Taffeta is a Persian word. It means 'twisted woven'. The origins of this fabric are traced back to the district of Attabiya in Baghdad. According to a 12th century geographer, the city of Almería in Andalusia, Spain, used to produce a fabric like that of the attābī (a variety of Iraqi and Persian silk). This is identified as the taffeta fabric, composed of silk and cotton, which originated in Attabiya.
In recent times, Italy and France are home to the first weaves producing modern taffeta. It was also made in Japan until the 1950s. Currently, the maximum production of raw silk taffeta happens in India and Pakistan. Indian manufacturers, specifically in the region near Bangalore, used to traditionally produce it using handloom. However, since the 1990s, mechanical power looms have replaced the handlooms.
Taffeta counts as one of the richest and most superior fabrics. It consists of a wide range of varieties, from soft to stiff, lightweight to medium-weight, sheer to opaque, plaids, prints, and iridescent cloth. Especially popular for its gleam and glossiness, this fabric is made primarily from silk. It is a tightly woven, plain weave material. Consisting of high-twist filament yarn, both the warp and filling in taffeta have approximately an equal number of yarns. Let us take a look at some of the technical properties of taffeta.
Fiber Content: It is woven mainly from silk, traditionally a purely silk-made fabric. However, today, it is made using synthetic fibers too, like a blend of silk and polyester, or from combinations with rayon, polyester, acetate, and nylon.
Weave: Taffeta is made from a plain weave. The warp and weft in its weave forms a simple criss-cross pattern, resembling a checkerboard. More weaves per inch make it a tightly woven fabric with less seam slippage.
Texture: It is chosen for its crisp feel. Taffeta is crunchy, has a slick surface, and slippery smoothness.
Appearance: This fabric is known to be iridescent. Varying in color when seen in different lights, or from different angles, it is glossy and slightly sheen too, as it reflects light.
Draping: Being a stiff fabric, taffeta may not drape very well. A piece-died yarn would still be soft, unlike the yarn-died taffeta. It cannot be easily folded, wrinkled, or creased either. If you are wearing a taffeta, you may hear a rustling sound while walking.
Taffeta produced from a mix of silk and polyester is taken to be a high-end fabric. It is generally used to make wedding or evening gowns, prom dresses, ball gowns, coats, jackets, or other party dresses. Besides, taffeta is also stitched into curtains for enhancing the interiors. As the fabric is crisp, it looks excellent when drawn together in folds, or gathered up in full skirts or sleeves.
Paper Taffeta: This variant is very thin, crisp, and lightweight.
Moiré Taffeta: It has a rippled, watermark pattern. This pattern may or may not be permanent.
Antique Taffeta: This is a stiff cloth, with soft lumps or slubs in the yarn.
Faille Taffeta: It is woven mostly with staple natural fibers.
These mostly require dry cleaning. Even if they are made of washable material, dry cleaning is preferred. As mentioned earlier, the fabric easily gets stained, so to avoid perspiration marks, you can always use a dress shield or liners. Also, to protect the garment from leaving fold marks, always hang it on a well-padded hanger.
Be very careful while pressing this fabric. Remember that taffeta can easily be glazed on improper pressing, showing the seam or hem of the cloth. Specially when pressing a moiré taffeta, do check the settings like moisture and heat, as steam can ruin the moiré pattern. As it is stained quite easily, even with water spots, you can use an organza press cloth to avoid any watermarks on the fabric.
Taffeta is easily ruined by folds, so when handling a long piece of this fabric, roll it and avoid folding it. It is easily impaired by pins and needles. If it is a loosely woven fabric, it can even ravel badly. Puckered folds or seams too can be an issue with this fabric.