A Guide to Traditional British Fabrics

Photo by East Midtown

When you commission a bespoke suit, you get to make all the decisions about exactly how it’s going to look and feel. One of the most important decisions is what type of fabric to have the suit cut from.

In most cases you will need to choose two fabrics: a main outer fabric and a lining. Which lining you choose tends to be more to do with personal taste than anything else: do you want to go for something smart and sober or a flash of something fun? Choosing the outer fabric, however, will have a far greater impact on your finished product. 

Different types of fabric will behave differently and so some will be more comfortable, more formal, warmer, more durable and will retain their shape better than others. Which one you choose will depend on what you want from your tailoring. 

Drawing a blank? Here’s our guide to traditional British fabrics.


Think of traditional British tailoring and tweed probably comes to mind. This a rough, closely woven  woollen fabric that is brilliantly durable. It is often woven in a twill or herringbone pattern, usually from a mix of different coloured wools. It is particularly well suited to outerwear as it is hardwearing and water-resistant. It’s also often used for headwear and more informal suits designed for outdoor activities such as shooting.


Cashmere is synonymous with luxury. This is a super soft woollen fabric woven from fibres made from goat hair. Though this fabric originally hails from the Kashmir region, it has been woven here in the UK since the early 1800s. Cashmere fabric is lightweight and strong. It is much softer than sheep wool and is three times more insulating. It is used for knitwear and high end suiting. 


Flannel is a soft woven fabric usually made from wool or cotton. It is traditionally made in Wales and has been well used there since the 16th century. Flannel is typically used to make lightweight trousers, tartans and informal shirts. 


Gabardine is a British fabric with an excellent pedigree: it was invented in the 1870s by Thomas Burberry, the very same man who founded the fashion label still popular today. Traditionally it is made from worsted wool fibres and woven as a regular twill. Gabardine is a hardwearing woollen fabric often used for suits. 


Corduroy is another woven fabric. It’s created by using twisted fibres in order to create a tufted effect. The fabric can be made from cotton or wool fibres and is available in a wide range of thicknesses. More substantial corduroy fabric is really warm and can be weather-resistant. It’s often used for less formal trousers and jackets as well as headwear.