What Fabrics Are Most Commonly Used to Make Clothing?

By Lilian M Raji

The most luxurious clothes are often made of silk. Cotton is the fabric behind most everyday clothes, including denim jeans and T-shirts. Linen is the go-to choice for a a high quality look on a hot summer day -- without worry of overheating. Along with these three natural fabrics, a few man-made fabrics are also commonly found in fashion design.

Premiere Of Warner Bros. "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past" - Arrivals
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Michael Douglas stays cool in the summer heat with his linen suit.

Dependable Cotton

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Cotton is derived from the seedpod of the cotton plant.

Cotton is the choice for most clothing -- and with good reason. This natural fiber has been cultivated for over 7,000 years, appearing in various woven forms as denim, khaki, gabardine and sateen. As one of the few breathable fabrics, cotton is ideal for hot summer days because the fibers wick perspiration from the body. In winter, cotton helps retain body heat to keep the wearer warm. Durable, strong and easy to clean, it's no wonder cotton is the leading American cash crop.

Linen Luxury

Button of white shirt
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In the hottest weather, linen can help you stay cool.

Linen, another natural fabric with ancient roots, is the oldest fabric known to man. Cultivated from the flax -- or linseed -- plant, linen has been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians. Linen is a refreshing choice for hot weather; the fabric's stiff structure prevents it from sticking to the skin and it allows continuous airflow to the body. Like cotton, linen wicks sweat from the body, absorbing up to 20 percent of its weight in water before ever feeling damp.

Sumptuous Silk

Considered one of the most luxurious fabrics, silk is a natural fiber harvested from the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm. Like cotton and linen, silk was developed centuries ago, with the first sample found in China in 3000 B.C. This soft and supple fabric is surprisingly strong and cooling on hot days. Its tightly woven fibers absorb moisture in warm weather while its low conductivity retains heat during cold weather.

Additional Fabrics

Young Woman Posing in Swimming Costume
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Bathing suits are generally made with spandex.

In addition to the natural fabrics of cotton, silk and linen, clothes are often made with wool, derived from sheep and other animals. Nylon is an additional fabric choice, and was invented in the 1930s to substitute for silk. Other manufactured fabrics include rayon and spandex. Rayon can be used to replicate the texture of silk, linen and wool. Spandex is favored for its ability to stretch while retaining its natural shape.