What is Burnout?

What is Burnout?

Burnout is also called Devoré, and this is a fabric technique. This type of technique is mainly use don velvet fabrics. A mixed-fiber material will go through a chemical process which dissolves the fibers, and this create a pattern which is semi-transparent. The semi-transparent pattern will be against the fabric that’s more woven. This technique can also be applied to various other fabrics

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The name Devoré is from the verb dévorer, which is French, and it means to devour. This fabric technique is said to have started in France. It was said to be a good alternative to lace which was cheaper. During the 19th-20th centuries, the chemical process for the style was developed in Lyon. In the 1920s, this style became quite popular and it was used in shawls and evening gowns. In the 1980s-90s, the style was revised and used on evening wear and theatrical costumes.


The technique became very popular in the 1990s and was a big part of Conran, a fashion designers line. He refined the techniques he used on theatrical costumes. In the product My Fair Lady in 1992, burnout fabrics were used for the various street vendors and character Elize Doolittle in the production. It was also used to create a velvet tutu used in the Royal Ballet in 1993. Sleeping Beauty, a 1994 production by the Scottish Ballet, the technique was also used. Many of the pieces create by fashion designer Conran during this time were very expensive and there was a time-consuming process to create them.

The Method

The method used blended fabrics, and this combines a protein-based fiber like a silk with those that are cellulose based such as cotton or rayon. This is used to create the “burnout” pattern. There is a sodium hydrogen sulphate gel which is applied to a particular fabric in patterns. This then dissolved the cellulose fibers and the protein-based ones are left behind. The protein fibers aren’t harmed by the chemicals. The gel is applied by painting onto the fabric or it’s printed onto the fabric by hand.

Making Your Own Burnout

You can develop your own designs to make burnout, but here’s what you need to know. You don’t want the details or the lines to be too small. The chemical paste which you’ll be using must be applied by a squeeze bottle or by hand. If the edges or the lines of the design are too close or there is a risk that the paste will run together, and a larger area will suffer burnout instead of the area you wish to target.

It’s a good idea to test your work or small piece of fabric before you commit to a larger design, so you get used to the entire process of creating burnout. You will be better able to judge how to create the style if you have some practice first. Use some scraps and allow yourself some time to learn how to apply the chemical paste before you try a larger design.


Burnout or Devoré, is a great fashion design technique to learn. It will take some patience to get right so give it a lot of practice and then try a larger design.