Typically, when one thinks of a “dress shirt,” it is a woven shirt that comes to mind. What differs from shirt to shirt, aside from fibers and features, are the ways in which the cloth has been woven.
Weaving is the process of interlacing fibers or threads over and under one another on a loom. The sideward thread is called the weft (remember weft rhymes with left, as in the thread goes from left to right and right to left). The thread that moves top to bottom and back through the weft is the warp.
The textile produced is called a “woven”; woven is also used as an adjective to describe the type of cloth that has been made by weaving. Any fiber or combination of fibers can be used – cotton, polyester, silk, rayon, etc. There are many woven fabrics to choose from, and each has its own character. Here are three popular types of wovens:
Poplin (also called broadcloth) is a plain-weave fabric, meaning that it was created using a single weft and single warp thread crossing over and under one another. The result is a lustrous and smooth fabric.
Oxford cloth is known for its more casual look and a bit rougher hand. It's made of multiple weft and woven threads passing each other in a basket weave pattern. The result is very durable.
Twill can be recognized by its diagonal ribbing, which is created by a single weft thread going over and under multiple warp threads at the same time. A variety of patterns, like houndstooth, and textures can be achieved.
Aside from the fabric itself, it might be hard at first to see the differences in one woven shirt from another. Yet there are features to consider:
- Are the buttons standard or distinctive by matching the shirt with pearlized buttons?
- Are the cuffs adjustable?
- Is there a pocket (or two)? If so, can it be decorated?
- Does the shirt have performance features like wrinkle resistance?
- Does it have a box pleat or double box pleat on the back? Pleats affect the fit of the shirt, making them looser to allow for better freedom of movement.