The gauze you find at the fabric store is not all that much different from what you’ll find in a first aid kitbox. It’s a loosely-woven, low quality cotton fabric.
The cheaper varieties will practically fall apart on the bolt and are really only good for set-dressing, but the better quality cotton gauzes have their uses. It’s a go-to fabric for Renaissance Faire participants for skirts, shirts and blouses. I’m not going to get into a dreary debate about how period it is, but it’s affordable, it’s lightweight enough to wear on very hot days, and it’s got a pleasantly rustic look that matches well with people’s expectations of what a bunch of peasants and middle-class folks should look like. Cotton gauze pretty much IS the “peasant” look of the 1970s, too.
It sees a lot of use at Halloween – as wrapping for lurching mummies and to make raggedy straight-outta-the-grave clothing for zombies.
It’s pure cotton, so it’s washable, but it’s loosely woven so unless you took a fall in the mud at the Faire, I’d hand-wash it and put it into the tumble dry on a delicate setting. You probably don’t want to iron it as most gauze comes pre-crinkled and ironing would remove a lot of that – but not smooth it out completely. Don’t buy gauze if you think you can iron it flat for something. There are plenty of cotton sheers that you can buy without perma-wrinkles built in.
Cotton gauze costs $4 to $6 a yard, which means you can put together a typical wench’s skirt and blouse for about $25. Yeah, five or six yards for the skirt and blouse those garments are fuller than you think and look best with a lot of yardage. Fortunately, cotton gauze gathers really well.
It’s not strong, though, so you can’t put a lot of strain on it without the seams giving way. It’s not going to fall off you while you’re wearing it or anything but if you’re making an ensemble to wear every weekend for the entire summer, don’t be surprised if it’s worn out by Labor Day. If you want to create something rustic but able to take a bit more abuse, look for heavier cottons, or consider linen and linen-cotton blends.
Cotton gauze can be tricky to sew. Those loose threads like to get pulled into your bobbin case and that way lies heartbreak and trips to the repair shop. Consider investing in a straight-stitch plate and foot for your sewing machine. Failing that, put some tear-away stabilizer under the fabric while you sew your seams. A universal needle or a sharp needle and all purpose thread are fine.