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Crinkle refers to a textured fabric that has been treated to create a wrinkled effect. The fabrics that are prepared in this way include cotton, silk, velvet, and wool. Crinkle wool is produced by chemical treatment with sodium hydroxide, while crinkle velvet and crinkle silk, also called plissé, may be chemically treated or mechanically produced. Crinkle cotton is either woven to create crinkles, or they are created by rolling the cotton fabric in a bag that is sold along with the product along with a how-to guide for storage to maintain the effect.
Crinkle cotton is an easy to care for material. The pressure from sitting may temporarily reduce the crinkles, but they will return when the garment is washed. Air drying is often recommended, and some manufacturers recommend twisting or a three-step process of rolling, twisting, and tying before drying to maintain the look.
Gauze can be made with this texture, and when dealing with such a fragile fabric, it is especially important to make sure it is of high quality. This is true whether a person is buying it off the bolt by the yard or as a finished piece of clothing. Fair trade fabric is available, for those who seek it.
The material comes in a wide range of colors, including white and pastel shades of pink, yellow, and blue. Deeper shades and patterned designs, including Indian patterns and other ethnic designs, can be found as well. Embroidered and sequined fabric is also available.
Crinkle cotton has a wide range of uses. It can be an ideal material for travel clothes and is also used for Capris, sleepwear, unstructured shirts, gathered skirts, and circle skirts. The fabric can also be used to good effect in period costumes for museums, reenactments or theaters. It is also used for bedspreads.
Although there has been a resurgence of interest in crinkle cotton in the first decade of the 21st century, it is not a new fabric. Bedspreads made from it were advertised for sale in the late 1920s and this seems to be the most common early use. Gowns of crinkle crepe begin to be mentioned in the 1940s and then pajamas and robes. In 1966, Swiss crinkle cotton is mentioned as being “all the rage since early spring in Paris” in the New York Times. By the 1980s, the fabric was being used for boys’ shorts and stadium jackets. In 1991, the Dick Tracy yellow double-breasted crinkle trenchcoat made a hit.
It was again “all the rage” in 1995, and a 2006 New York Times style article is actually titled “I Am So Excited About Crinkle Cotton.” This fabric has been an enduring presence and has caused fashion excitement repeatedly over a 40-year span.