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Chambray Fabric: How to Spot the Real Deal

Sai Kardile Apr 7, 2019
Your wardrobe has that one shirt which looks like denim but feels more ethereal and soft, and you mostly slip in it, thinking of it as some light version of denim. But, it is Chambray. Don't worry, this isn't a fashion faux pas. But, it's good to know what you are wearing. Read on to get some useful information about Chambray fabric.

Did You Know?

The phrase 'blue-collar' worker is inspired from Chambray fabric as most of the industrial workers wore them for its durability attribute.
Chambray shares a light kinship with Denim, quite literally. It is characterized by light-weightiness and smoothness with slight luster, and appears in a range of different colors along with the fabled indigo color of Denim. Despite its close resemblance to Denim, Chambray is disparate in terms of its construction and texture.
Chambray gets its name from the French commune of Cambrai, an administrative division in North France. However, Cambric, a tightly-woven variant of Chambray also derives its name from Cambrai.
But the main difference between the two is that Cambric, by reason of its stiff appearance came to be widely used in neck ruffs, wall-hangings, curtains, etc. Whereas Chambray, by virtue of its light-weightiness came to be used for sewing loose and comfortable shirts and outerwear.


Chambray's distinction from Denim can be understood from their ways of construction. To begin with, Chambray is a plainly-woven fabric in a 1:1 ratio unlike Denim which is woven in a twill construction in 1:3 ratio.
To put simply - Denim's fabled diagonal pattern is a result of this ratio and Chambray's even ratio gives it a more squared look, which also imparts more airiness to the fabric.
Traditionally, a Chambray fabric is woven from a dyed yarn in the warp (length-wise thread) and white or unbleached yarn in the weft (traverse thread which means that it passes over and under warp thread).
Chambray fabric can be weaved by using both carded (a process where the yarns are opened, cleaned and separated) and combed (a process where short fibers that stick out are removed after carding) yarns and also has a white selvage - edge of the fabric woven to prevent raveling and fraying of fabric.
Another popular construction of Chambray is Stretch Chambray which has Spandex or Lycra melded with its basic construction. This type is often seen with stripes and solid patterns and is widely used in making travel pants.


One just can't slip up on the ubiquitous indigo color, no form of Denim or its variant seems kosher without that color.
However, it isn't the only color that Chambray appears in - red, white, black, light aqua, khaki, and pink are some of the colors that you can find Chambray in. But these colors come in softer shades and not in solid ones. You will also find Chambray in stripes, checks, figured patterns and occasionally embellished in embroidery.


Chambray first came to be used in making sun bonnets. It then branched out into children's wear, women's wear (dresses, blouses, aprons), sportswear, and the iconic working men's shirt. Today, depending on its weight, Chambray is used in a variety of garment construction and decor items like curtains, slip covers, wall hangings etc.
The basic, plain-woven Chambray is used for making shirts, dresses, and children's wear. No summer wardrobe is complete without any Chambray clothing item. Be it summer dresses, skirts or shorts, no one can deny its airy and lustrous appeal.
We hope through this information you will be able to discern the differences between Chambray and Denim, even if they are nuanced. In a nutshell, Chambray is soft, lightweight, and are mostly used in warmer weather, whereas Denim is heavy and tough and is a preferred fabric during winter.