Broadcloth is a dense, plain woven cloth, traditionally made of wool. The defining characteristic of broadcloth is its dense weave, which is typically very smooth and lustrous, making the fabric highly valued for its luxurious feel. The name “broadcloth” comes from the fact that it was typically woven to a width of a “broad yard”, which was wider than the usual looms could handle at the time of its first production.

History: Broadcloth was first produced in England in the late medieval period, from the 11th to the 14th centuries. It was one of the first luxury fabrics and became significant to the English economy, particularly in the west of England, leading to the prosperity of cities such as Bristol and Gloucester. The fabric was originally made from wool and was finished through a fulling process, which involved cleansing the cloth (to remove oils, dirt, and other impurities) and thickening it. The fulling was followed by a meticulous process of stretching the cloth on large frames known as tenters, and securing it with tenterhooks. Finally, the surface of the broadcloth was then meticulously sheared to create a smooth, even finish.

Uses: Broadcloth has been used for various purposes throughout history:

  1. Apparel: Historically, broadcloth was used for fine attire such as dresses, suits, and military uniforms due to its fine appearance and durability. Today, it’s still used for high-quality garments.
  2. Upholstery: Its smooth texture makes it a suitable choice for certain types of furniture upholstery.
  3. Liturgical Vestments: Due to its high quality and fine appearance, broadcloth has been used in the making of clerical and other liturgical vestments.

In modern times, “broadcloth” can refer to any cloth that is dense and firm, and the term has also been applied to fabrics that mimic the original woolen broadcloth but are made from cotton or cotton-blend fibers. These are particularly popular in men’s dress shirts and women’s dresses where a fine, smooth, and opaque fabric is desirable.

Broadcloth made from cotton or a cotton blend is quite different from the traditional woolen broadcloth, but it maintains the key characteristics of a smooth, even, and lustrous appearance. It’s also a tightly woven fabric, making it very durable and excellent for creating crisp, tailored lines in clothing.

Birdie Bailey profile photo

Birdie Bailey

of Birdyberry.

Scroll to Top