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Charmeuse (French: [ʃaʁmøːz]) is a lightweight fabric woven with a satin weave, in which the warp threads cross over four or more of the backing (weft) threads. These float threads give the front of the fabric a smooth finish—lustrous and reflective—whereas the back has a dull finish. It can be made of silk or a synthetic lookalike such as polyester. Silk charmeuse is more expensive and delicate but is softer and a better insulator. Polyester charmeuse is cheaper and can often withstand machine washing, but it does not breathe as well as silk. Charmeuse differs from plain satin in that charmeuse has a different ratio of float (face) threads.
The luster and delicate hand make charmeuse suited to lingerie, flowing evening gowns, and drapey blouses. Bridal gowns sometime use charmeuse; however, the fabric does not hold a shape well, so it is not used for full, flared skirts; the charmeuse tends to cling and hang against the body. It is best suited to a more fluid, slinky bias cut, and drapes well.
When woven from polyester it can be a challenging fabric to sew; it tends to be slippery and may be difficult to control through the presser foot of a sewing machine. Seams have a tendency to pucker and pull; a smaller stitch length and properly balanced tensions can minimize this, though the experience of the sewer will affect the finished result as well. Pins can make holes and marks in polyester charmeuse so it's very important to use proper sharp dressmakers pins with a smooth, not abrupt, taper to the point. For greater ease of sewing, a sizing product can be sprayed on before cutting and washed out after the garment is completed.
The look of satin is prized for dressy garments, especially when cut on the bias, since it flows well on the body and catches light in stunning patterns.
- "Colored Satin Charmeuse". The Montreal Daily Mail. November 2, 1914.
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