The Beauty of cotton Poplin Fabric: From Tradition to Trend

by | Feb 19, 2024

It’s hard to find 1 out of 10 persons who haven’t used poplin fabric even once. Yes, Poplin or cotton fabric is a global material for making fashionable shirts and pants. 

We, the Muslin Dhaka team, are researching all types of cotton fabric available globally. Poplin is one of the popular dress-making fabrics with a rich history. 

So, we researched and tested cotton poplin fabric physically. And made an authentic summary of the benefits and characteristics of poplin fabric based on our experience. 

Now, let’s show you what we want to say about this fabric. 

What is Poplin Fabric?

Poplin is a dressing fabric. The key purpose of using poplin in dresses is both fashion and comfort

According to historians, poplins were used for making party dresses. Nowadays, the versatile fabric is well-fit for both casual and luxury items. 

You can find cotton poplin, poly poplin, silk & wool blend poplin, etc. Among them, cotton and cotton blend poplin fabrics are the most popular options. Cotton poplin fabric is a good option to wear as a summer outfit due to its breathability and lightweight construction. Polyester poplin is rather famous for its longevity. 

Industrial Name Poplin fabric
Origin Avignon, France (During the 15th century)
Other Names Papelaine fabric, Tabinet fabric, Cotton poplin, etc.
Construction Finer warp yarns pair with coarser weft yarns to create cotton poplin using the rib weave technique.
Weight 110-220 GSM approx.
Color Can have any type of print or stripes
Airflow Breathable
Moisture Absorbance Very Quick; absorbs moisture 1.7X faster than Oxford fabric.
Weaving Rib weave (a type of Plain Weave)
Stretch Decent for dressing
Heat Insulation Low
Shrinkage Ratio Not more than 3%
Usage Clothing, crafting, general upholstery, home decor, DIY, etc. 

 

A Brief History of Poplin Cotton Fabric

This fabric carries a history of more than 700 years. The trace of this fabric takes us back to the 15th-century France. 

It is said that the residents of Papel town of Avignon, France, used to produce a special type of plain weave fabric. The warp yarns were smooth and weft yarns were coarse and thick. Most of the time, the fabric had silk warp and wool wefts for fine ribbed texture. 

History of poplin fabric

That fabric was called Papelaine by that time. Historians confirmed that poplin fabrics were inspired by those papelaine fabrics. The main motto of making poplin was to create something both lightweight and durable. 

Later on in the 19th century, only cotton and rayon became the primary elements for making poplin. The Industrial Revolution and globalization of the textile industry made the fabrics available for people of all classes. Using cotton or cotton blend made poplin or popeline an easy choice for dressing and home decor. 

However, the fabric proved its true potential when the US and British Armies preferred uniforms made of poplin fabric during WW2. This fabrics were much cooler than other shirting fabrics along with being strong. 

After the war, textile industries focused on the vast manufacture of poplin using sustainable and lightweight yarns like cotton, polyester, lycra, and rayon. Nowadays, it is one of the best shirting fabrics for summer outfits. 

How are Cotton Poplin Fabrics Made?

The commercial production process of cotton poplin fabric has remained the same for the last few decades. 

Firstly, two types of cotton yarns are picked. The first one is smooth and thin cotton yarns for warp proportion. Finer warp yarns give a smooth finish. Then, thicker cotton yarns are picked for weft proportion. Thick wefts go over and under fine warps to hold the whole construction properly. 

How are Cotton Poplin Fabrics Made?

The key trait of this fabric is it always features plain weave construction. But this plain weave is a bit different than the traditional plain weaving. Textile engineers call it rib weave mostly. 

The weaving of poplin fabrics is tight. After weaving, manufacturers don’t give any treatment like calendering or brushing. Either the fabric remains in the yarn-dyed state or gets printing after weaving. 

Note that printed poplin sheets can be prewashed before printing so that the color remains well. 

Types of Poplin Fabric

Depending on the yarn material, you can find 5-10 types of poplin fabric. But when you focus on only cotton or cotton blend poplin, you can find these major types: 

  • Shirting Poplin

It is the most common type of poplin. Shirting poplin features 100% cotton yarns with different thickness levels. They are mainly used for dressing. 

But you can use pure cotton poplin fabrics for other uses like upholstery or canvas. The average weight of shirting poplin fabric is 120 GSM or more

  • Stretch Poplin

Stretch poplin fabric has a small amount of spandex or elastane materials insulated. For example, 98% cotton and 2% spandex, 90% cotton and 10% spandex, etc. 

A stretch poplin textile can weigh more than 130 GSM on average. You can find this material in sports or work outfits and accessories. 

  • Brushed Poplin

It is an exotic variant of general poplin construction. You can find some poplin sheets one or both sides brushed. The brushed finish gives an extra softness. You can use fuzzy-looking brushed fabrics during autumn or spring. 

  • Organic Cotton Poplin

This is the highest quality poplin fabric you can find on the market. Organic poplin can have GOTS or similar certificates. 

Mills use only organic cotton yarns to create this variant. It is the safest option among all the shirting fabrics. But remember, certified organic poplin fabric can cost you 1.5X more than the usual price. 

 

Poplin Fabric Characteristics

To share the true characteristics, we tested some 100% cotton poplin fabrics. Then, we gathered all the test results and discovered these traits of the fabric:

Construction

Our test sample is 100% cotton poplin fabric. It has 40×40/130×70 (WarpxWeft/EPIxPPI) construction. 

From the construction, we can see that the weight of this fabric is 120 GSM. It is ideal for shirting and casual dressing. 

Apart, when we combine the warp and weft counts from the construction chart, we find a decent thread count, good for comfort. 

Finish

Because of the rib weave, we can feel a ribbed texture by touching the fabric. The surface looks plain. It’s hard to see warp and weft threads separately from the distance. Because the weaving was tighter than Oxford fabric

Cotton poplin fabrics certainly have better finishing than poly-poplin fabrics. Also, this fabric isn’t yarn-dyed. And it also didn’t get any bleaching to retain the strength of raw cotton staples.

You will enjoy the smooth finishing of this fabric on bare skin or over another fabric. 

Softness

Poplin fabric isn’t as soft as it seems. It might be smoother than several dressing fabrics. However, the tight weaving makes the textile at least 25% coarser than chambray fabric. 

If you wrap a small piece of cotton poplin and make a ball with your hands, you can see several fold marks over the fabric. Those marks won’t go off easily. It proves that poplin fabric is different. It is not as soft as other smooth fabrics. 

Yarn Quality

You will hear some experts saying the yarn quality of cotton poplin fabric remains almost raw and pure. The reason is that processes like brushing, calendering, combing, bleaching, etc. aren’t part of the poplin production process. The fibers and their bonds remain almost intact here even after weaving.

Also, the warp yarns remain extra fine to provide smoothness. The weft yarns are thicker and coarser. 

Breathability

After muslin fabric, poplin is another fabric that provides optimal breathability. 

When we put the sample sheet in front of a table fan (at full speed), we saw that the weaving was barely blocking 20% of the wind flow

poplin fabric breathability

One can easily stay cool by wearing even a 160+ GSM poplin fabric during summer (if a low softness level isn’t an issue). But wearing this fabric during winter will give your bones consecutive chills. 

Heat Absorption

One thing is very clear, poplin can’t insulate heat properly. Even if it’s the heaviest poplin fabric. 

It’s rare to find a fabric both heat-insulative and breathable at the same time. When we placed a heating source below the sample sheet, we instantly felt the heat on the other side. 

heat test cotton poplin fabric

Furthermore, the fabric also got very warm while doing the heat test. 

One good thing that we can understand from this test is poplin fabrics won’t trap body heat. Instead, it’ll release body temperature and regulate continuously to keep you cool. So, don’t expect the fabric to keep you warm when you’re feeling cold. 

Stretch

Poplin fabric is stretchy but from one side. 

We’ve said that weft yarns are thicker and coarser than warp yarns in this rib weaving. That’s why you can stretch and expand the fabric a bit from the warp ends only. The weft ends remain firm and hold the whole structure. 

Water Resistance

Poplin yarns soak water like a sponge. After sprinkling a few drops of water, we barely got to see any water droplet pearls. 

poplin fabric moisture absorption

Within 2-3 seconds after getting in contact with moisture, a poplin textile can get wet. For this reason, the fabric is easy to wash and maintain. 

Besides, those who sweat a lot can find their poplin dress getting wet pretty easily. But not to worry, the fabric also gets dry quite easily. Even if you roam around a semi-wet poplin shirt on a sunny day, the fabric will get dry within no time. 

Transparency

Cotton poplin fabrics, that are not heavily printed are more than 60% transparent. You can easily see through and get an idea of the object behind the fabric under direct sunlight. 

poplin fabric transparency test

But the main problem arises when the textile gets wet. When wet, the textile seems like a sheer fabric that lets you clearly picture everything (almost 80%) behind the fabric. 

Yarn Density

The yarn density rate of cotton poplin is higher than other common cotton variants. Because warp yarns have finer cotton fibers that are very thin. 

The total of EPI and PPI in the sample fabric is around 200 with a single ply. This means all threads are solid and finely produced. That’s why the fabric required so much yarn to fill in (no matter how thick the weft yarns are)

Shrinkage

The case of poplin fabric shrinking is very rare. The rib weaving is very tight. It’s nearly impossible for any poplin fabric to shrink more than 2-3% in its whole lifespan. 

Durability

We gave some knife strokes randomly over the sample poplin. It didn’t cause much damage to the fabric. Apart from that, we also washed and heated the fabric roughly. As a result, the fabric was still in good shape. 

Several factors determine the durability of poplin fabric. Some of them are: 

  • Tight weaving
  • Unbleached and less-treated yarns
  • High yarn density
  • Zero foreign matters
  • Less stretch

Because of those features, poplin remains intact and stays away from problems like piling, wear, tear, shrink, wrinkle, linting, etc. 

Color Retention

Last but not least, this is one of the best features of cotton poplin. No matter how hard you try, the prints on a poplin fabric won’t come off so easily. The yarns are so dense and even that you can easily print on the surface. 

Apart from it, yarns are undyed in this fabric. This is another reason the color or print placed on the fabric stays forever. 

Organic Cotton Poplin Fabric & Sustainability

Organic cotton fabric is the most sustainable and safest option in the market. This fabric doesn’t raise any health issues. 

However, the mass production of cotton yarns can put some pressure on the environment and climate. Growing cotton takes an immense amount of water. Also, production authorities are now focusing on using chemical fertilizers to boost the growth. These facts can damage the ecosystem soon enough. 

So, we need to raise our voices and encourage people around us to use only organic-grown cotton textiles that don’t harm the environment. Although it might seem costly at first. But the eco-friendly features will come in handy later on. 

What is Poplin Fabric Used for?

Cotton Poplin fabric doesn’t have too many variants. That’s why the uses of poplin are also limited. Here are the main uses of this famous textile:

  • Dressing and Apparel

For summer styling, cotton poplin is a popular choice. Whether you opt to buy a casual shirt or comfy pajamas, you can find poplin options on the top. 

Another reason why poplin is good for dressing is because of the color retention. Any type of print can last long on the poplin surface. There are several tops and blouses that only come in poplin variants because of the sheer comfort. 

  • Layering

Some clothes and accessories have a bottom or underlayer made of poplin fabrics. As the fabric construction is durable, poplin under layering increases the longevity of any product. 

You can find several jacket inners or bag pockets made of poplin fabric. They can be either brushed or unbrushed with 100-150 GSM construction approx. 

  • Home Decor & Accessories

We’ve said a few times that poplin fabric can hold color prints pretty well. For this reason, home decor experts prefer fancy bedsheets, pillow shams, tablecloths, etc. made of cotton or poly-cotton poplin fabrics. 

Some even use brushed poplin for decorative bedding. Nowadays, a common trend is using heavy poplin (around 200 GSM) for window curtains due to proper draping. 

  • DIY Projects

You can sew, cut, and print a poplin sheet any way you want. Also, the average price of poplin fabric is cost-efficient. Using cotton poplin for fabric crafting makes the job very easy. 

Advantages & Disadvantages of Poplin Fabric

Now, let’s talk about the key advantages you get by using cotton poplin fabric:

  • Lasts longer
  • Dries easily
  • Easy to maintain
  • Very breathable
  • Retains the shape well
  • Great color retention
  • Reasonable pricing
  • Fashionable for both men and women

Apart from it, there are some disadvantages of cotton fabric that you must know: 

  • Poor heat insulation
  • Not a good choice for Winter outfits
  • Has a moderate possibility of shrinking
  • Can become see-through when wet or under sunlight

Poplin VS Twill VS Oxford

Often, the comparison between poplin, twill, and oxford rises when talking about durable cotton fabrics. So, Let’s give a comparison table of these three well-known fabrics:

 

Poplin Oxford Twill
Weaving Plain Basket Twill
Weight Light Light to Medium  Medium to heavy
Durability Durable Durable Very Durable
Breathability Very breathable Breathable Not breathable
Usability Casual clothing, light upholstery and bedding, crafting, etc.  Clothing, home decor, etc. Heavy-duty clothing, large upholstery, accessories, etc.
Key Features Smooth, durable, and breathable Unique texture for great clothing with durability Long-lasting weaving with resistance to wear and tear
Pricing Affordable Affordable to Moderate Depends on the type of twill weaving

 

Poplin VS Broadcloth

With empty eyes, poplin and broadcloth seem the same. But in reality, both are two different types of cotton fabric. 

Cotton poplin and cotton broadcloth are made using the plain weave technique. The texture also looks almost the same. 

But the big difference is in the yarns. Poplin uses two different yarns; thin yarn for warp threads and thick yarns for weft threads. On the other hand, broadcloth uses thick yarns in both warp and weft areas. 

As a result, the broadcloth becomes less smooth and breathable than poplin. Still, poplin and broadcloth look identical in many ways. 

How to Take Care of Cotton Poplin Fabric?

The maintenance of poplin is easier. No need for any special treatment or precautions for washing. 

How to Wash Poplin Fabric?

  • You can use regular detergent to clean a poplin fabric. 
  • Don’t soak the fabric in too hot water
  • The best thing is to wash poplin clothing separately from other colorful clothes. Otherwise, poplin might catch colors from other fabrics. 

How to Dry and Iron Cotton Poplin?

  • Better you not let the poplin fabric dry in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight might not damage the threads but can make the prints dull
  • Use the iron low to mid heat mode for pressing a poplin shirt or blouse.

How to Soften Poplin Fabric?

Sometimes, unused poplin shirts become stiff. In this situation, you can use this simple trick.

Next time when you wash that poplin shirt, add ½ cup of baking soda with mild detergent to soak the shirt properly. And use semi-hot water for washing. 

After soaking in detergent water, dry it near the sunlight. When the shirt gets dry, you can see the fibers get softer than before. 

Cotton Poplin Fabric by the Yard

If you are interested in buying the best poplin fabric by the yard, let us know that you’re in the right place. This fabric comes in a very reasonable price range. 

A yard of average-quality cotton poplin can cost you around 3-5 dollars. But the standard options will 7-10$ for every yard. 

You can find the best deals on Poplin fabric on Amazon, Etsy, and Joann Fabrics.

Where to Buy Cotton Poplin Fabric?

During our extended research, we thought of finding the best stores to buy cotton poplin fabric online. 

  • For Standard Quality

If you are short in your budget and thinking of where to buy from, you can get good cotton poplins from WAFASSZD Store, Crafty Girl by Maria, and Master FAB. You can buy any amount of fabric from these stores. The more you buy the less they charge. 

  • For Premium Quality

To make premium items from poplin fabrics you can pick Fabric Love Gifts. But if you opt to maker party dresses from stretch poplin, you should buy textiles from ZELOUF Fabrics

  • For Poly-Cotton Blends

Fabric Wholesale Direct is the best place to buy poly cotton poplin fabric at a very reasonable price. Apart, you can also visit Minerva Fabrics for the best looking poplin sheets. 

FAQ

Why is Poplin so cheap?

The making of poplin is pretty simple. And the production process doesn’t require any special treatment. General cotton yarns are enough to make poplin fabrics. No additional ingredient is needed for durability. Thick weft yarns are enough to provide durability. That’s why poplin is cheap.

What are polyester poplin fabric characteristics?

Polyester poplin fabrics are lighter than cotton poplin. Moreover, poly-poplin sheets resist water more than cotton variants. But poly poplin isn’t as breathable as cotton poplin. Wearing polyester poplin fabric won’t give you complete comfort. 

Can I use Poplin to upholster a chair?

Yes, you can use poplin for making chair or sofa upholstery. Some variants of poplin fabrics are both smooth and stiff. Those textiles can last longer as furniture covers. 

Is poplin fabric blend good for toiles?

Poplin textile might not be the best option to use for making toiles. However, you can use poly-cotton blend poplin for making toiles sometimes. But if you insist on using 100% cotton toiling, go for calico fabric

Summary: Poplin Fabric

So, that’s all we had to say on cotton poplin fabric. Hope you got exact information  searching online. Make sure to visit our Cotton fabrics section to know more about our real-life researches on other cotton variants. 

You can also see our in-depth analysis of cotton flannel fabric that is also hyped for stylish dressmaking. 

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!

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