Here's what you need to know about some common fabric types:
Natural Fabrics: Made from naturally occurring plant or animal material.
COTTON: The touch…the feel…the fabric of our lives—Cotton is the most common and popular natural fabric today. Random fact: Did you know that United States paper money is 75% cotton? Neither did we.
Pros: Comfortable, versatile, soft, great breathability, absorbent and durable. Denim, velour, jersey and many other popular beloved fabrics are made from cotton.
Cons: It can wrinkle.
LINEN: Natural fabric similar to cotton that is made from flax fibers.
Pros: Great breathability
Cons: Tends to wrinkle easily; poor elasticity
WOOL: Natural, animal-derived fabric. Most wool comes from sheep; specialty types include mohair, angora and cashmere.
Pros: Incredibly warm, dirt and water resistant.
Cons: Shrinks when washed at high temperatures. Can be itchy.
SILK is one of the oldest, most luxurious fabrics known to man, spun from the cocoons of silkworms.
Pros: Beautiful, strong and comfortable with a shimmering, natural lustre.
Cons: Delicate and susceptible to rough treatment, sunlight, perspiration.
Synthetic Fabrics: Man-made through chemical processes where liquids are extruded and formed into filaments, which are made into fibres that are woven into a fabric.
POLYESTER is the most widely used manufactured fibre in the United States. Polyester has gotten a bad rap (blame fashion in the 70s), but it is quite the modern marvel.
Pros: Works well in blends with other natural fabrics, such as cotton, which extends the wear of garments. Strong, crease-resistant, colorfast and retains its shape.
Cons: Doesn't really breathe, thereby creating unsightly sweat stains; not readily biodegradable.
RAYON is neither a synthetic nor a natural fiber but rather a manufactured fiber derived from naturally occurring cellulose.
Pros: Cheap, versatile fabric. Rayon drapes well, is easy to dye, and is highly absorbent.
Cons: Tends to age poorly. The manufacturing process of rayon results in a great deal of environmental pollution, inspiring a drive to clean up the industry. (We're not scientists, but we're guessing that most synthetic fabrics use up a lot of resources and create a lot of waste since they're basically made out of plastic, which is a petroleum-based product.)
NYLON: Every heard of pantyhose? Nylon was also heralded as a modern miracle when it was invented back in the 1940s.
Pros: Very elastic and resilient.
Cons: Melts at high temperatures; too much washing and drying can cause piling to occur.
ACRYLIC: A synthetic which resembles wool.
Pros: Fine, soft, "fluffy" fabric.
Cons: Very vulnerable to heat and not very warm.
ACETATE: A synthetic which resembles silk.
Pros: Resistant to shrinking and wrinkling; pliable and good for draping. Taffeta, satin, crepe and brocade often contain acetate.
Cons: Not as strong as silk. Keep nail polish remover and perfumes containing alcohol away as these can melt acetate fibers.