Types of Sheer Fabric

    by Catalina Bixler

    About the Author

    Catalina Bixler's journalism career began in 1970. After five years as a publishing teacher, Bixler then published/edited NATO's U.S. 5th Army and 17th AF "Wiesbaden Post" newspaper. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in bilingual-journalism/community development from Redlands University, and a Master of Arts in adult education/training from the University of Phoenix.



    Among the oldest fabrics made by man are sheer silk from China and sheer cotton from Egypt. Sheer fabrics are lightweight or flimsy cloth made predominantly of the thinnest knits for a semi-transparent effect. In the 21st century global textile industries keep abreast of the ongoing influence of this material on the fashion and home décor industries, supplying a variety of sheer fabrics. The most popular materials remain cottons and silks, though use of sheer nylon and rayon fabrics continues.


    Batiste cotton fabric has a delicate plain weave that drapes gracefully. Batiste compares to the thinner cotton "lawn" material, but is often mercerized: the cotton thread is treated with sodium hydroxide, which causes shrinkage and increases the luster of the cloth while allowing for easier dyeing. Used to make baby clothes, blouses, handkerchiefs and lingerie, batiste is easily sewn, making it useful for underlining clothing as well. Care of this popular fabric calls for a delicate wash -- avoid bleach.


    Chiffon cloth is among the most popular, elegant and lightweight sheer materials. It's used by professional clothing designers, costumers and sewing hobbyists to make such garments as evening wear, dresses, nightgowns and scarves. Treating this flimsy fabric with starch makes the cloth more workable; however, starching causes some chiffon fabrics to spot if exposed to water and other liquids. Before washing a chiffon garment, test a small area with water. A professional cleaner can remove unsightly marks on chiffon that has been stained.


    Named after the French town of Tulle (pronounced "tool"), this lightweigh, net fabric is manufactured in silk, rayon and nylon. Tulle is machine-made using a bobbinet weaving technique, creating a hexagonal weave that helps this amazingly durable and strong cloth retain its shape. Incorporated into fashion design for its sheer lace look, tulle is a popular material for formal gowns and ballet tutus. Tulle applied in layers adds volume to garments. It also makes excellent insect netting because of its remarkable strength. Machine-wash or hand-wash in cold water. For best results, dry tulle material and garments flat.


    The gauze-like, free-flowing characteristics of voile makes this material perfect for veils ("voile" is French for veil). This lightweight, classy material has a non-scratchy texture that is kind to skin. Cotton voile makes summer attire breathable and is well-suited to skirts, blouses and sundresses. Voile makes elegant curtains and drapes and adds volume to lingerie. Wash voile on a delicate setting and hang or lay flat to dry.

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