Chintz is a plain-weave fabric that has been glazed to give it a shiny finish. Not blindingly-reflective, but shiny. Traditionally, it was always made from cotton, but multi-fiber chintzes are out there.
This fabric is often confused with moiré. Moiré’s pattern is created by the application of heat and pressure – not a chemical finish. Also, chintz does not have the distinctive wavy pattern of moiré.
Chintz available in a wide range of solid colors, but printed chintz was and is very popular, especially in bright floral patterns.
This is a fabric you can’t escape if you’re looking to create costuming for north America or Europe between the 17th and 19th centuries. Originally an Indian import, it became so popular for garments and upholstery that several European governments banned it in order to protect the local textile trade – right up until they figured out the secret of making it themselves.
It remains a popular upholstery fabric to this day, but I couldn’t tell you when I last saw a dress made from it. Because of that, you’re most likely to find it in the home décor section, usually for $15 – $20/yd.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT WASH OR IRON CHINTZ.
Yes, I just told you that you can’t iron it. Heat will destroy the chemical finish on the fabric and render your shiny chintz dull and ugly. Once that happens, there’s no way to restore it. So, how do you press the seams? Use a bone folder and as much pressure as you can muster. I wouldn’t even take a steamer to chintz without testing it on a scrap, first.
To clean it, you must take chintz to the dry cleaner. Don’t wash it at home.
To sew it, test on a swatch to determine whether a universal or a sharp needle is going to work best for you. It can be unforgiving of pin and needle holes, so definitely experiment to find the best sewing needle, and pin inside the seam allowance whenever possible.
With its sensitivity to heat, chintz can a challenging fabric to use for costuming, but if you shop smart and swatch first, you will find what you need for your project.