Satin is a smooth, shiny fabric that is typically made from silk or polyester. It is often used for eveningwear or bridal gowns because of its luxurious appearance. Satin fabric has a history that dates back to ancient China, where it was first used for robes and other garments. Today, satin is still a popular choice for formalwear, but it is also used for a variety of other items, such as bedding and upholstery.
What Is Satin?
Satin is a soft, stretchy, silky-like fabric that most people have come into contact with at some point. It’s a versatile fabric known for its rich, shiny finish and is most commonly used in clothing, bedding, upholstery, and more.
The wide application and budget-friendly properties of the fabric make it a popular choice for items you want to add a touch of sophistication to.
Though the manufacturing of satin has changed throughout history, the fabric is still known for its lustrous and luxurious feel.
History of Satin Fabric
Satin fabric’s smooth, buttery-soft texture has roots dating back to the Middle Ages in China. Satin weave originated in Quanzhou, the Chinese port city. It was called Zaitun in medieval Arabic—which is where the fabric got its name.
Satin was considered a luxury item and used in the trading market, primarily along the Silk Road. During that time, the satin fabric was woven out of silk; thus, it was costly and typically used and worn only by the upper classes.
The first western country to produce satin in the 12th century was Italy. After that, satin became popular throughout Europe around the 14th century, used in royal garments and upholstery. Interestingly, much of the ornate furniture and decor in the Palace of Versailles (and many Victorian pieces) contains satin.
Both then and now, satin is revered for its beauty, versatility, wrinkle resistance, and its durable, taut nature.
Today, satin fabric doesn’t typically contain silk but is a synthetically woven fabric made from materials like polyester and rayon.
Properties and Characteristics of Satin Fabric
The satin fabric is popular for many reasons, and the final product is beautiful, soft, and smooth. Some notable characteristics of satin include its shiny finish, beautiful drape, durability, and more.
The result of a satin weave is a shiny, soft, and flexible fabric with a lustrous drape. However, one side of the satin fabric is a shiny surface, while the other is dull. The dull side is a result of the organization of the warp and weft threads.
Satin was used in the middle ages mainly for royal garments, evening wear, and curtains for a reason. The concentration of fibers and pliability of the fabric used to weave satin create a soft and flowing drape, perfect for delicate pieces.
A satin weave uses long filament fibers woven tightly, resulting in a more robust material than most plain weave fabrics.
Items made with satin are usually long-lasting without visible wear and tear and highly resistant to soiling.
Satin, especially thicker satin, is a strong, durable fabric incredibly resistant to wrinkles. This is because satin stretches out easily, so it’s not likely to bunch.
Despite all the good properties of satin, this delicate fabric is easily snagged. The threads in a satin weave can be easily caught, resulting in unattractive snags.
Difficult to Work With
That soft, smooth feel of satin that’s so nice to the touch also makes it challenging to work with. The fabric doesn’t handle tension well and frays easily, so it needs to be cut in single layers and handled with precision and care.
Types of Satin Fabric
Satin comes in several different types, each differing slightly in weave technique and with specific uses.
Antique satin, also known as satin-back shantung, is woven with a plain weave using warp and weft threads differing in thickness. The fabric is reversible, with one side satin and the other shantung.
Antique satin is typically used to simulate 17th and 18th-century silks and create pieces like evening wear, lingerie, blouses, and wedding gowns.
Baronet satin refers to woven satin with a blend of cotton weft threads and rayon warp threads, resulting in a high sheen look with extreme durability.
This fabric is heavyweight and lustrous, often used in ballet pointe shoes, purses/clutches, wedding dresses, formal wear, and curtains.
A shiny, lightweight, and flowy fabric, charmeuse satin has an easy drape and displays traditional characteristics of satin with a shiny front and dull back.
You’ll typically find charmeuse satin in gowns, pillows, shirts, lingeries, coat linings, and handkerchiefs.
Crepe Back Satin
Crepe back satin is a reversible material with one side a lustrous, satin finish and the other with a crepe texture (hence the name). Crepe back satin is usually made with silk but may also be manufactured with synthetic fibers or blends.
Eveningwear, coat and shirt linings, dresses, and blouses are made with crepe back satin due to its texture and reversibility.
Opposite charmeuse satin, Duchesse satin is a hefty fabric. It’s much stiffer than standard satin with less luster and is typically dyed in solid colors for dresses.
You’ll find this thick satin in women’s formalwear and wedding gowns.
Faconne satin is a midweight silk fabric made with a jacquard weave. It has a lustrous surface with small patterns arranged in the satin weave.
Typically, this satin is used for decorative purposes like furniture upholstery and curtains/drapery.
This type of satin is made with a cotton warp and worsted or cotton filling. Farmer’s satin is durable and lustrous and used in coat linings and dresses.
Gattar satin is woven with a cotton filling and silk wrap. It boasts elegant luster and a gorgeous drape.
This satin is found only in solid colors and is used for elegant eveningwear.
This is another lightweight, loosely woven satin with a high shine. Messaline satin contains either rayon or silk and is used primarily for dresses.
The polysatin name is an abbreviation for a polyester blend satin woven with polyester threads and is soft, wrinkle-resistant, and long-lasting.
Polysatin is used to make bed sheets, table linen, furniture covers, car seat covers, and specific work overalls.
Slipper satin is a stiff, heavy, and tightly woven fabric. It boasts a high luserThe texture of this satin makes it perfect for use in clothing like evening dresses and wraps, women’s footwear, and accessories like purses and wallets.
This fabric is worsted with a satin face. Sultan satin is a silk textile with a glassy surface used mainly in women’s clothing.
Surf satin resembles taffeta in texture and is used for swimwear and other clothing for the water.
How Is Satin Fabric Made?
Each type of satin is made with a slightly different weave technique or fabric, but most are created using four or more weft threads that go over one warp thread.
During weaving, the warp threads are stationary over the loom, while the weft threads are woven under and over the warps.
Satin Weave Types
There are three types of satin weave.
- Four harness satin weave: the weft thread is woven over three warp threads, then under one.
- Five harness satin weave: the weft thread is woven over four warp threads, then under one.
- Eight harness satin weave: the weft thread is woven over seven warp threads, then under one.
Of these three wave types, the eight harness is the most flexible form of satin.
How Is Satin Fabric Used?
Satin is an adaptive fabric used in everything from clothing to accessories to interior decor.
Satin is one of the most commonly used fabrics for items like wedding dresses and evening gowns. This beautiful, lustrous fabric drapes beautifully and is highly resistant to wrinkles.
Ballet pointe shoes need to be both beautiful and strong, which is why satin is the number one choice. The stiff and glossy fabric offers dancers support and is gorgeous to behold. You can also find satin in the detail of designer heels.
Fashion accessories like hair pieces, purses, and clutches contain stronger kinds of satin weave.
Some weaves of satin resemble silk but are much cheaper than this fabric, making satin a popular choice for bed linen. The smooth, soft, and flexible properties make sheets and pillowcases feel luxurious.
In its earlier days, satin was one of Europe’s main fabrics used in decor and upholstery. Today, satin is still used for chairs, pillow coverings, and other upholstered furniture.
Advantages of Satin Fabric
Satin has a luxurious look and feel, which makes it a popular choice for clothing like wedding and evening gowns, blouses, lingerie, and other pieces. But below are specific reasons why this fabric works for these items.
- Versatility: the fabric comes in various textures and offers flexibility and stretch.
- Durability: the strength of the weave and taut nature of satin makes it ideal for thick, heavy garments.
- Wrinkle-resistant: the thicker satins boast a gorgeous drape and are less likely to bunch and produce wrinkles.
- Customizable: satin can be printed with high-quality, vibrant colors, patterns, and images.
Disadvantages of Satin Fabric
Though satin is a flexible fabric that offers many benefits, this smooth and silky soft material has its drawbacks.
- Hard to sew: the smooth, silky material can be very hard to work with because of the slip.
- Limits: some weaves can be used only in solid colors.
- Snags: the threads of satin weaves can easily get caught, resulting in unflattering and annoying snags.
Alternatives to Satin Fabric
Satin is unique for its durability and flexibility, but other fabrics have some of the same qualities, like shininess and softness. These products vary in price and availability but may be good alternatives for your project.
Brocade is a patterned and embossed material similar to satin in that it’s also a woven fabric. This material was traditionally made from silk, like satin, so you may also hear it referred to as silk brocade.
Today, brocade is made from other fiber types like cotton, polyester, and sometimes wool.
Originally, cire was a type of finish that was added to fabrics with wax to aid in resistance to elements, like moisture, without adding too much weight.
But today, cire is a fabric created with heat and pressure for a crisp and firm texture and is made with synthetic fibers (mainly polyester).
Crepe fabric isn’t similar to satin because of its shininess, as this is a rather dull material. However, there are versions of crepe that are shinier than others if made from silk—you can find this material in crepe back satin.
This fabric can be made with synthetic fibers but lacks any luster unless treated.
Organza shares some of the lightweight properties of the variations of satin. This fabric is thin and sheer, created by weaving silk or synthetic fibers together with a plain weave.
Sateen is probably the closest fabric to satin because of the way it’s woven. It’s a satin fabric made with spun cotton fibers instead of silk or filament.
This material has a softer feel than others but is more of a matte satin. Sateen is often more durable than variations of satin and can be bleached, scrubbed, and machine-washed without being damaged.
Silk is similar to satin fabric because of its luster and softness. It’s one of the strongest natural fabrics around, and while it can be made with polyester fibers, it’s most often made from silkworm fibers.
Unlike satin, silk doesn’t need to be woven to appear shiny.
Where Is Satin Fabric Produced?
Satin originally came from China, so it’s appropriate that it’s one of the largest producers of textiles. China has eight major categories of textile industries: silk fabric, knitted fabric, textile machinery, wool fabrics, cotton fabrics, chemical fabrics, fiber, and garments.
Other countries that produce satin include:
- United States
- South Korea
How Much Does Satin Fabric Cost?
The cost of satin fabric will depend on the type. For example, satin made with silk will be more expensive than satin made with polyester.
You can expect to see prices ranging anywhere from $2 up to $10 per yard.
What Certifications Are Available for Satin Fabric?
When you purchase clothes or fabric, you might look at the tag to see its country of origin—but did you know that fabrics can be certified?
What Are Certified Fabrics?
Understanding what fabric certifications are will help you choose high-quality materials. Identifying certified fabrics is especially important if you want to purchase only environmentally-friendly or vegan-friendly materials.
Below are the most common fabric certifications.
LENZING EcoVero fabrics are made with viscose fibers that are sustainably certified. EcoVero viscose requires only half the amount of water that generic viscose does, and the use of fossil resources and CO2 emissions are cut in half.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certificate has two main categories: organic and made with (x%) organic. The certified organic products are those that contain at least 95% of fibers certified as organic.
The made with (x%) organic products are those that contain at least 70% of fibers certified as organic and no more than 10% of synthetic fibers.
This certificate also has ecological and social criteria to be met to help build a sustainable textile industry. The environmental requirements include not only the use of organic fiber but restrictions on bleaches, dyes, and procedures that minimize waste and the exclusion of PVC packaging on the products.
The social requirements are no child or forced labor, freedom of association and collective bargaining, no discrimination, protected wages and working hours, and more.
Global Recycled Standard-certified fabrics contain recycled fibers with specific requirements. Products containing at least 20% recycled materials can receive GRS certification, but the product must contain at least 50% recycled materials to display the official logo.
Furthermore, these recycled materials must be from trusted sources, and the manufacturer must meet the chemical, environmental, and social requirements criteria.
You may have seen this one before; fabrics or clothing typically have some type of OEKO-TEX certification.
There are different classes of this certification, but every component of each product must adhere to the strict OEKO-TEX test criteria—this includes the coating, outer material, stitching, application, and zipper.
For a product to be OEKO-TEX certified, it must be free of harmful chemicals and be skin-friendly for various classes, including babies, direct skin, and decoration materials.
The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) certificate focuses on the content of recycled fibers in the finished product. Two conditions must be met to be RCS-certified: the product must consist of at least 5% recycled fiber and must meet RCS requirements at every step of material sourcing and processing.
Unlike the GRS certificate, RCS doesn’t consider environmental issues or criteria for chemical use.
The SGS certification isn’t specific to fabric but ensures that ethical and environmentally-conscious processes are followed through each stage of production.
In the case of fabric, the SGS certificate confirms that the manufacturer’s systems, products, and services meet international standards for responsible textile production.
What Is the Environmental Impact of Satin Fabric?
When it was first invented, satin was made using silk. Silk is a natural fiber made from thousands of silkworms, meaning it’s not vegan-friendly.
Today, satin is made with synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester, which are harmful to the environment and wildlife. In addition, it’s made from petrochemicals, which are non-biodegradable; thus, satin is not a sustainable product.
Satin won’t decompose or be dissolved by natural agents, so satin items can remain on the earth for thousands of years and cause severe problems like pollution and harm to animals.
Due to the complexity and methods of use for satin fabric, it’s hard to know all the facts. Here are some of the commonly asked questions about satin.
What is satin weaving?
The satin weaving method was invented more than two thousand years ago in China and involves warp threads interlacing with filling threads to produce a smooth-faced fabric.
How do you care for satin?
The care method for satin depends on the type of satin you have. You can wash satin fabrics made with synthetic fibers at home. But if you have satin made from silk, the item will need to be dry cleaned.
To wash your satin at home, follow these rules:
- Wash on the delicate cycle in cold water, or by hand, with a gentle detergent.
- Make sure not to wring or hang dry satin as the garment will lose its shape. Do not put satin in the dryer, either.
- To dry, lay the satin garment flat on a clean towel.
Is satin the same as sateen?
While satin and sateen are made from the same weave, they are not the same. Satin is made with long filaments and sateen from short-staple fibers.
Both satin and sateen boast that shiny, luxurious look and are wrinkle-resistant, but the similarities end there.
What is the difference between satin and silk?
Satin and silk are similar in appearance and are often mistaken for each other—but they are different fabrics entirely.
For starters, silk is a natural fiber fabric, while satin is a weave and not natural. Silk is made from silkworm larva, particularly the bombyx mori species.
Satin, on the other hand, is made with natural or synthetic fibers and can contain silk, cotton, nylon, polyester, rayon, acetate, or viscose.
The satin fabric has a long and rich history of offering a soft, smooth, durable material for many clothing items and home decor. This versatile material boasts similar properties to that of the luxurious (and expensive) silk while being more cost-effective to create.
Unfortunately, satin isn’t the most sustainable fabric, and the materials used to make it can be harmful to the environment.
Hopefully, this article has answered all of your questions about what satin is, its history, how it’s made, and its many uses.