As mentioned in our first blog, part of being a successful boutique owner is knowing the different fabric features of the clothes you sell, especially with “live sales” being a key sales tool for online boutiques. This is the second blog of a four-part series that discusses common fabrics used by clothes designers. While there are hundreds of different types of fabric, we will focus on the four fabrics found in most clothing today: Polyester, Rayon, Acrylic and Cotton. This blog discusses the characteristics of Rayon.
Rayon: The King of Versatility
Rayon is a highly versatile fabric that can imitate the feel and texture of silk, cotton, linen and other natural fibers. Rayon is made from the cellulose obtained from wood pulp and plants and was first manufactured in the 1880s as a cheap alternative to silk. It is a semi-synthetic fabric with a beautiful drape and silk-like appearance that is widely used—from clothes, bedsheets, draperies and towels to diapers and tire cord! Several grades of rayon exist, but the three most common types of rayon are viscose, modal and lyocell.
Three Types of Rayon
Viscose is made from wood pulp and is used as a silk substitute given its similar drape and smooth feel. Viscose is breathable and moisture-absorbent and is a popular choice for dresses, blouses, gowns and outerwear. It is a very versatile fabric, although it can shrink or lose its shape in the washing process.
Modal fabric is made from beech tree pulp and while its primarily used for clothing, it is found in household items like bed sheets and towels. Modal is often blended with other fibers like cotton and spandex for added strength. It is also considered a luxurious textile due to its soft feel and can be more expensive than cotton or viscose!
Lyocell is also made from beech trees, but the production process uses fewer chemicals making it more environmentally friendly. Lyocell is similar to cotton and is often blended with natural fabrics. It can absorb moisture from the skin to create a dry feel and is found in everything from denim to dress shirts.
Rayon Blends and Characteristics
Rayon is known for its soft and comfortable features. It drapes well, offers breathability, and is highly absorbent with no static or pilling issues. Rayon is susceptible to shrinkage, so care labels often display hand wash or dry-clean-only care instructions. Ironing can also cause damage. Always read the label!
Rayon can take on different characteristics and feel differently depending on the processing and fabric content of the garment. It is also soft and smooth with an incredibly tight-knit feel as if made from naturally fine fibers, such as cotton, linen or bamboo. For example, the below dress and romper are both made with 100% viscose rayon, yet the dress has a linen feel and the romper is silky-smooth:
Natural materials are often used to create rayon, which makes several blends possible. The first blend we'll discuss is cotton rayon, which typically blends a higher content of cotton fibers to rayon in order to create a garment with a natural cotton or linen feel. Rayon adds moisture-absorbing qualities and this blend tends to be lightweight and breathable, like this multi-color leopard top below:
Spandex can also be blended with rayon to create a stretchy and unique material. Because of rayon’s moisture-wicking properties, a spandex rayon blend is popular for sportswear. A popular blend of 95% rayon and 5% spandex can create a ribbed or stretchy cotton feel that is lightweight and wrinkle resistant. Rayon spandex is soft and supple and can form to body curves while offering breathability. Ironing temperatures should be set low to avoid melting or fusing fibers that can result in tears or brittleness. The below top is an example of a 95% rayon and 5% spandex blend:
Rayon is probably the most misunderstood of all fibers. It is not a natural fiber, yet it is not synthetic. And since rayon has often been used in low-end, poorly constructed clothes, it's reputation has been tarnished to a degree. The two major types of rayon -- viscose and modulus -- have also created confusion since they both require different methods of care.
Make no mistake, rayon and rayon blends have many desirable properties, and can provide an alternative way to get the same look and feel as silk, cotton, or linen-made garments at half the cost. Rayon is definitely a fiber unto itself!
Our next blog will cover the features and characteristics of Acrylic, so stay tuned and feel free to email questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org