Detail of a linen batiste handkerchief, 19th century
Detail of a linen batiste handkerchief, 19th century
Shirt-waist from Charvet in fine batiste (1898)
Shirt-waist from Charvet in fine batiste (1898)

Batiste is a fine cloth made from cotton, wool, polyester, or a blend, and the softest of the lightweight opaque fabrics.

History and description

Batiste is a balanced plain weave, a fine cloth made from cotton or linen such as cambric. Batiste was often used as a lining fabric for high-quality garments. Batiste is also used for handkerchiefs (cotton batiste) and lingerie (batiste de soie).

In 1901 Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language defined batiste as "usual French name for cambric" or "applied in commerce to a fine texture of linen and cotton".[1]

"Cambric" is a synonym of the French word batiste,[2] itself attested since 1590.[3] Batiste itself comes from the Picard batiche, attested since 1401, derived from the old French battre for bowing wool. The modern form batiste or baptiste comes from a popular merge with the surname Baptiste, pronounced Batisse, as indicated by the use of the expressions thoile batiche (1499) and toile de baptiste (1536) for the same fabric.[3] The alleged[4] invention of the fabric, around 1300, by a weaver called Baptiste or Jean-Baptiste Cambray or Chambray, from the village of Castaing in the peerage of Marcoing, near Cambrai, has no historic ground.[3][5][6][7]


Lightweight opaque fabrics are very thin and light but not as transparent as sheer fabrics. The distinction between the two is not always pronounced. End uses include apparel and furnishings. Organdy (a sheer fabric), lawn, and batiste begin as the same greige goods. They differ from one another in the way they are finished. Lawn and batiste do not receive the acid finish and, thus, remain opaque. Better quality fabrics are made of combed yarns.

See also


  1. ^ Davidson, Thomas, comp. Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language. London: W. & R. Chambers; p. 79
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ a b c Le Robert: Dictionnaire historique de la langue française (in French). 1. Dictionnaires Le Robert. 2000. p. 352. ISBN 2-85036-532-7.
  4. ^ Archives historiques et littéraires du nord de la France, et du midi de la Belgique (in French). Au Bureau des Archives. 1829. pp. 341. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  5. ^ France. Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques. Section d'histoire et de philologie (1898). Bulletin historique et philologique du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques (in French). Impr. nationale. Retrieved 9 October 2011. Pas plus une réalité historique que l'étymologique brasseur Cambrinus.
  6. ^ Société d'émulation de Cambrai (1859). Séance publique [afterw.] Mémoires (in French). pp. 1. Retrieved 9 October 2011. On ignore complètement le siècle où a vécu Jean-Baptiste Cambrai.
  7. ^ Max Pfister (1980). Einführung in die romanische Etymologie (in German). Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, [Abt. Verl.] ISBN 978-3-534-07834-9. Retrieved 9 October 2011. Obschon Cambrai fûr die mittelalterliche Leinenindustrie bekannt ist und Baptiste sogar mit einem Denkmal geehrt wurde, dürfte dieser Fabrikant historisch nicht nachweisbar sein, da batiste etymologisch auf battre zurück geht.