What is Serge?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Serge is a type of twill fabric which has been classically used in uniforms and suiting for centuries. Like other twills, this material has a distinctive weave which creates a pattern of diagonal ridges in the fabric, and it is known for being extremely sturdy and resilient. It also drapes and hangs well, flattering a variety of body types in an assortment of weights. Many department stores stock serge garments, and it can also be purchased from fabric suppliers for custom work.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The origins of serge appear to be quite ancient. The word is derived from the Greek serikos, which means “silken,” suggesting that the fabric was probably brought to Europe from China. By the 8th century CE, people were certainly using serge, but the fabric was available primarily to the upper classes. Europeans also developed a version made from wool, with production being centered in France by the 1500s, typically using high-quality English wool.

Wool serge is excellent for uniforms and suits, and it is possible to produce it in both light and heavy weights, for a variety of climates. Because it is a very flexible, resilient fabric, it tends to cope very well with crumpling and pressing, making it convenient for extended wear. When a suit is cut well, the material also drapes very nicely, complementing the figure of the wearer quite effectively.

Silk serge is primarily used as a lining, because it is more fragile than that made from wool. The soft texture of the silk fabric makes it very pleasant when worn against the skin, and the natural flexibility makes it ideal for the often rumpled and highly stressed linings of things like coats and jackets. The raised diagonal pattern in the fabric tends to be very subtle, so the material will not chafe.

Many people associate serge with quality garments, because it has classically been costly and of very high quality. The sturdiness makes it appealing for things like military uniforms, while the range of weights and versatility of the fabric make it suitable for formal suits, great coats, and other fancy dress.

When purchasing a garment made from serge, it pays to take the time to try the garment on and inspect it carefully. Good material will last a lifetime, so the garment should be carefully fitted and inspected for flaws. It is also a good idea to go with a more classic cut, ensuring that the garment can be worn years in the future without looking dated.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


What is the blend of yarn used in blue wool serge, and also the specifications of fabric?


@omgnotagain – Your dress sounds so pretty. I want one!

Serge makes such a durable fabric. I have a woolen serge blanket that’s survived six kids and two generations! It’s probably been washed a million times, and instead of falling apart it seems to just get softer and cuddlier. I’ll be wrapping it around my new grandbaby pretty soon!


I have a black and white serge dress with a tribal print that I just love! It’s breezy and comfortable, but the fabric is heavy enough to keep it from flapping around in the wind. I’ve had it for years and it still looks new.

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