Fabric Weight and Drape: A Beginner's Guide

Fabric Weight and drape Title Card

Fabric Weight vs. Fabric Drape - What's the Difference?

Fabric weight and drape can often get confused with one another, but while they are related, they are not the same. Fabric weight, as the name suggests, is how much a fabric weighs while fabric drape is concerned with how a fabric hangs and behaves on the body. 

Fabric Weight - Why is it Important?

Fabric weight is very important to the construction of a garment. Weight is a key factor in the durability, warmth/coolness, comfort, and overall look of a piece of clothing.

Generally, the heavier the weight, the thicker the fabric is; and, generally (there are always exceptions), the thicker the fabric is, the warmer it will be and more durable and hard wearing it will be. The thicker it is, however, the bulkier and possibly stiffer your garment will also be.

Some fabrics, like chiffon, only come in limited weight range while other fabrics like denim come in a wide variety of weights from lightweight to heavyweight which makes knowing the weight before purchasing your fabric extremely important. 

Fabric Weight Chart

Fabric weight is measured in either GSM (grams per square metre) or ounces.

Classification Weight Some Examples Uses
Very Lightweight up to 135gsm (4oz) Voile, Gauze, Silk Chiffon, Silk Georgette Lingerie, Tops,  Dresses and Skirts

135gsm - 200gsm (4-6oz.)

Double Gauze, Viscose, Chambray
Tops,  Dresses and Skirts, Loose Pants
Medium Weight 200gsm - 270gsm (6-8oz.) French Terry, Linen, Tencel Twill Tops, Bottoms, Dresses, and Light Outerwear
Medium Heavy Weight 270gsm - 340gsm (8-10oz.) Wool Tweed, Corduroy Pants, Structured Skirts and Dresses, Outerwear 
Heavy Weight 340gsm - 400gsm (10-12oz.) Boiled Wool, Denim Pants and outerwear


Fabric Drape - Why is it Important?

Fabric drape is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting a fabric for your chosen pattern. The drape of your fabric determines how a garment will hang on your body after it is constructed - whether it clings to all your curves or stands away from your body. Generally lighter weight fabrics have more drape while heavy weight fabrics have little drape. Certain garments work best with fabrics that have lots of drape while others require a low drape fabric. 

Types of Drape

Fluid/High Drape 

Fabrics with fluid drape are very flowy, hang straight down and cling to your body. Fluid drape fabrics include silk, satin, chiffon, and viscose.

Moderate Drape

Moderate drape fabrics are more versatile than fluid drape fabrics and suitable for a wide variety of patterns. Moderate drape fabrics don't fall straight down like fluid drape fabrics, but they also don't stand away from the body like low drape fabrics either. Moderate drape fabrics can be soft or crisp and range in their fluidity. Moderate drape fabrics include linen, cotton lawn, french terry, and jersey.

Full Bodied/Low Drape 

Full bodied drape fabrics are stiff and hold themselves away from your body. They hold pleats well and are ideal for structured garments. Full bodied drape fabrics include dupioni silk, scuba knit, and denim. 

Fabric Drape Chart 

Type of Drape Fabrics Suitable Garments
Fluid/High Drape Satin, Silk Chiffon, Viscose, Crepe Lingerie, flowy dresses and skirts, Blouses
Moderate Drape Double Gauze, Linen, Cotton Lawn/Voile, Jersey Dresses and Skirts, Blouses and Button up Shirt, Loose Pants, Light Jackets
Full Bodied/Low Drape
Denim, Corduroy, Canvas, Scuba Knit, Dupioni Silk
Pants, Structured Dresses and Skirts, Outerwear