Ciré is a fabric that has been finished by heat, pressure and – sometimes – a wax-like coating to create a very glossy surface. From a distance, it can be mistaken for vinyl and, up close, you might think you’re looking at a very shiny chintz or spandex. Often marketed as “wet look fabric” because, um, it looks like it’s wet.
Just to keep things complicated, ciré is the name of the process used to create the finished fabric, as well as the fabric itself. Ideally, all ciré would be described with its relevant yarn or fabric – silk ciré, ciré taffeta, ciré lace etc. – but as a rule, if you find it otherwise unlabeled in today’s market, it’s probably nylon.
Nylon is commonly used for ciré because it can take the heat of the finishing process and when its fibers melt ever so slightly, that creates a glossy finish without the need for a surface coating. I was surprised to read that the finishing technique dates all the way back to the early 20th century, where silk with a ciré finish was considered quite the thing in Edwardian high fashion.
In regular apparel today, ciré is used a lot in outerwear – it’s waterproof, so it’s a popular choice for raingear. It’s also used in lingerie, slinky eveningwear and accessories.
It can be a really fun fabric for cosplayers. It’s shinier than spandex and can be found blended with elastane so that it, too, can stretch. Certain websites – ahem – make their living from selling bodysuits made from it. Using (stretch) ciré for such is a bit of a no-brainer. Ditto capes, gauntlets and accessories.
If you’re regularly cosplaying anime or comic book characters, ciré is probably going to become a regular habitue in your fabric stash.
I cannot say emphatically enough how much of a sweatbox ciré can be, especially if you’re wearing an all-over bodysuit. For the sake of your dry-cleaning bills, try to wear a layer of something between it and your skin – which you were probably going to do in order to avoid visible underwear lines right? Right. More about foundation garments and why they matter.
Stretch ciré costs $15 – $20/yd, depending on the seller. I’ve only seen stretch ciré in solid colors. Non-stretch ciré can be found in various solids and multicolored prints, for $8 – $12 yard. There’s a variety of colorfully printed cotton with a ciré finish called “African wax cloth” that might suit your needs.
Ciré has some challenges. The fabric can mark relatively easily, and show wear. And if it’s been finished with a chemical treatment in addition to heat, it’s a sure thing it’ll have to go to the dry cleaners. Not that ciré should go in your washing machine, that is. If the bolt tells you it’s washable, hand wash it with a mild detergent and lay flat to dry. Me? I’d rely on Febreze and wearing a layer between myself and the fabric to help keep it smelling sweet.
Sew with Sharp needle – the lightest you can get away with for this fabric – and polyester thread. Keep your pins inside the seam allowance, as pin holes WILL show in ciré – or consider using clamps, instead (in the quilting notions section). If the fabric proves a slippery devil, break out the rolling foot or enclose the edge of the fabric with some tear-away stabilizer to help things through. If you want to use a walking foot, test it on a scrap first, as there’s a chance the paired-up feed dogs might leave a visible mark on the fabric.