The History of Moire Fabric

Written by kira robbins
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The History of Moire Fabric
Distinctive marble-like appearance of moire fabric (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Moire is a shiny fabric that resembles marble or ripples of water. This luxurious-looking fabric has been used and valued throughout history for making items such as clothing, drapery and flags. Originally made out of goat hair, moire is now made from silk and even acetate fibres.

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The Word Moire

In simplest terms, moire comes from the word mohair. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the archaic meaning of moire is "a watered mohair." While moire most likely has origins in Latin, an ancient precursor to the word was the Arabic mukhayyar, meaning goat hair cloth. Versions of moire bounced back and forth between the English and French for centuries until the first official recorded use of the word moire in 1660.

Through History

Moire fabric has always been valued through history for its rich appearance and thicker feel. From the Medieval to Victorian periods and beyond, the use of moire fabric was prevalent. Charles Frederick Worth, a famous Paris clothing designer in the latter 1850s, used beaded embroidery to enhance moire fabric for the clothing of court ladies. The Baroque period saw the rise of moire fabric used for drapery. Many early flags of Azerbaijan were constructed partly out of moire fabric.


After goat hair stopped being used to make moire, the next choice of fibre was silk. Silk produces a shiny and luxurious moire fabric. Other fibres, like cotton or rayon, also create good quality moire, and lend a bit more durability than silk. A newer and more recent addition to the moire fibre family is acetate. Acetate is a cellulose fibre that is made out of wood. According to the Global Acetate Manufacturers' Association, acetate's "thermoplastic quality made the moire design absolutely permanent."


The most common technique for making moire fabric is calendering. Flat or folded fabric is passed under rollers. Sometimes the rollers are embedded with patterns and heated. The heated rollers in effect warp and melt the fabric, creating the wavy moire look. Other ways to make moire fabric include special weaving techniques.

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