Viscose is synonymous with rayon, and the name comes from the honey-like texture that occurs during the manufacturing process. The main ingredient in viscose is wood pulp, making it hard to classify as either synthetic or natural. Though the wood pulp makes it natural, the manufacturing process (a very polluting one) is very much driven by man.
- known for its silk-like feel
- drapes beautifully
- breathable, similar to cotton in this regard
- ideal for those seeking a luxurious look and feel at a more economical price point
- blends well with other fibers, particularly woven ones
- dyes easily and produces beautiful, vivid colors
However, like any other fabric, viscose isn’t without its disadvantages.
- almost always needs to be dry cleaned
- manufacturing process is extremely polluting and harmful to the environment, classifying it as an unsustainable fabric despite being made of natural materials (wood)
- prone to stretching and bagging and often doesn’t recover
- fabric is weak, and even weaker when wet
- not recommended for use in home furnishings (due to stretch factor listed above)
- absorbs moisture, body oils, and water, which may result in spots
- spot treating can lead to permanent marking
These disadvantages are the main reason I only use truly natural fabrics like cotton and silk in my collection.
In my own experience, viscose and rayon are most appreciated in a fabric blend. I have worked with linen/rayon blends that drape beautifully due to the nature of the rayon, as 100% linen is a rather crisp fabric. Together, they make up where the other one lacks.
That being said, 100% viscose fabric can often be found in dresses and blouses from “fast fashion” retailers like H&M, Zara, and Forever21 because they feel like silk without the hefty price tag. However, there is always a trade-off — don’t count on them looking new for very long. The cost of dry cleaning could possibly be more than what the dress cost to purchase, making it tempting to simply toss the dress when it inevitably loses its shape.
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