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Cotton corduroy
Cotton and woolly corduroy
Corduroy is a textile composed of twisted fibers that, when woven, lie parallel (similar to twill) to one another to form the cloth's distinct pattern, a "cord." Modern corduroy is most commonly composed of tuft cords, sometimes exhibiting a channel (bare to the base fabric) between the tufts. The word "corduroy" can be used as a noun, a transitive verb, or an adjective. Corduroy is, in essence, a ridged form of velvet.

While the word "corduroy" looks as if it should have a French origin, as if derived from "corde du roi" ("cloth/cord of the king"), in fact there is no such phrase in French, and the word, like the cloth, is of English origin, probably from cord plus the obsolete duroy, a coarse woolen fabric. Corduroy is believed to have been first produced in Leedsmarker, England.

As a fabric, corduroy is considered a durable cloth. Socially speaking, the clothes made from corduroy are considered casual to business casual, and are usually favored in colder climates. Corduroy is most commonly found in the construction of trousers. The material is also used in the construction of (sport) jackets and shirts. The width of the cord is commonly referred to as the size of the "wale". The lower the "wale" number, the thicker the width of the wale (i.e., 4-wale is much thicker than 11-wale). Wide wale is more commonly found on trousers; medium, narrow, and fine wale fabrics are usually found in garments used above the waist.

Corduroy is made by weaving extra sets of fiber into the base fabric to form vertical ridges called wales. The wales are built so that clear lines can be seen when they are cut into pile. Types of corduroy are:
  • 11-wale corduroy: A corduroy with narrower wales (11 per inch).
  • pigment dyed/printed corduroy: The process of coloring or printing fabric with pigment dyes. The dye is applied to the surface of the fabric, then the garment is cut and sewn. When washed in the final phase of the manufacturing process, the pigment dye washes out in an irregular way, creating a vintage look. The color of each garment becomes softer with each washing, and there is a subtle color variation from one to the next. No two are alike.
  • pincord/pinwale/needlecord: Corduroy’s wale count per inch can vary from 1.5 to 21, although the traditional standard falls somewhere between 10 and 12. Pincord is the finest cord around with a count that’s right at the upper end of the spectrum (above 16) and has a feel that’s as soft as velvet and superlight.


References

  1. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed., 2000), p. 407, s.v. corduroy.



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