30+ Luxury fabrics for crafting wealthy characters: a guide for writers and world-builders

ko-fi Written by Andruid
Luxurious royal purple velvet and the text, "In the lap of luxury: Fabrics for wealthy characters."
Luxurious royal purple velvet and the text, "In the lap of luxury: Fabrics for wealthy characters."

A detailed guide to luxury fabrics with tons of examples and ideas. Perfect for writers and world-builders looking for inspiration!

Table of Contents

    Today’s post on luxury fabrics is designed to help you spice up your writing, world-building, or roleplaying.

    It’s perfect for those who want to add a bit of flair to their characters or scenes but aren’t sure where to start.

    It’s also a handy reference guide, as many of the fabrics listed here are likely to appear in settings that feature wealth or high society.

    I’ll be covering the following topics:

    • definition of luxury fabric and what makes a fabric luxurious
    • different types of fibers and weaves used to create luxury fabrics
    • examples of real luxury fabrics and textiles and what they’re used for (e.g. suits, dresses, accessories)
    • etymology and historical tidbits
    • fabric colors associated with wealth, luxury, and prestige
    • examples of luxury leathers and furs
    • some approximate costs for luxury fabrics and furs

    Throughout this post, I’ll also provide links to additional resources in case you’d like to dive into the details or look up more examples.

    But first, how does a fabric earn the label “luxury fabric?” What makes it “luxurious?” And what the heck is “haute couture?”

    Let’s break it down with some quick definitions.

    What are luxury fabrics?

    Bolts of luxury fabric.

    Luxury fabrics are expensive textiles that are often painstakingly hand-made or woven out of expensive natural fibers.

    Luxury fabrics are used to create everything from haute couture clothing to evening gowns, bespoke suits, coats, upholstered furniture, and limited-edition handbags, among other items.

    As with other luxury goods, demand increases for these items more than what is proportional as income rises.

    What is haute couture?

    Haute couture is a French term meaning “high sewing” or “high dressmaking.”

    Haute couture refers to high-end, custom-made fashion created by skilled designers and artisans. It emphasizes exquisite craftsmanship, attention to detail, and exclusive, one-of-a-kind creations that are tailored to individual clients.

    What makes a fabric luxurious?

    A woman in an elegant gold lame evening dress.

    Luxurious fabrics have exceptional quality, exquisite texture, and a visually appealing appearance. They feel soft, smooth, or plush to the touch, drape elegantly, and exhibit superior craftsmanship.

    Additionally, a sense of exclusivity or rarity associated with the fabric can enhance its status as a luxury item.

    What’s the difference between a fabric and a textile?

    The terms fabric and textile are often used interchangeably in the world of fashion, but fabrics are actually a type of textile.

    Textiles encompass a wide variety of products made from natural or synthetic fibers, including the felts and yarns used to make fabrics. Textiles also have many industrial, medical, technical, and commercial uses.

    Fabrics, on the other hand, are woven, knitted, or felted textiles typically used to create clothing and accessories.

    Haute couture behind glass at a museum.
    Haute couture is credited to Charles Frederick Worth, who introduced the concept of creating custom-made garments for individual clients in Paris in the mid-1800s.

    How luxury fabrics and textiles are made

    Fabrics are made by weaving, knitting, or felting fibers together to create a workable cloth. When most people think of fabric, however, they probably think of woven fabric.

    Some of the steps involved in making luxury fabric include:

    • harvesting the fibers
    • cleaning and sorting the fibers
    • spinning the fibers into yarns
    • dyeing or treating the yarn
    • weaving the yarn into fabric
    • finishing/treating the fabric
    • folding or wrapping the fabric in bolts

    From start to finish, the process can be quite labor-intensive! And these steps don’t even include turning the luxury fabric into a piece of clothing, which requires its own set of skills.

    Also, fabric companies can follow different approaches when it comes to sourcing yarns.

    For example, large fabric conglomerates may have vertically integrated operations where they produce their own yarns and control the supply chain from start to finish. Smaller companies might rely on yarns from external suppliers.

    The decision depends on various factors, including the company’s size, specialization, production capabilities, and business model.

    There are also many techniques for weaving yarns into fabric, and some techniques are less common than others.

    For example, in some parts of the world, techniques are passed down from one generation to the next as part of a local or family tradition.

    Because these techniques can be quite labor-intensive and only performed in certain areas of the world, they result in exclusive yarns and fabrics that fetch a high price in the luxury market.

    Fibers used to create luxury fabrics and textiles

    Yarns can be made from natural or synthetic fibers, but the most expensive yarns are natural and handmade in limited quantities.

    Natural fibers come from a wide variety of sources, from plants to mammals, insects, and even sea creatures!

    Natural fibers used to create luxury fabrics include:

    Animal fibers

    A young angora rabbit.
    Angora rabbit.
    Cute white cashmere goat.
    Cashmere goat.
    Shaggy looking angora goat.
    Angora goat.
    • Angora – a soft, downy fiber that comes from the molted fur of the Angora rabbit. Angora is usually blended with wool yarn to make luxurious knitted scarves, hats, and sweaters that are both warm and soft. If a sweater has a fluffy “halo” and you feel tempted to pet it, it may well have angora fibers.
    • Cashmere – a soft, downy fiber that comes from the winter undercoat of cashmere goats native to the Himalayas. There are a few different breeds of goats that can produce cashmere.
    • Mohair – a soft, downy fiber that comes from the hair of Angora goats. Prized for its luster and sheen, as well as its insulating properties, mohair is not to be confused with angora, which comes from the Angora rabbit.

    While angora and other types of animal fiber usually can be obtained in a humane way, widespread demand for these fibers has led to the mistreatment of animals in some parts of the world.

    Plant fibers

    Cotton bolls, not to be confused with cotton balls.
    Cotton bolls.
    Bundle of harvested flax fibers.
    Flax fibers.
    • Cotton – a soft, fluffy white fiber harvested from cotton bolls. Cotton has a long history of cultivation due to being both breathable and durable. Before the invention of the cotton gin, quality cotton fabric was too expensive for many people to wear. Also, not all cotton is the same. Different varieties have been cultivated around the world. Two of the most expensive ones today are extra-long staple Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton (more on staples below).
    • Flax (linseed) – the plant fiber used to create linen. Linen is stronger than cotton and was widely cultivated throughout antiquity. The best linen was reserved for expensive lace and damask (more on damask below).

    Silk fibers

    Pen shell clams still attached to the seabed.
    Pen shells.
    Mulberry silkworm cocoons.
    Silkworm cocoons.
    • Sea silk – an extremely rare fiber harvested from pen shells. The fiber (known as “byssus”) is what the clam uses to attach itself to the seabed. Sea silk is finer than mulberry silk and incredibly lightweight yet also strong. Harvesting and trade of sea silk are restricted. You will probably never come across sea silk in real life because it’s that rare.
    • Silk – the fine, lustrous fiber that comes from silkworm cocoons. Most silk comes from domesticated mulberry silkworms that are reared for this purpose. To distinguish this kind of silk from other varieties (such as wild silk), you’ll sometimes see it referred to as “mulberry silk.” Mulberry silk tends to be of better quality because the fiber is harvested before the developed silkworm moth has broken through the cocoon. (Usually, this is facilitated by boiling the creature alive inside said cocoon.) In contrast, wild silk is harvested from different kinds of non-domesticated silkworms that have already emerged from, and thus damaged, the silk fiber.

    Because silk has a long, rich history and is deeply woven into the cultural fabric of many societies, it has a deeply-rooted association with luxury and nobility. These associations continue to enhance the desirability of silk today.

    Why is silk so luxurious?

    Luxury fabric (silk) in a natural creamy white color, accompanied by pearls.

    Silk is a strong, natural filament fiber with an attractive luster; it produces a fabric that is not only durable and versatile but also smooth, soft, and hypoallergenic.

    At the same time, genuine silk is costly and labor-intensive to make, which means that not everyone can afford to wear it.

    Silk can be harvested from various creatures that produce filament fibers, including mulberry silkworms (most common), spiders, and pen shells.

    Can silk really be made from spider silk?

    Yes, but it’s quite rare! Spider silk is known for its exceptional strength and elasticity, making it an attractive material for various applications, including textiles.

    However, spiders are difficult to farm and collect silk from, which limits the availability and practicality of using spider silk as a fabric.

    Filament fiber vs. staple fiber

    Another way in which fibers differ is whether they’re a filament fiber or a staple fiber. These two terms will come up again, so it’s worth explaining the differences:

    • Filament fibers (silk, sea silk) come in long, continuous strands, which results in a very fine, smooth yarn.
    • Staple fibers (linen, cotton, and wool) come in discrete strands clumped together, which results in a hairy, insulating yarn.

    Synthetic fibers such as acrylic and nylon are also filament fibers; these materials are typically cut down into staple lengths prior to being spun into yarn.

    For a staple fiber, the staple length (e.g. short, long, extra-long) determines various qualities of the resulting yarn, such as its smoothness and durability. The longer the staple, the better quality the yarn. Long and extra-long staples (e.g. Egyptian cotton) are used to create luxury fabrics that are both soft and durable.

    The way these fibers are spun into yarn can also affect the finished product, but I won’t be going into that level of detail here.

    Warp yarns, weft yarns, and weaves

    Weaves are the techniques used to create fabric from warp and weft yarns.

    • Warp yarns are vertical yarns that run parallel to the selvage edges of the fabric. They are typically stronger and more tightly tensioned than weft yarns. The warp yarns are attached to the loom’s frame and are held under tension during weaving. These yarns are responsible for providing the fabric’s lengthwise stability and strength.
    • Weft yarns, also known as filling or woof yarns, are horizontal yarns that interlace with the warp yarns during weaving. They are woven back and forth across the width of the fabric, passing over and under the warp yarns. Weft yarns are usually less tensioned than warp yarns and are inserted using a shuttle or other weaving tools. They give the fabric its width and contribute to its overall structure and appearance.

    The interlacement of the warp and weft yarns creates the characteristic pattern and structure of the woven fabric.

    The specific weaving pattern and density of the warp and weft yarns determine the fabric’s texture, weight, and other properties.

    It’s not necessary to know about weaves and different weaving techniques, but knowing about them can help provide context as to why some luxury fabrics are named a certain way or possess certain qualities.

    Examples of weaves used to create luxury fabrics

    Some of the weaves used to make luxury fabrics include:

    Plain weave

    Don’t be misled by the word “plain!”

    Plain weave is a strong weave used to create muslin, organdy, organza, linen, silk, chiffon, voile, crepe, and other luxurious fabrics.

    Plain weave is also a preferred weave for embellishing, as it provides a smooth, flat surface that is ideal for embroidery.

    Other names for it are linen weave, taffeta weave, and tabby weave.

    Simple plain weave fabric pattern.
    Plain weave.
    Basket weave

    Basket weave is a simple, strong weave characterized by a crisscross pattern. It’s similar to plain weave but involves the equal interlacing of two or more warp threads with two or more weft threads.

    Basket weave fabric has a distinctive checkerboard-like appearance and provides good durability and breathability.

    Oxford fabric is created with this weave.

    Basket weave fabric pattern.
    Basket weave.
    Rib weave

    Rib weave is similar to plain weave but either the warp or weft yarn is thicker, resulting in a ribbed appearance. Yarns may also be woven two at a time to enhance the ribbing effect.

    This weave is used to create fabrics such as faille, Charvet, poplin, and grosgrain, which are used in fine suits, skirts, and coats.

    Rib weave is one of the base weaves (along with plain and satin) from which many other weaves are derived.

    Rib weave fabric pattern.
    Rib weave.
    Twill weave

    With twill weave, the warp or weft yarns go under or over the other two at a time, creating a diagonal pattern in the fabric.

    It’s not uncommon for the warp and weft yarns to be of different colors or made from different fibers.

    Twill weave is used to create fabrics such as denim, flannel, velvet, and gabardine, among others.

    Twill weave fabric pattern.
    Twill weave.
    Herringbone weave

    Herringbone weave is a type of broken twill weave that results in a zig-zag pattern with yarns in 2 or 3 different colors.

    Herringbone weave can be used to make tweed fabric. Tweed is fashioned into suits, hats, and outdoor apparel.

    The name “herringbone” comes from the V-shape, which resembles a fish bone. Other names for herringbone weave are feather twill and arrow twill.

    Herringbone weave fabric pattern.
    Herringbone weave.
    Satin weave

    Satin weave is a luxurious weave in which silk weft yarns are floated over a continuous warp yarn, resulting in a fabric that is slippery and shiny on one side and matte on the other.

    Because of these floating yarns, however, satin is also more prone to snags.

    Satin weave is used to create fabrics such as charmeuse and Duchesse. Actually, any fabric that uses the satin weave can be called satin, but traditional satin (the most luxurious satin) is made using genuine silk.

    Satin weave fabric pattern.
    Satin weave.
    Sateen weave

    Sateen weave is similar to satin weave but the warp yarn is floated over a continuous weft yarn, and the yarn used is typically a short-staple yarn such as cotton.

    As a result, sateen is less slippery and shiny, and the difference between the front and back sides may not be as stark as with satin.

    Because it creates a smooth fabric resistant to wrinkling, sateen weave is a popular weave for making bed linens.

    Sateen weave fabric.
    Sateen weave.
    Pile weave

    Pile weave is used to create velvet, terrycloth, corduroy (ribbed velvet), and velveteen. These fabrics have a raised or textured surface that feels plush and velvety-soft.

    Pile weave fabrics can be cut (as with velvet) or uncut/loop (as with terrycloth).

    When making velvet, the technique involves weaving two layers at a time. The loops holding these two layers together are cut, which allows them to be peeled away into two separate pieces of velvet fabric.

    Leno weave

    Leno weave is a unique style of weaving where special warp yarns (called doup yarns) are twisted around weft yarns to create an airy mesh or netting.

    Also known as a cross weave and gauze weave, it is thought to have been invented in ancient Egypt.

    Tulle is a popular example of a leno weave fabric, though leno techniques can also be applied to other sheer fabrics such as voile and organza.

    Jacquard weave

    Jacquard weave is a complex, highly decorative weave performed on a Jacquard loom.

    An early Jacquard loom.
    The Jacquard loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804.

    Jacquard weaving patterns are used to create a variety of expensive brocade, damask, brocatelle, and matelassé fabrics.

    The designs created using a Jacquard loom can be ornate and unique, and Jacquard patterns can make use of many different types of yarns, further expanding the realm of what’s possible when it comes to Jacquard fabric.

    Because both the weave and the fiber define a finished fabric, you’ll sometimes see labels such as “silk satin” and “cotton sateen.” This is to make it clear that the satin is made from silk, for example, and not some other fiber.

    In fact, there are also different finishes that can change the color, texture, and durability of fibers, by making the resulting fabric stiffer or more resistant to wear and tear.

    The phrase “in the lap of luxury” is an expression that refers to living a life of extreme comfort, opulence, and extravagance. Its origins can be traced back to the 18th century, where the term “lap” referred to the space between the knees when sitting.

    “In the lap of luxury” suggests reclining comfortably in a luxurious setting, surrounded by wealth and indulgence. It is a figurative expression that conveys a state of great affluence and lavish living.

    List of luxury fabrics and textiles

    Now that we’ve covered the basics about how luxury fabrics are made and what they’re made of, let’s look at some examples!

    Below is a hand-picked alphabetical list of sumptuous fabrics and the luxurious items they’re most often used for:

    Luxury fabrics A-E

    Brocade – a richly-woven, decorative fabric that can even include threads of gold or silver. Used mostly in upholstery today, but historically was used in expensive garments. Brocatelle is similar to brocade but features satin effects and a higher relief. There are many types of brocades found all over the world, such as Songket in Indonesia and Saga Nishiki in Japan.

    A luxurious bed with brocade and velvet bedding and a gold bedframe.
    Opulent bedding such as this can incorporate many different fabrics, including rich brocade, velvet, and silk.

    Cashmere – a soft, richly cozy material made from cashmere wool, which is often woven or knitted into scarves, sweaters, or other accessories. A similar fabric is pashmina, which is made from pashmina-grade cashmere harvested from Pashmina goats. The two terms (pashmina and cashmere) are so closely related that they’re often used interchangeably.

    Charmeuse – a lightweight, satin-weave fabric with a shiny side and a dull side, typically made from silk. Charmeuse is used to make evening gowns, bridalwear, blouses, and sometimes menswear. The term “charmeuse” is French for “charmer.”

    Chiffon – a lightweight, gauzy, elegantly-draping sheer fabric originally made from silk. Chiffon is often used for blouses, evening wear, and lingerie.

    Crepe – fabric with a crisp or crimped appearance, woven from hard-spun yarn (often silk, as in silk crepe). Crepe can also be spelled “crêpe” or “crape.” Crepe comes in a wide variety of types and is made from a variety of fibers.

    Damask – a heavy, patterned textile similar to brocade but reversible (the designs are mirrored on both sides of the fabric). Damask often features flowers and animals as motifs, as well as furling acanthus leaves.

    Luxury fabrics F-J

    Faille – a heavyweight flat-ribbed fabric, often silk or wool, used for coats, suits, and dresses. Similar fabrics include grosgrain and poplin. The lightweight version is called “tissue faille.”

    Gabardine – a tightly-woven yet lightweight fabric used to make suits, overcoats, trousers, uniforms, and outerwear. It has a slight sheen, good drape, and is resistant to wrinkles and creases. Because gabardine is both durable and water-resistant, it was originally used to make military uniforms. The most expensive gabardine today is made from high-quality wool and luxury fiber blends.

    Guanaco – fabric made from the very fine wool of the guanaco, a wild camelid native to the steppes and scrublands of South America. Guanaco products, including yarn spun from guanaco wool, are highly regulated and rarely exported, which is why you’ve probably never heard of it.

    A herd of wild guanacos.
    A herd of wild guanacos.

    Luxury fabrics K-O

    Lace – an exquisite and delicate fabric known for its intricate patterns and elegant appearance. Luxury lace is traditionally made using fine threads, such as silk or cotton, and crafted through a labor-intensive process called lace-making.

    Lamé – a type of fabric woven or knit with thin ribbons of metallic fiber wrapped around natural or synthetic fibers. Gold or silver was traditionally employed, though sometimes also copper threads. Lamé is most often used to create extravagant ballgowns and shiny costumes.

    Lampas – a luxurious and elaborate fabric characterized by its richly patterned design and multiple woven layers. It features a combination of satin or twill weave with additional decorative motifs or patterns woven into the fabric using supplementary weft or warp yarns. Lampas often incorporates metallic or lustrous threads, adding to its opulence and visual appeal. It has a long history of use in prestigious garments, upholstery, and other high-end decorative purposes.

    Woman trying on a bridal gown with an airy chiffon skirt.
    Lace, chiffon, tulle, and taffeta are popular fabrics used to create luxurious wedding dresses.

    Lotus silk – a rare silk fabric woven from the stems (not the flowers) of the padonma kya lotus in Myanmar. Lotus silk is known for its natural luster, softness, and lightweight feel. It also has good breathability and moisture-wicking properties, making it comfortable to wear.

    Matelassé – a thick, decorative fabric that has a quilted appearance. Matelassé is most often used to make luxury bedspreads and upholstery, but it is sometimes used for garments, as well. The name comes from the French verb “matelasser,” which means “to pad” or “to quilt.”

    Muslin – a plain-woven cotton fabric known for its lightweight and breathable nature. It is typically made from fine, tightly spun yarns, resulting in a soft and smooth texture. A versatile fabric with a long history, muslin is used for a variety of purposes, including apparel, bedding, and curtains. It comes in various weights, from sheer and delicate to heavier varieties, and can be easily dyed, printed, or embellished with embroidery or other decorative techniques.

    Nacré – a luxurious type of velvet that uses yarns of different colors to achieve an iridescent effect, similar to sharkskin and shot silk (described below). The fabric is named after nacre, which is also known as mother of pearl.

    Nainsook – a soft, lightweight cotton fabric (a type of muslin) traditionally used for baby clothes and lingerie. Its name comes from the Hindi word “nainsukh,” which means “eye’s delight.”

    Organdy – a very sheer, almost translucent lightweight cotton fabric made especially crisp by an acid finish. These days, organdy is used in bridalwear and high fashion but wrinkles easily, so it’s not a great choice for everyday wear.

    Organza – a thin and slippery sheer fabric traditionally made from silk. Organza is typically used to make bridalwear and evening dresses. It was probably invented in China sometime during antiquity; China has a very long history of silk craftsmanship.

    Oxford – known for its distinctive basket-weave texture, Oxford is characterized by a slightly heavier weight and a prominent two-tone appearance created by using different-colored warp and weft yarns. It’s a popular choice for dress shirts.

    A weaver weaving traditional Japanese fabric.
    Japan is home to many traditional weaving techniques designed to create wonderfully detailed silk fabric.

    Luxury fabrics Q-U

    Taffeta – a crisp, smooth fabric traditionally made from silk. Yarn-dyed taffeta is used in ballgowns, wedding dresses, corsets, and interior decor. Piece-dyed taffeta, which is much softer, is more often used for linings. Fun fact for cat-lovers: in the 1600s, tabby cats were named after tabby taffeta, a type of silk with a striped pattern.

    Rinzu – a Japanese silk-satin brocade or damask fabric characterized by its embossed patterns and glossy, smooth surface. It was the fabric of choice for expensive kimonos in the Edo period. The term “rinzu” comes from the intricate weaving technique used to make it, though the fabric can also incorporate other techniques. Rinzu with a reversible pattern can be called a damask, for example.

    Shahtoosh – an ultra-fine, soft fabric woven from the downy hairs of the Tibetan antelope (chiru). Shahtoosh is hand-made in Nepal and India in very small quantities, but trading shahtoosh is banned due to the endangered status of the chiru. The word “shahtoosh” translates to “King of Fine Wools” in Persian; this reflects the status of shahtoosh as a coveted luxury fabric. Scientifically speaking, the hairs of the chiru are the finest in the world, followed by vicuña fibers (more on vicuña below). 

    Sharkskin – a twill-weave fabric where darker and lighter strands are woven together to create a luster effect. Sharkskin wool is often used to make fine suits. The fabric gets its name from its resemblance to the texture and appearance of shark skin. The fabric is designed to mimic the sleek, smooth, and slightly rough texture of a shark’s skin – no sharks are harmed in the making of this fabric!

    Layers of naturally woven yellow-gold silk.
    Silk fabric has a beautiful, natural luster.

    Silk – any fabric made using silk technically qualifies as silk fabric. This is a good term to use when a more specific term (such as charmeuse) doesn’t apply. As mentioned above, silk usually refers to fabric made using mulberry silk, but there are other types of silk, as well. One such example is shot silk.

    Shot silk – silk woven with two or more colors to create an iridescent appearance, similar to sharkskin fabric. Used in neckties, dresses, and accessories.

    Sateen – a cool, smooth fabric made using the sateen weave, which leaves it shinier on one side than the other. Although sateen can be made from various fibers, the best sateen is made using extra long-staple cotton, which is treated to give it a characteristic silkiness.

    Tulle – a lightweight, very fine netting woven in a hexagonal pattern. It is typically starched to give it a stiff appearance. Tulle is used in veils and garment embellishments to provide a lacy, floating look. It’s most easily recognized as the fabric used to make ballerina tutus. The name comes from the city in France where the fabric was originally produced.

    Luxury fabrics V-Z

    Airy tulle fabric in different colors.
    Tulle fabric.

    Velvet – a tufted fabric with a short, dense pile, typically woven two pieces at a time. Although traditionally made from silk, velvet can also be made from linen, cotton, wool, and synthetic fiber. Crushed velvet is made by twisting the yarns while wet or by pressing them down in different directions.

    Velveteen – a plush fabric made to imitate velvet but uses less expensive fibers such as cotton. Whereas velvet is made by piling the vertical yarns, velveteen is made by piling the filler (horizontal) yarns. Another name for velveteen is “imitation velvet.”

    Vicuña – one of the finest, most expensive fabrics in the world, renowned for its incredible warmth-to-weight ratio. It provides excellent insulation while remaining lightweight and breathable. Known as the “Fiber of the Gods,” the fabric is handmade in small quantities from the wool of wild Peruvian vicuñas, which are smaller relatives of guanacos. Among ancient Andean civilizations, these animals held great importance and were considered sacred. The title “Fiber of the Gods” thus symbolizes the historical significance, extraordinary properties, and cultural reverence for the vicuña and its wool.

    Lone vicuna standing on some rocks.
    So this is a vicuña. It looks a lot like a guanaco. Turns out, they’re pretty closely related.

    Cost per yard for luxury fabrics

    At this point, you must be curious about the price tags attached to some of these fabrics!

    Cost per yard for luxury fabrics can vary by quality, origin, availability, and other factors.

    For materials like sea silk and shahtoosh, for example, it’s difficult to approximate the cost per yard because it’s against the law to trade or export these goods.

    Here are a few examples for fabrics that can be sold legally:

    • chiffon – $80
    • satin – $100
    • sharkskin wool – $100
    • velvet – $200
    • silk – $300
    • brocade, damask, Jacquard – $300
    • cashmere, pashmina – $500
    • vicuña – $1000+

    Note: these prices apply to high-end, luxury versions of these fabrics, not the cheaper versions made using lesser-quality materials.

    So how do these prices translate into finished luxury goods? Let’s look at some examples:

    A full-length ballgown can use anywhere from 6-10 yards of fabric, and a three-piece suit can use 4-6 yards of fabric.

    This means a gown could cost $3000 in fabric alone, without even factoring in the price of labor, designer, or things like gemstone embellishments.

    Likewise, bespoke suits can get pretty expensive when you account for tailoring and brand – tens of thousands of dollars in some cases.

    A tailored vicuña suit starts at $32,000.

    Suits of various colors and fabrics displayed on hangers.
    Suits come in a wide variety of styles and fabrics, but the best suits are tailor-made to for the individual buying them.

    Colors that symbolize luxury, wealth, and prestige

    Color also plays a role in the attractiveness and allure of luxury fabrics. Throughout history, certain colors have been associated with prestige and wealth, though the meanings can differ by culture and time period.

    Here are a few examples to help you get creative:

    • Royal purple (also known as Tyrian purple and imperial purple) is historically associated with royalty and wealth. In many cultures, purple was a color reserved for monarchs and nobility due to its rarity in ancient times. Most people could not afford the dye, which had to be painstakingly harvested from sea snails.
    • Burgundy and other deep, rich shades of red are often associated with opulence and power. Red is often seen as a bold and commanding color, symbolizing wealth and prosperity.
    • Gold is universally recognized as a symbol of wealth and luxury. Its shimmering, radiant nature has been associated with riches and prosperity throughout history.
    • Royal blue has long been associated with nobility and prestige, for reasons similar to royal purple. Deep shades of blue have been used to signify power, wealth, and high social status.
    • Emerald green is often associated with wealth, freshness, and abundance. Deep, vibrant shades of green can convey a sense of luxury and affluence.
    • Pearl white is often associated with elegance, sophistication, and purity. It has a soft, subtle, and luminous quality reminiscent of the iridescent sheen of pearls. While not directly linked to wealth in the same way as gold or royal purple, pearl white can convey a sense of luxury and refinement, particularly in the realm of fashion and design. Its clean and timeless aesthetic has made it a popular choice for high-end and formal settings.

    Individual preferences and contemporary fashion trends can also affect these meanings. For more color ideas, check out my post on rare colors.

    Luxurious furs and leathers

    Lastly, I’ve included some of the most luxurious leathers and furs below.

    While these items aren’t luxury fabrics per se, they are used in tandem and for many of the same purposes, such as:

    • luxury handbags
    • wallets
    • belts
    • hats
    • gloves
    • luxurious coats
    • trim
    • ceremonial garb
    • upholstery, etc.

    Whereas animal wool is obtained through shearing (usually during a specific season), animal pelts and hides are acquired through skinning, which is fatal to the animal.

    The harvested skin or pelt then usually undergoes some form of processing to make it suitable for use.

    Due to poaching and animal welfare concerns, some of the most luxurious materials are restricted or straight-up illegal to trade. You’re more likely to encounter faux versions or imitations these days than the genuine article.

    Even so, it may be useful to know about them, as you may encounter them in books or games with historical settings.

    Luxury furs and pelts

    Some animals prized for their furs include:

    Person holding a gray chinchilla pet.
    A white ermine standing in the snow on its hind legs.
    • Chinchilla – native to South American Andes, these rodents have a velvety, dense fur. The densest of all ground mammals, in fact. It’s illegal to hunt chinchillas in the wild, so most pelts come from chinchilla farms. Growing up, you may have known someone who kept a chinchilla as a pet; the animals are known for becoming easily distressed in captivity.
    • Ermine – ermine is the soft white winter coat of the stoat, which is a relative of weasels and martens. In Europe, ermine is a symbol of royalty and high status. It is found around the base of crowns and is used in accessories and ceremonial garments to indicate status. Ermine also appears in heraldry.
    • Mink – minks are small, semi-aquatic mammals related to otters and ferrets. Their fur is dark and luxurious. A vintage mink coat by a popular designer can sell for $10,000. Until fairly recently, minks were farmed for their pelts in the United States. Due to cramped conditions leading to outbreaks of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, mink farms have since been banned in the U.S.
    Fur of the spotted leopard.
    Iconic leopard fur.
    Striped lynx fur.
    Lynx fur.
    Luxurious sable pelts.
    Sable fur.
    • Leopard – one of the most expensive furs out there, leopard fur was worn by the Greek god Dionysus and is a symbol of leadership in some parts of Africa. In popular Western culture, it symbolizes exoticism, luxury, power, confidence, sensuality, and individuality, among other things.
    • Lynx – found in colder climates, these wild cats have warm, dense, silky fur prized for its luxuriousness and attractiveness. Lynx fur is considered elegant and unique; it also requires a skilled craftsperson and labor-intensive techniques to transform it into wearable garments. The harvesting and trade of lynx fur are subject to strict regulations and legal restrictions due to conservation concerns, which further raises the price tag.
    • Sable – there are many species of marten, but the one found in Russia is most prized for its fur and is where the term “sable” comes from. Sable fur is a warm or reddish-brown fur used to make stoles, coats, hats, and jackets.
    • Snow fox – the snow fox is also known as the Artic fox or polar fox. Pelts with the slate blue coloration are traditionally considered most valuable. While the species itself is no longer endangered, wild mainland populations are on the verge of being wiped out in some areas.

    Among these, Russian sable is one of the most expensive types of fur, with a price tag that reaches several thousand dollars per yard in some cases. A luxurious coat made of the highest quality Russian sable could run you $50,000 or more.

    Luxury leather and exotic leather

    Some of the most expensive and luxurious leather includes:

    • Crocodile leather – considered an exotic leather, it is most often used to create luxury handbags, shoes, wallets, and other accessories. Crocodiles are both hunted and farmed for their hides. The Australian Saltwater Crocodile has a reputation for having the most desirable high-quality hide.
    • Saffiano calfskin – made famous by Prada, genuine Saffiano leather is crafted in Italy from calfskin and has a characteristic crosshatch pattern. There have seen been many imitations.
    • Napa leather – a soft, full-grain leather made from lambs and calves, favored by the fashion industry. Because of its soft and supple texture, it’s also used to upholster luxury cars and fine furniture. Napa leather made out of lambs is known as napa lambskin.

    And that’s it! I could keep going and going, but then I’d never get this post published, lol.

    If this topic interests you, I recommend delving into this Glossary of textile manufacturing.

    In the future, I plan to cover gemstones and precious metals used in high-end watches and jewelry, as well as luxury building materials, such as rare woods and imported stone.

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    10 fictitious fabrics used in fantasy settings and how to create your own.
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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. “Be excellent to each other.”