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The word gaberdine or gabardine has been used to refer to a particular item of clothing, a sort of long cassock but often open at the front since at least the 15th century, in the 16th becoming used for outer garments of the poor. It was in this sense that William Shakespeare used the word in The Merchant of Venice.
The modern use of the term for a fabric rather than a garment dates to Thomas Burberry, who invented the fabric & revived the name in 1879, and patented it in 1888. It has been used with a general meaning of "closely woven cloth" since at least 1904. Although its origin is unknown, the word may be related to the word kaba, a type of coat reaching to the knees with wide sleeves worn by Muslim men in Puraniya, a region of India. There is another kind of coat, called a qabā, that is mentioned in Sufī scripture, which is an ordinary coat, as opposed to a religious coat.
The fibre used to make the fabric is traditionally worsted wool, but may also be cotton, texturised polyester, or a blend. Gabardine is woven as a warp-faced steep or regular twill, with a prominent diagonal rib on the face and smooth surface on the back. Gabardine always has many more warp than weft yarns.
Cotton gabardine is often used by bespoke tailors to make pocket linings for business suits, where the pockets' contents would quickly wear holes in the usual flimsy pocket lining material.
Clothing made from gabardine is generally labelled as being suitable for dry cleaning only, as is typical for wool textiles. Gabardine may also refer to the twill-weave used for gabardine fabric, or to a raincoat made of this fabric.
Gabardine was invented in 1879 by Thomas Burberry, founder of the Burberry fashion house in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England and patented in 1888. The original fabric was waterproofed[how?] before weaving and was worsted wool or worsted wool and cotton, tightly woven and water-repellent but more comfortable than rubberised fabrics. The fabric takes its name from the word "gaberdine", originally a long, loose cloak or gown worn in the Middle Ages, but later signifying a rain cloak or protective smock-frock.
Burberry clothing of gabardine was worn by polar explorers, including Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, in 1911 and Ernest Shackleton, who led a 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica. A jacket made of this material was worn by George Mallory on his ill-fated attempt on Mount Everest in 1924.
Gabardine was also used widely in the 1950s to produce colourful patterned casual jackets, trousers and suits. Companies like J. C. Penney, Sport Chief, Campus, Four Star and California Trends were all producing short-waisted jackets, sometimes reversible, commonly known as weekender jackets.