Part of the ongoing Antique Fabrics series – although it’s not quite dead, yet!
Plissé is a cotton fabric that has been chemically treated to give it a puckered, crepe-like appearance. In fact, Wikipedia treats it as just yet another of the many varieties of crepe out there. To my eye, it seems a little more ‘wrinkly’ than a typical crepe, but that’s just my opinion.
Often woven with striped pattern, it can be visually similar to seersucker, although seersucker’s texture comes from how the fabric is woven, not how it’s finished. afterwards.
I ran across plissé a lot in the Dover reprint of Gimbel’s 1915 Fashion Catalog, where it seemed a popular choice for blouses and skirts. so I thought it merited a mention here although it’s not common at your typical brick-and-mortar store. My guess is that it was supplanted in popularity by other fabrics that were easier to care for, or cheaper to produce.
I’ve encountered fabric described as plissé on some fabric-vending sites, but there seems to be two schools of thought as to what it should be. On the one side, there’s a cotton / cotton-poly fabric with warp-running ‘puckers’ that, indeed, looks a lot like seersucker. On the other, there’s a pure polyester fabric with a finish that’s much more like tiny little weft-running pleats, and intended for décor use, such as draperies and lampshades, as well as for garments.
Obviously, cotton plissé is something to consider for any early 20th century sewing projects, providing you can find it in period-appropriate colors. It seems to be a popular fabric for kid-friendly wear, so I’ve run across a lot of it in some eye-popping colors. You probably don’t want your post-Gibson-girl skirt to be strewn with something like the image at the bottom of this page…
Cotton plissé starts as low as $5/yard. The polyester equivalent I found ran closer to $15/yard.
Pre-wash your plissé according to its fiber content. Colored cotton should be washed in warm water (cool if you’re feeling cautious) and can be tumbled dry on low heat. Polyester should be washed in cool water and laid flat to dry. A universal needle and all-purpose thread will do for sewing.