What is Broadcloth? The Popular Fabric & Its Uses

Nimble Made White Dress Shirt with Broadcloth Fabric

Written by Sonia Su

Broadcloth is known for its smooth texture, versatility, and suitability for a broad range of garments. It is a popular fabric choice as an incredibly versatile dress shirt fabric and other garments that require a smooth and sophisticated finish.

This article explains what is broadcloth fabric, the history of broadcloth, broadcloth fabric vs. other cotton fabric and poplin, and how to care for broadcloth fabric.

Broadcloth fabric

Introduction to Broadcloth

Broadcloth is a tightly woven fabric with a high thread count and a dense structure. Broadcloth can be made from various materials, including natural fibers like cotton, silk, or wool, as well as synthetic fibers like polyester. Check out our comparison of polyester and cotton.

History of Broadcloth

Broadcloth fabric dates back to ancient times and has evolved over centuries to become a prominent fabric in the textile industry.

From Early Origins to the Industrial Revolution

The term "broadcloth" is believed to have originated in the medieval period. It was initially used to describe a high-quality, densely woven woolen fabric. Broadcloth was highly regarded for its durability, softness, and smooth texture. The English city of Colchester was particularly renowned for its production of broadcloth.

During the medieval and Renaissance periods, broadcloth fabric gained popularity across Europe and became a significant trade commodity. It was used for clothing, particularly for the upper classes, as well as for ecclesiastical garments and furnishings.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, textile manufacturing processes underwent significant advancements. Traditional wool broadcloth production expanded to include cotton broadcloth fabric, which utilized the newly developed spinning and weaving technologies and became more affordable and accessible.

Men wearing white dress shirts

The Rise of Broadcloth in the 1900s

Broadcloth fabric, especially cotton broadcloth, gained popularity in the American market during the 20th century. It became favored as a dress shirt fabric due to its smooth and polished appearance. The wrinkle-resistant properties of the broadcloth also contributed to its appeal, making it a practical material for formal and business attire.

Modern Uses of Broadcloth

Today, broadcloth fabrics remain a cherished, quality, versatile material for both casual and formal wear, and their smooth appearance adds a touch of sophistication to any outfit. Broadcloth material's elegant look and feel make it particularly suitable for formal and business attire and usually comes in solid colors.

cotton seedpod fibers for mens shirting fabric

Broadcloth dress shirts made from cotton fibers or cotton blends, for example, are favored for their crisp appearance and wrinkle-resistant properties. Lightweight broadcloth is often used as a lining material for garments like jackets, coats, and dresses. Its smooth surface creates a comfortable layer against the skin and helps garments maintain their shape.

Cotton broadcloth is the most common and widely used type due to its softness, breathability, and affordability. It is also used with various prints, patterns, and designs, making it versatile for different styles. Check out Nimble Made's bestselling solid white dress shirt, made with 100% cotton broadcloth fabric, a quality shirt for the summer and layering.

 Nimble Made White Dress Shirt

Cotton vs. Broadcloth Fabric

Broadcloth refers to a specific type of fabric known for its tightly woven and dense structure, resulting in a fine texture. It can be made from various materials, including natural fibers like cotton or a cotton blend.

Cotton, on the other hand, is a type of natural fiber derived from the cotton plant's seedpods. It is one of the most widely used fibers in the textile industry and is known for its softness, breathability, and comfort. Cotton can be woven into various fabrics, including broadcloth, but it can also be used to make other fabrics like chambray, denim, twill, jersey, and more.

When people refer to broadcloth in the context of clothing or textiles, they are usually talking about a fabric, rather than specifically referring to the fiber used.

 Nimble Made White Dress Shirt

Cotton Broadcloth vs. Poplin

Cotton broadcloth and poplin are two closely related fabrics that are often used interchangeably in the fashion industry. Cotton broadcloth is made like poplin but uses a much thicker yarn and produces a solid, durable feel.

They are both suitable for a variety of styles, from casual to formal wear. Cotton broadcloth fabric and poplin are commonly used in dress shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, and other formal and business attire, but poplin is particularly favored for lighter and more breathable garments. Poplin's smooth appearance and wrinkle-resistant properties make it a popular choice for professional clothing.

Cotton broadcloth fabric is tightly woven and generally medium-weight with a higher thread count. It typically has a plain weave, where the warp and weft threads cross each other in an alternating pattern.

Poplin, also known as tabinet, is a lightweight, plain-weave fabric characterized by a ribbed texture. The weave creates a subtle ribbed effect due to the use of finer yarns in the weft (horizontal) direction compared to the warp (vertical) direction.

Cotton broadcloth fabric has a soft hand feel and a slightly lustrous finish. Poplin has a more pronounced ribbed texture due to the ribbed weave. The ribs give the fabric a slightly raised surface, making it distinct from the smoother feel of broadcloth cloth.

Cotton fabric 

Broadcloth Fabric Care

Check the care label on your broadcloth garment for specific washing instructions to avoid damaging the fabric. Broadcloth is usually machine washable, but using a gentle cycle with lukewarm or cold water is best to prevent excessive shrinkage or color fading.

When the fiber is dry cleaned and steamed like silk, they can straighten the fiber. Line drying is preferred for broadcloth, as it helps maintain the fabric's smoothness. If using a dryer, use a low heat setting to prevent shrinkage and preserve the appearance of the elegant fabric.

Iron and ironing board with mens dress shirt

Does Broadcloth Wrinkle?

Broadcloth fabric is known for its relatively low wrinkle tendency. Its tightly woven weave and dense structure help reduce wrinkles. While broadcloth is not entirely wrinkle-free, it generally wrinkles less than fabrics with looser weaves or lightweight materials.

The wrinkle resistance of broadcloth fabric also depends on the specific fiber used. Cotton broadcloth, for example, might have a bit more wrinkle resistance compared to silk or lightweight synthetic versions.

Despite its relatively low wrinkle tendency, it's essential to note that any fabric can wrinkle to some extent, especially when subjected to creasing or compression during wear or storage.

Proper care, such as hanging or folding garments neatly, removing them from the dryer promptly, and using a gentle ironing technique, will help maintain the smooth appearance of the broadcloth and reduce the impact of wrinkles.

 Man in a blue suit with a white dress shirt

Frequently Asked Questions about Broadcloth Fabric

What is the difference between broadcloth and cotton?

Broadcloth is a specific type of fabric known for its smooth texture, while cotton is a natural fiber known for its softness and comfort. Broadcloth fabric can be made from cotton or other materials, and when made from 100% cotton, it combines the qualities of both broadcloth's smoothness and the desirable properties of cotton.

What kind of fabric is broadcloth?

Broadcloth is a tightly woven fabric that can be made from various materials, each offering unique characteristics and benefits. The choice of material will determine the specific properties and uses of different fibers in the broadcloth fabric.

Is broadcloth the same as 100% cotton?

No, broadcloth is a specific type of fabric, while 100% cotton refers to the fiber composition of fabric.

Is broadcloth good quality?

Yes, although the quality of a broadcloth can vary depending on factors such as the specific fiber used, the manufacturing process, and the brand or manufacturer. Overall, broadcloth is a great fabric and is considered a reliable, incredibly versatile, and great dress shirt fabric choice.

mens slim fit dress shirt infographic

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