lovely sky bed

Ghost Story

Lizzie HarperComment
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The #1 goal. The true grail for a certain kind of fabric developer. Specifically, the fabric R&D person who is sourcing a drapey, lightly textured, curve-skimming but not-too-clingy womenswear base cloth that takes color brilliantly and is easy to care for.

Oh, and we want it to be “eco.”

I won’t get too deep into the “eco” equation right now, but suffice it to say that we want this fabric to be made of Tencel. Otherwise we’d go with the original viscose version popularized by English brand Ghost in the 1990s. Ghost’s use of this textured viscose crepe fabric for everything from column dresses to button-up blouses and flowing trousers became its signature and the fabric itself eventually became known in the industry as “Ghost.”

It’s the Ghost fabric’s unique structure that gives it that perfect balance of body and movement in order to create a clean line that also moves fluidly. It acts like it’s on the bias even when cut on straight grain. The fabric is woven using a combination of filament yarn in the warp – giving it that smooth drape – with a spun crepe yarn in the weft to add the distinctively “crinkled” look of the finished fabric. This texture comes from the extra twist put on the spun crepe weft yarn and is what sets Ghost apart from other, flatter crepes.

And the necessity of an extra high-twist yarn is what makes finding this fabric made with 100% Tencel content impossible right now. There simply is not a high-twist Tencel yarn currently available that can be used in the weft of the Ghost fabric construction. It’s partly because of the limited range of Tencel fiber types being manufactured by Lenzing, the Austrian firm that is Tencel’s leading global producer. But it’s also because further down the supply chain, not enough spinners are asking for a Tencel fiber that is suitable for spinning into this special high-twist crepe yarn, not enough weavers are asking for that yarn in order to weave it into Ghost, and – ultimately – fabric developers and fashion designers are not demanding a Tencel version of Ghost.

As fashion cycled away from the 1990s’ minimalist clean-yet-drapey shapes and simple lines, Ghost – both the brand and the fabric – became less popular. But in the past few years this incredibly versatile base cloth has been making a comeback as designers recall its singular appeal as the fabric that can dress up, dress down, layer, travel, get thrown in the washing machine (set on cold, and hang to dry, please) and bounce right back without fading, looking timeless for years to come.

Many designers using Ghost now get along fine with the conventional viscose fabric options dug out from deadstock warehouses or redeveloped from vintage Ghost garments. But those tasked with the added responsibility of “eco” R&D – to generalize, those who are aware of and, where possible, trying to limit our industry’s consumption of limited resources – are still working on this one.