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, and later signifying a rain cloak or protective smock-frock.
The modern use of the term for a fabric rather than a garment dates to Thomas Burberry, founder of the Burberry fashion house in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England, who invented the fabric and revived the name in 1879, and patented it in 1888.
The original fabric was worsted wool, sometimes in combination with cotton, and was waterproofed using lanolin before weaving. The fibre may also be pure cotton, texturised polyester, or a blend.
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.
Clothing made from gabardine is generally labelled as being suitable for dry cleaning only, as is typical for wool textiles.
- Cumming, Valerie, C. W. Cunnington and P. E. Cunnington. The Dictionary of Fashion History, Berg, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84788-533-3.
- Kadolph, Sara J., ed. Textiles, 10th edition, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2007, ISBN 0-13-118769-4.
- Picken, Mary Brooks. The Fashion Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition ISBN 0-308-10052-2.)