Color, style, cut. When you pick out your clothing, you probably put a lot of focus on how it looks. That goes for your coats, too. After all, what’s the point of wearing anything if you don’t like the way it looks?
Of course, you choose your coat based on how it looks on you. Or rather, how you look in it! But the types of fabric used for coats that you wear are just as important. Well, probably even more important. Because if your coat doesn’t keep you warm and can’t stand up to the weather, it may not really look as great as you thought at first.
Learn more about the fabric and materials that are used to make your coats, so you know how to choose the right materials while you’re also picking the color, the style, and all those other important details that go into finding the right coat.
Wearing clothing is actually even older than the human race itself.
The earliest known hominids to wear clothing were homo heidelbergensis, an ancient humanoid group that lived in Europe, Africa, and possibly Asia. Possibly, this is a common ancestor shared by both modern humans, homo sapiens, and Neanderthals, human cousins who once lived in Europe and, for a little while, lived there at the same time as modern humans. The oldest clothing found so far dates to around 100,000 to 500,000 years ago.
The practice of wearing clothing evolved over time, and over a few ten thousand years, sewing needles developed, and clothing started to become more sophisticated about 60,000 years ago. Humans began to dye their clothing about 30,000 years ago.
From Ancient to Modern
Textiles drove the economy of the ancient world and fueled trading between tribes and nations even before the pyramids of Egypt were built. Clothing materials, clothing styles, and even clothing colors were used to denote rank, status, and sometimes particular roles in society. Emporers and kings, and leaders wore special headdresses, including crowns, to denote their status.
Religious figures of all kinds wore special robes, special head coverings, and maybe special belts to show their devotion to their spirituality or their affiliation with a particular church or nation.
Clothing has always been used to show off status, personal style, and a sense of self. Don’t you feel just a little more “you” when you’re wearing something that you love? Don’t you have certain items of clothing that you reach for when you need to feel a little better or when you want to think about a certain memory or event? Clothing has always been a part of human history.
…And so has cold weather. From those very first days of clothing, it has been used to keep the human body warm in the worst weather donations. Without it, none of us would be here to think about which types of coats we want to wear.
But through the tens of thousands of years that humans have experienced, so far, many, many types of fabric used for coats have been invented. How many of them have you worn, and which ones should you start wearing?
Different Types of Fabric Used for Coats and Outerwear
There are dozens and dozens of different fabrics used in clothing. However, many of these are not seen in coats at all, and some are seen quite rarely. Get to know more about the different types of fabric used for coats and outerwear, what they do, how they perform, and what makes them so good for taking on the weather.
Once you know more about the fabrics used in coats, you’ll find it much easier to pick out good coats.
Made from cotton, canvas has been used to make all kinds of clothing for many hundreds of years. It’s also used to make art, ships for sailboats, and anything else that needs to be super tough. Canvas is a highly durable, tear-resistant, and wear-resistant material.
Canvas also resists water. Moisture tends to roll off-canvas, which is why it’s used so often to make sails. Canvas is used to make coats often because of all these qualities.
Made from a combination of cotton, wool, and polyester, chenille is a hybrid fabric with a very distinctive look. The thing you’ll notice about chenille is its fuzzy, thick pile. It feels a little bit furry and shaggy, and it’s just sort of fun.
Chenille is used often to make winter coats because it has a great furry look and because it’s very warm and insulating. Wearing a chenille coat is a bit like wrapping yourself in a soft, fuzzy blanket.
Made with cotton, corduroy is distinct for the way it is woven. The weaving pattern creates a highly unique, corded look. Corduroy has a one-of-a-kind landscape made up of alternating raised and inverted rows.
Corduroy is highly durable, and it’s a somewhat thick fabric, which makes it a popular choice for coats and outerwear. It’s machine washable and incredibly durable, so it works very well as a coat fabric
One of the early fabrics humans ever used for clothing was cotton. This is still a highly popular material that’s used in all sorts of clothing. It is particularly popular in underwear, socks, and T-shirts, items that are meant to be soft.
Cotton fabric is soft and non-irritating on the skin. It’s also naturally breathable and comfortable to wear. Cotton takes dye well, and it cleans up easily, staying resilient when it’s machine-washed. However, cotton does shrink a little in the heat.
Cotton also doesn’t dry quickly, nor does it repel moisture in any way. Cotton has a tendency to soak up water and becomes incredibly wet. This is why it’s not used often as a coat material, at least not by itself.
Cotton is durable, but it’s not durable enough to be a winter coat. Often, you will find cotton in the lining or insulation of coats, but it is not used often for the outer shell of coat designs.
Also known as the material used to make jeans, denim has a long-standing reputation for being tough but comfortable, durable but soft. It’s made with cotton, and it’s made in a woven pattern that makes denim highly durable and wear-resistant. Because of its toughness, denim is often used to make coats and jackets.
It can be machine washed, and over time, denim just becomes softer and more flexible and, basically, even more wearable.
Fleece is sort of like woolly cotton. It seems to combine some of the best properties of both materials. Fleece is even softer than both cotton and wool and has a thick texture. Fleece is highly insulating, and it’s used often in coats, though not always on the outer layer. Fleece is one of the most popular coat lining materials because it’s so soft and insulating.
This material is also quick-drying, water-repellent, and highly durable. Fleece is a synthetic fabric, so it machine washes easily, wears well, and stays durable.
Fur / Faux Fur
The oldest material ever used to make outerwear, or clothing of any kind, is fur. It’s the first material humans learned how to wear, and it is still being worn today, though it has become a more controversial choice in recent decades. Once, the fur coat was the height of fashion and a grand sign of wealth and success.
Women and men both wore fur to showcase their wealth and class. It was made in all sorts of colors and designs using all sorts of animals, notable members of the weasel family.
But as animal rights have become more of a topic of public debate, the wearing of fur has become much less popular. Faux fur, which is made with synthetic fabrics and not with actual animal hide or fur, has become much more trendy as a result. Coats are still commonly made with both faux and real fur in many different styles.
Fur is extremely warm and certainly helped humans survive the incredibly harsh conditions of the Ice Age. There is little doubt that humans would have survived at all had people not learned how to use fur to stay warm. But by today’s standard, it’s not always the best choice for practical reasons.
Fur and faux fur look nice, but they are very hard to clean and maintain compared to many of the other coat options. Fur has to be brushed and combed, just like your own hair, and it has to be professionally cleaned.
Made with a blend of wool and cotton, gabardine is a high-end material that is found in many different types of coats. This is a very common material used to make trench coats, among other designs. You will also find it used in overcoats. Gabardine is a durable, machine-washable fabric that is tough enough to be a practical coat fabric.
Linen is a natural material that comes from the flax plant. It was worn all the way back during the days of ancient Egypt, and it is still worn to this day in the clothing of all kinds, including coats. Linen is a durable material that drapes beautifully and looks very nice, but it’s hard to clean, and it wrinkles easily.
You will see linen in high-end coat designs, but it is not the most practical of coat fabrics because it’s so hard to maintain.
One of the most popular materials in clothing, nylon is used in everything. It’s a durable and somewhat hard fabric that creates a water-resistant shell that is perfect for coats and outerwear. Many coats are made, at least in part, with nylon.
It’s incredibly lightweight and stretchy but also tough and, again, water-resistant. Nylon is often used in jacket linings and in jacket shells because it also holds in insulation quite well. It’s durable, machine-washable, and a very common coat fabric.
A superstar in the world of synthetic fabrics, polyester is incredibly durable and highly water-resistant. It’s also a lightweight material and highly affordable, so you will find it often in outerwear. Polyester can be made to resemble many other types of fabric in both texture and appearance, so you can get a polyester coat that looks like it’s made from many other fabrics.
Polyester is easy to machine wash and dry. It resists shrinking and wrinkles, and it’s highly durable. Polyester is hard to tear and hard to wear out.
Satin is highly prized because it’s smooth and shiny and looks beautiful. Satin is a synthetic material that’s made from some combination of silk, cotton, wool, and other synthetic materials, such as polyester. Satin cannot get wet, or it will get water spots on it.
This material can also not be washed and must be dry cleaned. Satin is a beautiful material, and it is used to make high-end coats and other clothing items, but this is hardly a practical outerwear material. You wear satin for the way it looks and not for the way it performs as a material.
Silk is an ancient material that literally helped to build entire empires. It is one of the most sought-after and popular clothing fabrics in all of history, and once, it was so special that it was worn only by royals and nobles. Today, anyone can wear silk…well, as long as they can afford it. Natural silk is still rather pricey stuff, but artificial silk (human-made) is more accessible.
Silk is prized for its strength because it is incredibly strong and for its finish. The material feels soft and delicate and airy and very fine, but it’s highly durable. Silk is used in clothing, but it is most frequently used for gowns, fancy shoes, accessories like ties and handkerchiefs, and for little extra touches and details.
You won’t find it often in coats, despite its toughness, because silk does not stand up to water and will become soaked very quickly. It is also airy and light, so air passes through it easily, meaning it won’t exactly insulate you against the cold. You may find silk used for some of the details in a coat, such as a collar, or in the lining.
But this relatively expensive, sort of high-end material isn’t found often in coats that are designed to take on hard winter weather because, really, silk can’t do that.
Made in a knit blend of wool, silk, and other materials, tweed has a bit of a rough, thick texture and woven pattern that is distinct. Tweed is named for the Tweed River in Scotland, where it was first invented. This is a tough, thick material that looks great and functions well as outerwear because the wool composition naturally resists moisture.
However, tweed is difficult to clean and has a casual look that is usually not seen in formal wear styles. It is popular in professional wear, particularly in preppy and academic styles.
Known for its deeply soft and fuzzy pile, velvet has long been considered a high-end fabric that was once worn by kings and queens of old. Velvet is immediately recognizable and incredibly soft to the touch. It looks expensive, and it looks beautiful, so it is used to make high-end coats and other clothing.
But velvet does not machine wash well, it gets soaking wet quite easily, and it’s not the warmest material you can wear, either. Velvet is another fabric that’s more about appearance than performance, practically when it is used as a coat material.
In the history of humans, wool was one of the first textiles ever made. Early humans cultivated sheep back in the Stone Age and ultimately noticed that their fleecy hair could be braided into yarn that could be made into wool. This material is highly durable and naturally insulating.
It repels moisture, and it dries quickly. Wool is considered to be a perfect material for outerwear, and it’s used often to make coats of all kinds. In fact, some types of coats are traditionally only made with wool or, in more modern times, synthetic materials that are made to simulate wool closely.
Overcoats, pea coats, duffle coats, and loden coats are all traditionally made with wool. The material is also used to make trench coats and many other coat styles, though not exclusively.
Wearing the Types of Fabric Used for Coats
There are many different types of fabric that are used to make different types of coats. Some materials are better suited to bad weather than others. Fabrics may be inexpensive or high-end, practical or all about looks.
Once you know the difference and you know a little bit more about what the different types of fabrics used for coats do, you’ll be able to make better buying decisions.
Thousands of years of time and thousands of hours of work have gone into creating different fabrics used for coats and other types of clothing.
Every type of fabric does something different, looks a different way, and performs at different levels. It’s a lot. So if you still have questions about the fabric used for coats, we’ve got the answers to the ones that get most frequently asked. Get the answers and get to know all the stuff you should know about coat fabrics.
How do you remove pills from the fabric?
Some types of fabric develop pills, which are little fuzzy things that make fabrics look sort of ratty. There are specialized tools that remove pills from fabric, but you can accomplish the task with a safety razor, the plastic disposable kind you get from the grocery store.
You have to work quite slowly and carefully and very gently when using a safety razor to remove pills from the fabric. Apply a little too much pressure, and you may tear the fabric.
Which fabrics shrink when you wash them?
Some fabrics can shrink when they are machine washed and dried, but certain fabrics are more prone to it than others. Only natural fabrics shrink. This means cotton, silk, hemp, wool, and linen are all subject to shrinkage. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, do not shrink when machine-washed and dried.
To prevent fabric shrinkage, wash coats and clothing only in cold water and use the lowest heat setting possible. Heat is ultimately what causes clothing fabrics to shrink when they’re washed and dried. Avoid heat, and you will see much less shrinkage in your coats and other clothing when you machine washes and dry them.
Is leather a type of fabric? Is suede fabric?
Genuine leather is made from the hide of an animal. Many different types of animal hide can be used to make leather, though the cow is one of the most common. Leather is naturally water-resistant, durable, and insulating.
It also looks very nice and can be tanned and burnished to have all sorts of different finishes when it’s done. In the modern era, leather can be dyed to any color you like. It’s extremely flexible and highly tear-resistant. It also takes a very long time to wear out.
Leather actually improves with age, developing a handsome patina over time before it wears out or wears away.
You probably think of leather as a smooth, sort of glossy material that’s a little bit thick and sort of heavy. But fuzzy suede is also a type of leather. Both materials are made with animal hide. Suede simply comes from the bottom layer of the hide, while leather is made from the top leather of the hide.
In all versions of leather, it is considered to be material for making clothes. It is seen often in coats and jackets, shoes and at some point, it’s been used to make every item of clothing ever. But leather is not a fabric in the traditional sense because it does not behave like fabric, and it cannot be cleaned the same way as fabric.
Some fabric, however, can be made to look a great deal like leather. Vinyl is also used as faux leather. Leather cannot be machine washed and actually requires special cleaners and conditioners in order to be well maintained.
Casual Geographical – The 6 Types of Jacket Fabrics for Outdoor Activities
Fabric Wholesale Direct – A Brief History of Fabric and Textiles
Sewport – What is Suede Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – What does it mean to be human?
The Spruce – How to Prevent and Remove Pilling on Clothes
Threads – Guide to Fabrics