Today, poplin refers to the way a fabric is woven, rather than to the type of material it is made from. Cotton poplin is cotton fabric with a poplin weave, but poplin can also be made from polyester, rayon, silk, wool or a combination of these materials.
Cotton poplin fabric and cotton/polyester poplin is often used for clothing items, such as shirts, dresses and blouses. Poplin can also be called tabinet.
In a poplin weave, the warp and weft fibres go over and under each other alternately in a plain weave. When both the warp and the weft threads are the same size and made from the same material, it produces a smooth woven surface that does not wrinkle very easily and is easy to iron.
Poplin in history
The word poplin used to mean a type of material with silk for the warp weave and wool for the weft, rather than the weave itself. This type of poplin is referred to in “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, when it is compared to “thin” dresses, and it must have been much heavier than today’s light poplin weaves.
The origin of the word is from the French “papelaine”, a fifteenth century silk fabric from Avignon and “papelino” that refers to the papal residence at Avignon.
Cotton poplin from Britain was introduced into the USA in the early 1920s, but was renamed broadcloth by the American market.
Today, poplin broadcloth refers to poplin woven with finer yarns that are woven tightly, resulting in the material having a slight sheen.
Poplin is still very popular in fashion today. A recent article in The Express features the trend towards utilitarian fashion and includes an organic cotton poplin shirt dress, from sustainable fashion retailer Mango.
Because cotton poplin fabric is durable and easy to work with, it is used for many fashion projects. Poplin shirts have the reputation of being easy to care for. A wide range of plain and patterned poplins is available and it’s very popular with home dressmakers, as well as commercial clothing manufacturers.
Although poplin is often referred to as broadcloth in the USA, in the UK and Europe the term broadcloth usually means a densely woven woollen fabric that has a smooth finish that can also be used for upholstery.