The Shirt Fabric and Construction Glossary

In our last blog, we outlined the quality indicators to look for when shopping for a quality dress shirt. This time, we’re going into even more detail, providing a glossary of terms about the two most fundamental components of the dress shirt: the shirt fabric and the construction materials.

Fabric Terms


Refers to the number of fibers being gathered and twisted into a single strand of material (referred to commonly in the textile trade as a ‘single’). The most basic building block of textile construction and design, shirt fabric can be either 1-ply or 2-ply, the latter being the finest.

2 ply yarn


The result of at least two singles being spun together in a helical pattern. You can have two types of “twists” in “plying” yarn:

  • S Twist / Left Hand Twist: When at least two singles are spun together by turning the spool to the right and spinning the singles together. The resultant yarn will have a diagonal line which extends from left to right.

  • Z Twist / Right Hand Twist: When at least two singles are spun together by turning the spool to the left and spinning the singles together. The resultant yarn will have a diagonal line which extends from right to left. The most common textile yarn construction, it is used most commonly in denim and twill shirting.

  • yarn twists



    The vertical yarns of a textile.

    Weft (or Woof)

    The horizontal yarns of a textile that are inserted over and under the vertical warp threads in a pattern. Sometimes referred to as the fill. Natural stretch is typically more common to occur in the direction of the weft (perpendicular to the warp threads).

    warp and weft


    The two dimensional paper form from which all of a garment’s panels are cut before being sewn into a three dimensional form. Pattern pieces typically include an extra margin of seam allowance (also referred to as tolerance), unless the cutter decides to trace along the pattern free-form. It is often argued that pattern is everything in a garment: The classic example being an expensive piece of cloth cut and sewn poorly is of less value to the wearer than a more affordable piece of cloth which is cut and sewn with precision and care.

    shirt fabric patterns

    Construction (and construction material) Terms


    The most common type of thread used on dress shirts is cotton-wrapped aurifil (a thin extrusion of plastic). Cotton-aurifil thread is extremely durable and break resistant.

    shirt threads


    This is the technique by which all major shirt seams are made- folding over the edge of a fabric panel (usually by about 0.25”) and then stitching it down along the raw edge and folded edge. These double-stitched seams are extremely durable and its no wonder why they are seen on most of the shirts in the world today.

    flat felling

    Top Stitching

    Decorative stitching, sewn at a consistent distance from the edge of a pre-existing seam, The most visible example of this can be seen on the inner row of stitching on a shirt’s cuffs and collar.

    sebastian ward top stitching

    Collar Roll

    A reference to way that a collar leaf can have a softly sweeping line as it emanates from the front of the collar band. The main factors that affect collar roll are: interlining and collar point length. Even a collar leaf with extremely long point length is not going to gracefully flow from the collar band if the interlining is very stiff and thick. 

    sebastian ward collar roll

    Drape/“How the shirt fits”

    The effect of fabric excess hanging in parallel to the wearer’s body. This is important to have on a garment because it ensures that the garment is no skin tight and has enough extra room for comfortable movement

    sebastian ward fit

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