Tag Archives: synthetic netting

Glossary: Synthetic Fiber

Synthetic fibers are manufactured from chemicals derived from water, coal, and petroleum, through a process known as polymerization. Synthetic fibers, which are man-made noncellulosic fibers, look, feel, and behave very differently from natural fibers. Synthetic fibers include polyester, nylon, acrylic, and spandex. By contrast, man-made cellulosic fibers (which are rayon, acetate, and triacetate), more strongly resemble natural fibers than do synthetic fibers. In general, synthetic fibers have a plastic appearance and to not breathe; that is, they trap heat and moisture. They are generally uncomfortable to wear, especially when layers of clothing are worn. Synthetic fabrics are generally inappropriate for authentic historical reproduction clothing, but can be used as inexpensive alternatives for historically inspired, costumey costume, or modern use. However, their wearing disadvantages remain, as well as the difficulties in removing stains from synthetics, and the shredding problems that the fabrics often have, which makes them difficult to sew.

About “Man-Made” Versus “Synthetic” Fibers:

“Many people refer to the man-made cellulosic fabrics–rayon, acetate, and triacetate–as man-made, and the man-made noncellulosic fabrics–nylon, polyester, acrylic, etc.–as synthetic. These are useful terms that may help you remember that, although man-made, rayon and acetate behave more like natural fabrics than do the synthetics, such as nylon and polyester.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 68)

For more information about man-made cellulosic fibers, see the entry on rayon fiber.

About Synthetic (Noncellulosic) Fibers:

“Noncellulosic man-made fabrics are based on a chemical reaction called polymerization and are derived mainly from the basic chemicals found in water, coal, and petroleum. The production of man-made noncellulosic fabrics is highly complex. As with man-made cellulosics, the first step is to liquify the base chemical mixture, and the second is to force the resulting solution through the spinneret. The characteristics of the various noncellulosic materials–today twenty generic types are produced worldwide–are attributable to the different chemical structures of the solution and the different processes to which the extruded filament may be subjected.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 68)

Acrylic: Commonly soft, light, fluffy fabric construction. Available in sheer fabrics, knits, fleece, fur-like and pile fabrics, and blends with natural and man-made fibers…. Microfibers: Available in acrylic, nylon, polyester, and rayon. Defined as a fiber that has less than 1 denier per filament. Finer than the most delicate silk and very drapeable. Luxurious hand, often silken or suede-like touch…. Nylon: Several types of nylon produce a wide variety of fabric textures, from smooth and crisp to soft and bulky. Available in wide range of fabrics, both woven and knitted…. Polyester: Available in many weights, textures, and weaves; often used in blends and minimum care fabrics…. Spandex: Found in stretchable, flexible, supple fabrics…” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, pages 52-54)

On Using Man-Made Fabrics for Vintage & Historical Reproductions:

“Because so many modern clothes are made from synthetics, you’re probably used to their essentially plastic appearance. But synthetics make period clothes appear shoddy and inauthentic. Even if the material is partly natural, or used only on one area of one garment. Synthetics also trap heat and moisture. This is an important consideration with period outfits, which are heavier and more layered than modern ones.
“In other words, reproduction fabrics and trims should be made entirely of linen, cotton, wool (including cashmere and other animal-hair fabrics), silk, or a blend of these. (There are some other cellulosic fibers which are seldom found today.) The only exception is rayon, which is cellulose based. Rayon looks most natural blended with silk or cotton. I’m particularly fond of rayon/silk satins and brocades, and cotton velvet over a rayon base. But all-rayon fabrics (especially velvet) can definitely be too shiny.” (Grimble, After a Fashion, page 72)

“In some circumstances, a dressmaker may choose to substitute a high quality man-made fiber in order to replicate a specific weave, color, or textile pattern. This should not be lightly done; it takes detailed research to know when such substitutions are appropriate, and what the compromise entails authenticity-wise. In general, it is best to avoid synthetics.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)

“The proliferation of synthetics throughout the textile and garment industries continues to pose problems for costume designers and technicians who are in the business of creating stage costumes for plays set in many historical periods, most of which fall before the invention of the wash-and-wear, crease resistant, nonsag ‘miracle’ fabrics. Unfortunately, garments made from nylon, polyester, and acrylic fabrics do not look exactly like garments made from silk, wool, or cotton, especially in motion and under stage lights.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 59)

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Online Resources:

Print Resources: See the article Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials for a list of print resources.

Updated January 10, 2012

1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows

This petticoat came about as a result of my 1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting being insufficiently fluffy. I used a great deal of a very stiff white nylon netting that I bought for $1 a yard at one of the shops in the Fashion District in Los Angeles a couple years ago. The fabric was originally intended to be used for a faux bustle similar to the 1870s inspired bustle with lavender sateen pillow and pansy net ruffles, but I didn’t go through with the Steampunk costume I was planning to make it for, so the fabric was duly requisitioned.

Not only is the netting much stiffer this time around, I also made the petticoat longer and much fuller, using most of the material I had in order to achieve maximum floofiness. I cut strips of the netting so that each of the three tiers was double the width of the tier above it. The bottom tier is 13½ yards around! The middle tier is 6¾ yards, and the top tier is about 3½ yards around, gathered into a waistband of white polished cotton. I hand-stitched the entire petticoat, using the selvage of the material for a pre-finished hem. The waistband is top-stitched to look nice and tidy.

And then, after finishing the waistband, I came to a conundrum. How to close the waistband? I didn’t want anything lumpy or uncomfortable, and I wanted some flexibility in the circumference of the waistband. So I decided to use ribbons or tapes, stitched to each end of the waistband, to tie together. But alas! I had no simple white ribbons or tapes of an appropriate size in my stash, and I didn’t know when I’d have a chance to go to the store.

But then I ran across a bag of pre-finished turquoise satin ribbon bows. I’d bought them some time back at the Michael Levine’s Loft store in the Fashion District in Los Angeles, for a dollar or two, without any particular plan. After untying two bows and stitching them on as ties, I decided that the turquoise ties needed company – in the form of the application of many more bows to the petticoat. It makes for a slightly silly petticoat, but there’s something inherently silly about Really Fluffy Petticoats, so I just ran with it. Now my excellent petticoat is delightfully covered in turquoise bows!

This petticoat is satisfactorily fluffy for many things, though I still dream of going even fluffier, especially for evening wear. The netting I used here is excellent for the purpose, and I’m planning to go on the hunt for more like it at some point. I also want to try making a similar petticoat (possibly even wider?!) out of synthetic organza. Of course, silk organza would make a truly delicious petticoat, but I think that’s probably out of my price range for a while.

For more information about 1950s style petticoats, see my intro post about my 1950s style net petticoats.

1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting

I made this petticoat of standard JoAnn’s nylon netting in an ivory color, using a hybrid of several different petticoat tutorials I found online. It’s pretty basic – three tiers of netting, each double the fullness of the one above, and gathered to it. I sewed it by hand, because I didn’t want to do battle with that much machine-gathering (I don’t trust machine gathering), especially using something as fussy as synthetic netting. Unfortunately, the petticoat really didn’t end up sufficiently fluffy, because the netting was fairly soft, and probably needed more yardage anyway. Clearly, my petticoat efforts needed to be far less modest in future if I was going to get the oomph I wanted.

Nevertheless, I did complete the petticoat, even after I discovered that it wouldn’t have as much floof as I wanted. I finished it with an ivory synthetic satin enclosed waistband. And it does have some floof, but in order to really manage proper 1950s style poofiness, I need several other petticoats with it. Still, it was a good learning experience. And it led me onward to my next floofy adventure: the 1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows.

For more information about 1950s style petticoats, see my intro post about my 1950s style net petticoats.

1870s inspired faux bustle of pansy synthetic netting

The 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume that I made Sarah for Halloween last fall is made from historically accurate Truly Victorian patterns, with an accurate corset which I draped using duct tape, but it isn’t made to be historically accurate; it’s made to be a fun, pretty, historically inspired Halloween/masquerade costume. But because it’s made from historically accurate bustle era patterns, it needs a skirt support. For Halloween, Sarah wore the costume over a borrowed bustle of not-quite-the-right shape, and an old cotton Civil War era skirt of mine, which I puffed and pinned to keep it from dragging on the floor (she is not as tall as I am), and to help smooth the lines of the bustle and create a softer, early 1870s shape. It worked shockingly well.

But in order to make the costume wearable on its own, without major borrowed components, she needed a bustle of her very own. I finally made just such a bustle…in April. Oh well! I used eight yards of 70″ wide pansy purple nylon net from Fabric.com, a piece of scrap ribbon, some upholstery thread, and a bit of regular thread. It took me about an hour, all told.

I measured out a length of net a couple inches shorter than the skirt, folded it evenly, and measured out the same length again. Leaving it folded in half, I cut off the doubled length from my yardage. Then I measured out another length of net, a couple inches shorter than a single side of the previous piece (so, probably  6 or 7 inches shorter than the skirt). Same as before, I folded that evenly, measured out the same length again, and cut off my new doubled length, leaving it folded. Now I had two big pieces of netting, folded in half. I laid them together along the folds, matching up the long (remember, this is wide netting!) folds. Then I pinned one end of the pair of folds to the arm of the couch, and the other end to a pair which I put in the middle of the room, basically stretching the netting out across the room. This made it very easy to run a gathering thread through both doubled pieces at once (by hand), using a length of upholstery thread.

After I ran all 70″ of gathering, I scrunched it up and used a quick whipstitch to secure all of it to the piece of ribbon, gathering all 70″ of all four layers into a space of about 15 inches. I didn’t want to make a full petticoat, only, well, a nice big butt fluff. After the base “skirt” layers of the bustle were secured, I basically bundled up the rest of the netting into one big bouf with a bit of a tail, and hand-stitched the whole mass, rather haphazardly, to the center of the “skirt” section. Because the netting is very lightweight, and the costume is very lightweight overall, the support doesn’t need to be very sturdy, or very determinedly poufy – just fluffy. And it succeeds in being fluffy!

Once it was finished, I persuaded Lyndie to try it on so I could see how it looked, and I was quite satisfied. Very purple, and very fluffy. On its own, it actually looks rather charmingly burlesque. It has yet to be worn with the rest of the costume, because I want to put some finishing touches on the costume first…and also sleeves…but I think it will do nicely. At some point, I think I’ll have to make one of these for myself (because a faux bustle is a good thing to have), and when I do, I’ll take photos along the way and make a more comprehensible tutorial. I didn’t try to take pictures this time around, because I was making it up as I went along and wasn’t sure what I was doing. But I like how it turned out! It makes for a charming and very inexpensive fluffy shape to fill out the skirt of a pretty Halloween masquerade costume with nice historical lines.

Intro: 1950s style net petticoats

An ongoing goal of mine is trying to achieve full 1950s floofy skirts. I love the full-skirted Dior New Look style, and I’ve always found it very interesting, in part because it so clearly hearkens back to fashions of around a century earlier, with the dropped shoulder, nipped in waist, and full skirts. There are some interesting social and cultural components that go along with that, but as much as I enjoy looking at such things in an analytical way, I also just really enjoy fluffy skirts.

And to have fluffy skirts, 1950s style, one needs petticoats. So I have been experimenting with petticoats! My first petticoat, the 1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting, wasn’t as fluffy as I would have liked, so my second attempt, the 1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows, used stiffer netting and lots more of it. I still have further adventures in petticoat-fluff planned, but I’m quite happy with the second petticoat, and the first has its uses as well (including layering with the second for Extra Fluff). Using the stiff net (as opposed to the softer netting available from JoAnn’s) definitely works well, and I’d like to experiment with a crisp synthetic organza as well – and, of course, silk organza would be lovely, but prohibitively expensive.

I gleaned information from a variety of sources in devising how to cut out and put together my petticoats. These are the sources I consulted:

Vintage Petticoats Online:

  • A very expansive black synthetic net petticoat, dated “circa 1955,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It appears to be made of a seriously impressive quantity of very fine netting, with stripes around the hem. I want one.