There are many different types of material used in making shirts and some of these are well known. Most of us have heard about Oxford or poplin, chambray or twill. One of the lesser known cotton fabrics is the dobby fabric. So what is dobby fabric and what uses does it have?

Dobby cloth

Picture via

Meet the dobby 
Dobby cloth is a type of woven fabric known for having small geometric patterns. It is also known for being very textured compared with some weaves. It is made on a special machine known as a dobby loom. These looms have been around a long time, first appearing in 1843. They are a floor standing loom that uses something called a dobby. This is believed to be a corruption of the term ‘draw boy’ and refers to a weaver’s helper who controlled the warp threads. The dobby is the alternative of the treadle loom. The modern version of the loom is a computerised affair that can create an almost unlimited range of sequences. Dobby fabrics have a great variation and a large number of uses. It can be woven with fine yarns to make dress shirts. Thicker or fluffier yarns can are also used for home furnishing material such as curtains and sofas. It is made with cotton but also other fibres such as rayon or silk. One of the most famous weaving styles that has come from the dobby loom and is therefore a dobby fabric is pique. This is the fabric with raised parallel cords or sometimes a fine ribbing effect. It is similar to twill cotton and is sometimes known as Marcella. 

Uses of pique
Pique cotton is often said to have been created specifically for white tie, or full evening dress. This is because the material can hold more starch and makes for a stiffer shirt. However as times changed, pique began to be favoured for the tie and waistcoat rather than the shirt. It was also adapted to a version used in polo shirts. Pique comes in a variety of patterns including cord, waffle and honeycomb. Their distinctive look comes from the use of something called stuffer yarn. These are threaded into the back of the fabric to add texture and depth. Other times it a jacquard attachment is added to the loom.

Pique Fabric

Picture via


Dobby dress shirts
As mentioned, dobby fabric can use a variety of fine fibres to weave with and result in fine materials. When used in dress shirts, the result is a fabric that has a slightly raised weave rather than the smooth finish of some weaves. This makes it very popular for striped or checkered dress shirts plus ones that have geometric patterns to them. They are often said to be similar to jacquard shirts and have a good balance of durability with quality. Another big advantage of dobby shirts is that they are less susceptible to wrinkles. This is due to their textured nature and cotton pique is also particularly high on this list. A touch of stretch can be added to the material while silk shirts tend to be the very highest quality dobby shirts.