Chambray and denim fabric have a lot in common. While both can come in a variety of colors and styles, they are traditionally made with an indigo wash. When most people think of chambray or denim, they imagine that familiar blue color. However, chambray and denim do have a number of key differences. So what is the difference between chambray vs denim? While chambray is woven with a warp and weft thread, one over and under the next, denim has a tighter plain weave, with the warp thread going over two weft threads and under one. Denim has a stronger, sturdier construction.
The Basic Difference Between Chambray and Denim
So what is chambray fabric? Chambray is primarily a much lighter, softer fabric than denim. While denim and chambray are made in very similar ways, with the same plain weave made up of a blue warp thread and a white weft thread woven together, there are a number of differences between chambray and denim.
Chambray: The Lighter Fabric
When you're looking for the best fabric for summer, you'll find that chambray is the ideal choice. While denim can leave you feeling hot and uncomfortable as temperatures rise, chambray offers a much lighter texture that can help protect you from the heat and sun while still offering a reasonable level of protection. Chambray, because it is much lighter than denim, is perfect for making shirts and even dresses, while denim might feel much too heavy, particularly during the hot summer months.
Denim: Sturdier and Tougher
While chambray might be lighter, denim is undoubtedly the sturdier fabric. If you're looking for pants that will hold up for a long time, especially under heavy work conditions, you may find that denim better fits your overall needs. Denim is also ideal for constructing things like work jackets. You may also want to wear a denim jacket as fall rolls in and you find yourself getting cooler when you're out on your many adventures.
Chambray: The Softer Feel Against Your Skin
If you're looking for a woven fabric that will offer a softer, more comfortable feel against your skin, chambray is the ideal choice. Not only is chambray lighter and more comfortable from the beginning, it becomes softer with every wash. Over time, it can become one of the softest, most comfortable pieces of chic women’s clothing in your closet. Denim, while it does soften with time and use, does not offer the same soft, comfortable feel, particularly if it's a heavier denim fabric that is not necessarily mixed with anything else.
When to Wear Denim vs. Chambray
Both denim and chambray are fantastic wardrobe staples that can become some of your favorite pieces of clothing. However, in general, they have very different uses.
Your Favorite Denim Pieces: Pants and Jackets
Generally, denim is worn either in pants (your favorite jeans, for example!) or as a sturdier, heavier weight jacket. Many people avoid wearing denim during the summer months due to its heavier construction and weight, since denim tends to hold heat and can get very hot, very quickly. Denim is, however, a great choice for those cooler fall days, or in early spring, before everything starts to warm up. Denim can be used as a fashion accent or the perfect addition to your casual wear.
Fantastic Chambray Pieces: Shirts, Dresses, and More
While denim is generally used in the construction of heavier-weight jackets and pants, chambray is used for lighter items, including those that are often worn during the summer months. Chambray is often made into boho tops, dresses, and even lightweight pants. While denim is often avoided at the office due to its perceived casual nature, chambray may be worn as part of your business casual wardrobe. Chambray clothing can be the perfect addition to a fun outfit for a day of shopping. A chambray dress may even be the perfect casual cover-up at the beach that will have you looking pulled together and fantastic as you enjoy the wind and waves.
Caring for Denim vs. Chambray
While denim and chambray may have very similar looks, they may have very different care requirements. Take a look at how to best keep your denim and chambray clothing looking its best.
How to Care for Denim
Caring for denim may require some careful attention to a few guidelines.
You may be used to washing your clothing as soon as you wear it, especially during hot times of the year. However, if you want to protect the look of your denim, you should plan to wash it much more infrequently: in general, only about 1 wash out of 10 wears. Denim will conform to your body over time, and you'll get the best fit if you simply wear them repeatedly without worrying about washing them every time you take them off. Not only that, frequent washing will cause denim to wear down more quickly.
When you do wash your denim, use cold water. Cold water helps protect against fading and shrinking: the two things that will prevent denim from looking its best as you wear it over and over again.
Spot Treat When Needed
If you do get spots and stains on your denim fabric, you can spot-treat many of those stains. Use a little mild detergent or soap and an old toothbrush or damp cloth to carefully scrub away any stains before they have a chance to set. Often, you can remove those stains on your own with a little elbow grease and attention (and you won't have to throw your jeans in the wash to get the stain out).
Line Dry Your Jeans When You Can
If you want to keep your jeans fitting their best over time, instead of tossing them in the dryer, plan to line dry. Dryers can break down the fabric of your jeans over time and, in many cases, lead to shrinking or a change in the way your jeans fit. If you want to keep that perfect, like-new fit in your jeans, turn them inside out and hang them on the line instead. Of course, that may mean that they take a little longer to dry, but since you don't have to worry about washing your jeans with every wear, you'll have more time!
Caring for Chambray Fabric
Caring for chambray, unlike caring for denim, does typically mean washing regularly. Like denim, you can spot-treat chambray between wears if needed. However, you may also discover that you need to take a few vital steps to keep your chambray pieces looking their best.
Wash Chambray on Cold
Chambray is made of organic cotton fibers, which will be more likely to shrink your tops if you wash it with hot water. Using cold water will help protect both the color and the sizing and fit of your chambray outfits.
Pretreat or Remove Stains Before Washing
Because chambray is a 100% cotton fabric with a fairly loose twill weave, it usually won't hold on to stains and spills. However, if you want to keep your chambray looking its best, you may want to pretreat the fabric and remove any stains before washing. Try using a toothbrush or damp cloth and your preferred detergent to scrub away minor stains, or pretreat with your preferred stain remover. Make sure to test any stain removers on a discrete corner of the garment before using it to treat a large, obvious stain, since some stain removers can strip the color away from your chambray clothing.
Dry Chambray on Low
Unlike denim, chambray fabric is usually fine to go in the dryer (though you should always check the wash instructions on the tag to be sure). However, you should plan to toss it in on low so that it won't shrink in the dryer, since high heat can increase the risk of shrinking and fading. You can also line dry chambray items, when needed. Try hanging them inside out to help reduce fading, especially if you're wearing darker chambray pieces.
Iron When Necessary
Chambray fabric, due to its lighter nature, does wrinkle more easily than denim. If you want a cool, pressed look from your chambray outfits, you should expect to iron your clothing before you wear it. Use a steam iron on the cotton setting to help press out wrinkles. You can also use other strategies for wrinkle release, including hanging your chambray outfits as soon as the dryer stops or hanging them in a steamy room for a little while so that you can help shake out any wrinkles before wearing.
Are You Looking for the Perfect Chambray Outfit?
If you're looking for the perfect chambray shirt or dress to round out your wardrobe, whether you're looking for a dress to wear for a more casual dress code to a wedding or a shirt that will become a staple of your fall wardrobe, Karen Kane can help. Take a look at our collections to discover what amazing chambray pieces you can add to your wardrobe.