Acetate: Acetate was one of the first manufactured fabrics. It is soft and has a crisp feel. Looks lovely when draped and has the appearance of silk. Acetate resists strain very poorly and can easily tear if not backed with a durable fabric.
Batiste: Batiste is a lightweight, soft, semi-sheer fabric, usually made of cotton or cotton blends. It belongs to the lawn family and is made of tightly twisted, combed yards and mercerized finish. It can be printed or embroidered.
Broadcloth: Broadcloth is a plain weave tightly woven fabric, characterized by a slight ridge effect in one direction, usually the filling. The most common broadcloth is made from cotton. Has a smooth finish, medium to high quality thread count.
Brocade: Brocade is a heavy, exquisite jacquard type fabric with an all-over raised pattern woven into the fabric. It often has a quite elaborate design pattern and is often reversible. Often has colored threads making a design against a satin background. This makes the pattern design stand out. The pattern in brocade fabrics are fairly loose, while in damask fabrics the threads are bound into the material. The most affordable brocades are made out of synthetic blends or cotton fabrics, silk brocades are historically accurate but more expensive.
Calico: Calico is a tightly-woven cotton fabric with an all-over print, usually a small floral pattern on a contrasting background color.
Cashmere: Cashmere is a luxury fiber obtained from the soft fleecy undergrowth of the Kashmir goat. Fabric has a soft and silky finish, very light weight. Available in different weights, doesn’t stand up to wear as well as wool.
Chiffon: Chiffon is a tightly woven lightweight, extremely sheer, airy, and soft fabric. Made from nylon or silk, chiffon is a very strong fabric.
Corduroy : Corduroy is usually made of cotton, utilizing a cut-pile weave construction. Extra sets of filling yarns are woven into the fabric to form ridges of yarn on the surface. Has narrow medium and wide wales. Most corduroy is washable and wears very well.
Cotton: Cotton is a natural fiber that grows in the seed pod of the cotton plant. Available in a wide range of qualities, ranging from low thread count to very high thread count. Cotton is a strong fabric and can be easily washed.
Coutil: Coutil is a historically accurate cotton fabric that has been designed specifically for corsets. It has a noticeable marked herringbone pattern and is very tightly woven to prevent the fabric from stretching and to prevent corset bones from poking through.
Crepe-back Satin: Crepe-back Satin fabric has highly twisted yarns that are used in the filling direction. It is a soft fabric which is reversible.
Crinoline: Crinoline is a lightweight, loosely woven, stiffened fabric. It is smooth, stiff, and has excellent strength, works very well for bridal petticoats.
Damask: Damask is a glossy jacquard fabric, usually made from linen, cotton, rayon or silk. The patterns are flat and reversible. Damask is one of the oldest and most popular cloths to be found today. Very elaborate designs are possible. Sheds dirt. Launders well and holds a high luster - particularly in linen. - Price range varies a great deal.
Dupioni: Dupioni is made from the silk yarns of the cocoon of two silk worms that have nested together. The fabric is very irregular and shows many slubs. Often confused with raw silk (silk noil), both fabrics have slubs, however dupioni has far less slubs than raw silk. Dupioni wears very well and is a great alternative to more expensive silks.
Jacquard: Jacquard fabrics woven fabrics manufactured by using the Jacquard loom. Brocade and damask are types of jacquard woven fabrics.
Lawn: Lawn is a lightweight, fine cloth made using combed linen or cotton yarns. The fabric has a crease-resistant, crisp finish.
Linen: A fabric made from linen fibers obtained from inside the woody stem of the flax plant. Linen fibers are much stronger and more lustrous than cotton. Linen fabrics are very cool and absorbent, but wrinkle very easily, unless blended with manufactured fibers. Linen is one of the oldest textile fibers.
Moiré: Moiré is a corded fabric, usually made from silk or one of the manufactured fibers, which has a distinctive water-marked wavy pattern on the face of the fabric.
Muslin: Muslin is a medium weight, plain weave, low count cotton fabric. In its unfinished form, it is commonly used in fashion design to make trial garments for preliminary fit.
Organdy: Organdy is a stiffened, sheer, lightweight fabric. Made with tightly twisted yarns. Crispness is due to a finish with starch and calendaring which washes out.
Organza: Organza is a thin stiff transparent silk or synthetic dress fabric. It is a fine, sheer, lightweight, and crisp fabric. It has a very wiry feel. It crushes or musses fairly easily, but it is easily pressed.
Polyester: Polyester is a manufactured fiber that wasn’t seen before the early 1950s. It is an extremely resilient fiber that is smooth, crisp and particularly springy. Its shape is determined by heat and it is insensitive to moisture. It is lightweight, strong and resistant to creasing, shrinking, stretching, mildew and abrasion.
Raw Silk: Raw silk is also known as Silk Noil. This is a slightly nubby fabric with random flecks. It has a somewhat rough texture and a gentle drape.
Rayon: Rayon is a manufactured fiber made from viscose. Its drapability and dye ability are excellent and it is fairly soft. Rayon does have a tendency to shrink but does not melt in high temperatures.
Sateen: Sateen is a cotton fabric woven like satin and has a glossy surface. Lustrous and smooth with the sheen in a filling direction.
Satin: Satin has a noticeable lustrous fabric surface and a dull back. The luster is produced by running it between hot cylinders. Made in many colors, weights, varieties, qualities, and degrees of stiffness. Available in silk as and synthetic blends.
Silk: Silk is obtained from cocoons of certain species of caterpillars. It is soft and has a brilliant sheen. It is one of the finest textiles and is very strong and absorbent. Silk is one of the oldest known textile fibers and, according to Chinese tradition, was used as long ago as the 27th century BC. While silk is expensive, it is almost always 100% historically accurate.
Taffeta: Taffeta is a lustrous silk or rayon fabric of plain weave. It is made in plain colors, fancy prints, watered designs, and changeable effects. It is smooth with a sheen on its surface. The textures vary considerably. They have a crispness and stiffness. Taffeta in silk will not wear, as long as other high quality silks, since weighting is given the fabric to make it stiff.
Tapestry: Tapestry is a heavy jacquard fabric usually multicolored. Warps and filling very tightly woven. The designs vary from traditional to contemporary. Available in cotton, synthetic blends or silk.
Twill Weave: Twill is made from cotton or silk and has a basic diagonal weave. Works great for corsets (cheaper than coutil) and for interlining bodices.
Velvet: Velvet is a closely woven fabric of silk, cotton, etc., with a thick short pile on one side. Comes in many types, qualities, and weights. Good velvet wears fairly well and is inexpensive. The cheaper cloths give little service and look well only a few times before beginning to deteriorate. Better velvet may be crush resistant, water resistant, and drapes well. Has to be handled with care, and pressed on a velvet board. Cut all one way. Velvet has the tendency to add weight to the figure. Rayon velvet is the most inexpensive and has a ‘plush’ appearance. Overtime rayon velvet will develop shiny spots on worn areas. Cotton velvet is much more historically accurate than rayon velvet. Cotton velvet is close but not the same as velveteen and is often confused. Silk velvet is the most historically accurate velvet and is also the most expensive.
Wool: Wool is made from the hair of various animals such as sheep, llamas, camels and goats. It is very resilient and resistant to wrinkling. It is renewed by moisture and well known for its warmth.
You can find a complete fabric dictionary on the All-About-Fabrics website.