Most often a cotton or cotton blend fabric that is tightly woven and has a faint rib. The original wool broadcloth had a felted, velvety surface.
In its earliest form, broadcloth was a plain- or twill-weave lustrous wool or wool-blend fabric that was highly napped and then pressed flat. Later forms included silk shirting fabrics woven on a loom wider than the usual 29 inches (73.66 cm), which gave it the name broadcloth.
Today, broadcloth is generally made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of cotton or rayon and polyester. It is a closely woven plain-weave fabric. Broadcloth is also available in silk or silk blends. Similar to cotton broadcloth in appearance, silk broadcloth is usually made from continuous filament warp yarns, with staple yarns in the weft. The surface appearance is lustrous.
Wool broadcloth is still available, but has a different appearance and hand than the silk and cotton fiber broadcloths. Its surface is slightly felted and has a subtle nap that causes the fabric to appear darker when viewed downward along the lengthwise grain, important to remember when you lay out and cut the fabric. Generally of a very high quality, wool broadcloth is made of merino wool or wool blends.
Broadcloth has a fine rib in the weft direction caused by slightly larger filling yarns, filling yarns with a lower twist, or a higher warp-yarn count. High-quality broadcloth is made with plied warp and filling yarns finer than those used in poplin. The best grades are made of combed pima or Egyptian cotton, usually with high thread counts.
In the U.K., the terms broadcloth and poplin are interchangeable.
Broadcloth is sometimes mercerized, resulting in a lustrous finish. It has a soft, firm hand and excellent tensile strength.
Use broadcloth for women's blouses and dresses and for men's shirts.
Tips & Tricks
Prewashing is recommended for cotton or cotton-blend broadcloth to remove sizing and to preshrink it.
Solid-color broadcloth has the same appearance on both sides.
Lay out and cut cotton broadcloth following the guidelines for fabrics without nap, being careful to check printed fabrics for directional designs.