Formal Suiting Fabrics

Although the suit-and-tie look is more an option than a requirement in most office spaces today, dark suits are still a cornerstone in the wardrobe of most men.
 
Straight forward as it may appear, four season formal suiting fabrics is the largest category of cloth carried by most fabric suppliers and hence contain a great deal of internal variation. Furthermore, although a formal suit if often navy or grey in color there are indeed several aspects to consider when selecting a fabric. The fact is that when it comes to formal suiting fabrics it is truly the seemingly subtle details that makes a great impact on the feel and appearance of the suit.
 
In this Atelier Fabric Guide we will look more closely at three aspects of formalsuiting fabrics: weightsweaves and patterns.


A question of weight

As some of you may know already, weight is one of the key aspects that determine how a garment will feel and look when worn. Along with the design of the weave, the weight of the fabric is essentially what decides how a suit drapes (i.e. how the cloth falls and moves along the body).
 
In the atelier we define heavy cloths as those that surpass 400gr in weight. Those below 280gr would, in our terms, be defined as light weight and the ones in between as mid weights.
 
A heavier cloth will keep the lines of the silhouette cleaner and will crease less throughout the day than a lighter fabric with the same composition. Furthermore, a heavier cloth generally gives the silhouette a fuller – some would say more masculine – impression.
 
Above is an example of a suit made up in a 430gr plain weave fabric from Dugdale Bros & Co. In Scandinavian terms, this suit would be good for a solid nine or ten months per year in Northern Europe, however, would be considered too hot during high Summer. As you can see, the fabric holds up the silhouette nicely and the trousers drapes particularly well.


Twill for luster, plain weave for muteness 

Apart from the color – a darker suit is of course generally considered more formal than a lighter one – the weave structure is key in determining the level of formality of a suit.
 
There are three fundamental ways in which a fabric can be woven: plain weave, twill weave and satin weave. Plain and twill are more commonly used for suiting and will hence be focused upon whereas satin is more commonly used for lingerie, upholstery and boxer shorts amongst other things. 
 
Plain weave (pictured on the left above) is the most commonly used weave of the three and is characterized by the small criss-cross patterns shaped by warp and weft being aligned in the weaving of the cloth. Twill (on the right above) on the other hand is characterized by its parallel diagonal ribs that is created by the weft thread passing over a warp thread.
 
The fabrics compared above are actually very similar in both color and weight, however, the different weaves makes them appear vastly different. The plain weave is more muted and the color appears deeper while the twill has more luster and can almost come across as a little shiny. Comparing the two, the twill does make a suit appear more formal and sharp while the plain weave is something to opt for if the goal is rather having something made that is understated and can more easily be broken into separates.


Patterns within the framework

Although having a restrained approach to patterns, we do love the subtle ones that are not overly eye-catching. In terms of formal suiting fabrics there is one pattern that stands out as a piece that a lot of people like in theory, however, are having a hard time seeing themselves wear; namely the chalk stripe. The chalk stripe is indeed somewhat of a statement piece, however, in contrast to common belief it does not necessarily have to be hard to wear.
 
When compared to the pinstripe, the chalk stripe – which have gotten its name from its similarity to the chalk tailors use to make markings on fabric before cutting it – is usually much less distinct in its patterning. In the above example you can see a 340gr fabric from Dugdale Bros & Co where the stripe, instead of being white, is rather light grey and hence creates a lesser contrast to the dark grey base color. Furthermore, this cloth has a subtle brushed finish and lacks of shine.

These two aspect combined gives the suit a more approachable impression. Something formal with a lot of authority yet still elegantly subtle.