Poplin: A strong, lightweight, plain-woven fabric with a smooth finish, historically silk but now more commonly cotton.
Poplin weave structure, via Charles Tyrwhitt.
“Poplin pieces,” from a ShopBop email whose subject line read “Spring’s must-have fabric.” For more on “must-have” and other fashion buzzwords, see my Visual Thesaurus column, “Decoding Fashionspeak.”
The etymology for poplin is fuzzy, although all sources agree it was adapted sometime in the early 18th century from French papeline, a word that is now obsolete. The American Heritage Dictionary declares that papeline means “papal,” and was applied to fabric made in the papal town of Avignon. The OED disagrees, averring that poplin comes from Poperinge, a town in Flanders noted for its textile production, and that the pope association is a folk (that is, false) etymology.
This poplin garment looks like a Halloween waitress costume, but is in fact a “Striped Poplin Crossover Dress” from the designer Carven, and it’ll set you back $490 at Saks.
If poplin does in fact derive from Poperinge, it would be one of many fabric names derived from their places of origin, including damask (Damascus), muslin (Mosul), lawn (Laon), tweed (the Tweed River in Scotland), calico (Calicut, a city on the Malabar coast), denim (serge de Nimes = serge from the French city of Nimes), and madras (the city in India).