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Whats in My Fabric: Viscose

For Fashion Revolution Week, I have been looking into the properties of our most common fibres and their effects on the environment. Cotton & Polyester are the most common fibres in our clothes and fabrics. Viscose is a close third. Particularly popular amongst dressmakers due to its beautiful soft drape qualities. In clothing, it is often mixed with Polyester. I started my career in the fashion industry at Burton Menswear in the 1990’s. A PV shirt (poly/viscose) in bright abstract prints were often on the best sellers list. Now a popular pick up at vintage fairs for men in their twenties.

The fibre first became commercially available in the 1900’s and was manufactured as a cheaper option to silk. Vintage fans will recognise the fabric as Rayon but this is just the US name for the fibre, it is the same as Viscose. It is derived from a natural substance, cellulose but from that point on the processes to convert wood pulp to a yarn are wholly chemical. If the toxic waste is not dealt with responsibly, the emissions are damaging to the environment and the workers who produce the fabric. Sadly, the wood pulp can also be collected from ancient forests, deforestation being a contributor to climate change.

I have noted the key facts in the below mind map. I do love a mind map to help me absorb the facts, I hope you can make sense of it. My references are below if you need more information.

When I source vintage fabrics, I rarely know what fibres they contain and have to make an educated guess. I have a piece of silky, soft drape fabric for sale in my shop. I wasn’t sure if it was made from silk, viscose or Polyester. I conducted a burn test which helped me establish it is very likely to be viscose and certainly not silk. Find out how I got on.

Polyester is the widest used fibre in our clothes and fabrics, closely followed by Cotton. Find out more about these fibre’s effects on the environment on my previous blog posts.




Changing Markets: Roadmap towards responsible viscose


Sustainable Angle