Chiffon is a lightweight, sheer fabric most commonly used in evening or formal wear. Its name derives from the French word for cloth. Special care must be used with chiffon because it frays easily and can be difficult to work with. Chiffon is made from different types of materials and it is often dyed or printed.
Silk is considered to be the best material for chiffon because it surpasses other materials in richness and smoothness. Silk chiffon is most often used for the body of bridal gowns. It is prized for its light appearance and for the way it hides body flaws. However, silk is the most delicate of chiffons and it has a tendency to tear while wearing. It must be preserved carefully and dry cleaned, making it less ideal for garments like blouses and scarves.
Chiffon made from polyester or rayon is more durable than its silk counterpart. It can be washed by hand or even on a gentle cycle in a washing machine, though it must not be machine-dried. Poly-chiffon drapes as easily as silk and is considerably cheaper, making it ideal for the budget-conscious. Poly-chiffon is also used in garments like blouses because it does not tear as easily. Garments made from poly-chiffon can be stored more easily.
Chiffon can be made up of a blend of materials to improve durability or to add elasticity. Chiffon may also be used for a portion of a garment, such as a chiffon collar on a wool sweater. Silk and polyester are often blended together to strengthen the fabric. Blends are less expensive than silk chiffon, but they retain some of the smoothness and texture.
Organza and georgette are other fabrics used much like chiffon. All three can be made from silk or polyester and have a similar feel. However, there are subtle differences between the fabrics. Organza is stiffer and matt in appearance, while chiffon is prized for its flowing nature and shimmery texture. Georgette is thicker than chiffon and less transparent.