the taffeta fabric they are purchasing meets certain environmental and social standards


Author's Bio:
Sherry Lin

Sherry Lin

Sales Director of fabricstrades.com, a GRS-certified manufacturer of sustainable stretch fabrics. She love sharing fabrics procurement insights.

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