What Is the Difference Between Taffeta and Charmeuse Fabrics?

Cinderella didn't have choices. You do. Pick fabric that flatters your body.

Photo: Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Cinderella wasn’t offered a wardrobe choice when her fairy godmother-turned-stylist stuck her in a gown most chicks would find less than flattering to their hips. You, on the other hand, have choices, so it’s time to learn about fabrics can make you look terrific when you’re invited to a fancy event. Both taffeta and charmeuse are gorgeous textiles used by haute couture designers for new and classic collections. Pick the one that meets your budget and sensibilities, and you can keep partying long after the clock strikes midnight.

Look Terrific in Taffeta

This medium-to-heavyweight fabric may include silk, wool, rayon or synthetic threads, but taffeta always meets the strength-and-durability test while making a girl look fashion forward. Taffeta dyes beautifully, and if you want to make an entrance that won’t be missed, the crisp, rustling sound that accompanies your walk can turn heads. Technically, taffeta is known as a “weft-way” rib fabric, and the stiffness can be controlled by the tightness of the weave. If you crave a structured dress that holds its shape, you’ve found your dream textile.

More Taffeta Benefits

JRBSilks.com CEO Rahul Bapna describes silk taffeta as “one of the oldest luxury fabrics.” He should know: He makes silk taffeta in 400 colors. Silk taffeta isn’t wimpy and diaphanous like traditional silk; it’s crisp enough to hold its shape, which is why designers love it for draping. Make some history in silk taffeta, too. It’s been around since the 16th century. If you adore silk enough to put up with those dry-cleaning bills, silk taffeta cocktail dresses, gowns and evening skirts should be at the top of your list next time you’re invited to the prince’s ball.

Charm in Charmeuse

Charmeuse is a lightweight fabric made by wrapping warp threads over multiple weft threads to produce satiny, luxe materials that shimmer. Charmeuse fabrics may be fashioned of silk or polyester -- remember, it’s all about the weave. Some charmeuse garments can even be tossed into a washing machine if a prince gets clumsy and drops hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour. Charmeuse clings to the body, so it may not be your first pick if you choose garments for their ability to hide figure flaws. Charmeuse isn’t for the fainthearted seamstress. The cloth can slip and slide on a sewing machine platen, which is why it's always wise to check the seams of charmeuse garments.

More Charmeuse Benefits

Whether it’s blended with silk or rayon, satin charmeuse flows beautifully and glimmers with each move. Visit the New York Fashion Center Fabric Information webpage and find this description for Silk Charmeuse: “If there were competitions among fabrics, silk charmeuse would win the gold medal in every event.” Whoa. Talk about extremes. Women who don’t like heavy silks and satins find charmeuse to be the perfect compromise because it reflects light and hypes a girl's fashion cred. “Silk charmeuse fabric is the equivalent of dipping ones' hand into a running river,” adds the writer spinning storybook tales on the NYFC site. That says it all.

Why You Don’t Have to Compromise

Overseas production of both taffeta and charmeuse has brought down costs of both, particularly since India has become an epicenter for luxury-fabric production and garment construction. When deciding between them, choose charmeuse to flatter every inch of your body or pick taffeta to look terrific while disguising your flaws. Grades of taffeta and charmeuse are increasing, and if you didn’t already hear the news, even Costco has rolled out a “Costcouture” brand featuring both fabric types. Whether you need a wedding dress or you’ve been invited to a ball, do your best Cinderella impression on a budget that would force even an evil stepmother into admitting that you look like a princess.

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