In the Middle Ages, a ‘gaberdine’ was an outer garment, a coat of sorts. In 1856, Thomas Burberry (founder of the British brand Burberry) patented a sturdy, waterproof, tightly woven cotton called ‘gabardine’, inspired by traditional English shepherds’ and farmers’ smocks, which he used as the inspiration to tailor his celebrated Burberry coats. The twisted fibres and high thread count make it hard wearing, dirt resistant and waterproof: the fabric of choice for outdoor coats. It is often in off white, dull beige, black or deep muted tones.
In interiors, gabardine works as a ‘neutral’–neither plain nor quite patterned and of medium weight, it’s both hardwearing and washable. It’s essentially a tailoring material so ( at this moment in time) quite hard to find in what we might call the exciting colours, pastels and pinks, red and turquoises. However, the drabs and olives, greys and oatmeals, off whites are wet sand colourings are perhaps even more useful, allowing the fabric and whatever it’s covering to be just that – drab and neutral, the foil for all the rest.
In colour and in texture it bridges and looks good with almost all other textiles. Perhaps especially and because of its coat and trouser connection it supports all other woollens and tweeds, paisleys and tickings – in subtle tones or vibrant. If you think of what you might wear with it- scarves, jackets, boots, handbags, gloves, etc. and work from there you won’t go far wrong.
We find it especially useful for slip covers and upholstery – perhaps the extra chairs – the wing chairs, or the footstool, loose covered sofa covers in playrooms and studies, and in high wear areas, but also for chic outdoor seating. That’s not to discount the potential for curtaining – as long as it’s a good draping weight ( some are very stiff, which still is OK for upholstery )it can look as good as anything else. And it’s not a bad choice for contemporary looking fabric walling.