The primary purpose of the study is to investigate the anisotropic behavior of different noncrimp stitched fabric (NCF) reinforced polyester composites. Carbon fiber composite laminates were manufactured by vacuum infusion of polyester resin into two commonly used advanced noncrimp stitched carbon fabric types, unidirectional and biaxial carbon fabric. The effects of geometric variables on composite structural integrity and strength were illustrated. Hence, tensile and three-point bending flexural tests were conducted up to failure on specimens strengthened with different layouts of fibrous plies in NCF. In this article an important practical problem in fibrous composites, interlaminar shear strength as measured in short beam shear tests, is discussed. The fabric composites were tested in three directions: at 0 degrees, 45 degrees, and 90 degrees. Extensive photomicrographs of multilayered composites resulting from a variety of uniaxial loading conditions were presented. It was observed that broken fibers recede within the matrix in composites with weak interfacial bond. Another aim of the present work was to investigate the interaction between carbon fiber and polyester matrix. The experiments, in conjunction with scanning electron photomicrographs of fractured surfaces of composites, were interpreted in an attempt to explain the instability of polyester-resin-carbon-fiber interfaces. (c) 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.